Thursday, May 31, 2018

Economic Development a Theme of Appalachian Summit

By Andrea Orlando, MSJ
Communications Manager
National Consortium for Creative Placemaking

     The Appalachian region is rich in culture and art. How the region can transform that richness into economic wealth is a central theme of our upcoming Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit in Charleston, WV on June 21 and 22.
     It's no secret the region struggles to keep economic pace with the rest of the country. Average household income in the area is 80 percent of average household income in the rest of the nation, according to a study published by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Poverty rates are higher than the national average as well, and the disparity is more stark when one looks at the rates for children. 
      Creative placemaking recognizes the unique contribution artists and arts and cultural organizations make to local economies, and it provides tools and techniques for supporting artists, arts activity and community identity in places.  More than 20 sessions in our summit are related to local economic development and community wellness. People looking for practical advice will find it in a few of our workshops. Beth Flowers, Director of the AIR Institute of Berea College, will provide hands-on training for growing your local Appalachian creative economy and expanding partners and a network of support. Three presenters from east Kentucky will also workshop ways to discover cultural assets and turn them into community wealth. 
      The summit will also feature panel discussions that will shed light on leveraging philanthropic investments to strengthen mountain communities. The panel discussion is entitled, "Appalachia Funders Network: Leveraging New Investments and Creative Economies." Folks who enjoy looking at case studies and concrete examples will enjoy "Using the Arts to Strengthen and Sustain Small Communities" led by John Davis of Lanesboro Arts. He will present two case studies of small towns in Minnesota. One of the towns, New York Mills, MN, was twice named one of the 100 Best Small Art Towns in America and is cited as a national model for rural arts and economic development work. 
      Want to learn about workforce development through arts and cultural strategies? We have a knowledge exchange for that, entitled, "ArtPlace Deep Dive: Creative Workforce Development." Knowledge exchanges are conversations with small groups of people from diverse organizations who share their experiences and ideas to generate rich discussion.   
      Our summit program is designed to enable attendees to quickly identify themes so they can attend the sessions most relevant to them. In addition to economic development, themes include the following: building local arts communities; building effective partnerships with elected officials; creative placemaking in post-industrial communities; mapping creative assets; placekeeping and protecting the ethos of a community; building arts ecologies in isolated areas; and invigorating arts in smaller communities.

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