Economic Diversification & Letcher Co. Culture Hub

Host Kelli Haywood discusses small town economics with a group of politically diverse members of the local community – Harry Collins of CANE, Betsy Whaley of MACED, and Ben Fink of Appalshop and the Letcher Co. Culture Hub. What does it take to transition the economy of a small coalfields community? Economic diversity. But, why are some residents wary of diversification of business and the entrepreneurial spirit? Can arts and cultural play a critical role in that economic diversification? The group discusses these topics and much more. Listen…

Letcher County Effort Finds Way To Bridge Divides

In America, where the political divide has reached Grand Canyon proportions, one Kentucky county is trying to build deep community relationships to overcome these differences.

It’s happening in Letcher County, where 80-percent of the residents voted for Donald Trump. It is known as the Letcher County Culture Hub and Ben Fink, who has been heavily involved in the effort, believes it can be a model for other communities. He says divisions are “never absolute,” and can be bridged through culture on two levels. Listen…

Meet the Entrepreneurs Creating an Arts and Culture-Based Economy in Post-Coal Appalachia

Last November, voters in Kentucky expressed confidence that President Trump could deliver on his promise to revive the coal industry, and he carried the state with 62 percent of votes. But in the heart of Appalachia, there's a strong network of businesses and nonprofits that are looking beyond coal, and embracing equity-focused regional economic development for marginalized communities — creating employment opportunities in technology and innovation, and arts and culture, as even more promising growth industries for the region. Read more…

Neighbors Work To Revive An Appalachian Community

What role can a community center play in increasing residents’ well being and encouraging efforts to reimagine and revitalize the local economy? That’s the question WMMT Reporter Kelli Haywood was asking when she visited Hemphill, KY, a former coal company town, where a group of volunteers are working to bring people together and add some liveliness into their community. Keeping its doors open in order to serve its mission of providing low cost, family friendly entertainment and educational opportunities to the community has not been easy. But through its participation in the Letcher County Culture Hub, a collaboration led by Appalshop, Hemphill and other community centers, public and private organizations, and local businesses are coming together to strengthen Letcher County’s cultural assets and identify ways to use them to grow the economy. Listen…

Appalachian Culture as Hub for Growth

Can artists, dancers, actors, musicians and creative thinkers of all varieties contribute to the economic rebuilding of our Appalachian communities?  WMMT’s Kelli Haywood looked for answers to that question as she visited the 15th annual Cowan Creek Mountain Music School at the Cowan Community Center. The Center is one partner in a creative placemaking effort led by Appalshop called the Letcher County Culture Hub.  Organizations and individuals throughout the county are bringing together arts, culture, and business enterprise to establish a more diversified economy and communities that are healthy, happy, and whole. Listen…

A Kentucky County Is Working To Transition Their Economic Base From Coal To Culture

Solar energy added 73,615 new jobs to the U.S. economy in 2016, and wind energy added an additional 24,650. That same year, more Americans were employed by
by solar alone, than were in generating electricity via coal, gas and oil energy combined.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar employed 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce in 2016, while fossil fuels combined accounted for just 22 percent.

Just under 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, according to that report, while coal, gas and oil power generation combined had a workforce of slightly more than 187,000. Net power generation from coal fell 53% over the last decade, while generation from natural gas increased 33 percent, and solar grew 5000%. Read more…

KY County Crosses Political Divide through Arts, Culture

December 30, 2016

LETCHER COUNTY, Ky. - In America, where the political divide has reached Grand Canyon proportions, one Kentucky county is trying to build deep community relationships to overcome these differences.

It's happening in Letcher County, where 80 percent of the residents voted for Donald Trump. It is known as the Letcher County Culture Hub, and Ben Fink, who has been heavily involved in the effort, believes it can be a model for other communities. He said divisions are "never absolute," and can be bridged through culture on two levels.

"One is art and music, and theater and film, and all that stuff," he said, "and then there's also culture on a deeper level - the shared values and the shared stories that we tell about each other, about ourselves, about our community." Read more…
 

The View From Appalachia: The Pull To Get Out And Come Back Home

This story is part of "The View From," an election-year project focused on how voters' needs of government are shaped by where they live. The series started in Illinois and this week, NPR took a road trip across three Appalachian states.

Letcher County, Ky., is shaped by generations of migration — not always voluntary. There is an almost tidal pull drawing young people out, in search of jobs. But there is also a new generation of return migrants, those eager to create economic reasons to come home. Read more…

After Coal, a Small Kentucky Town Builds a Healthier, More Creative Economy

A complex network of local organizations helps neighbors support one another as they rebound from a dying industry.

Peter Slavin posted Jun 06, 2017

Nearly 50 years ago, on a presidential campaign swing through eastern Kentucky, Sen. Robert Kennedy promised to help a disabled coal miner build a community center in the tiny mountain town of Hemphill to give idle youth and others a place for recreation and meetings.

James Johnson used the brick-making machine and VISTA workers that Kennedy supplied to create community space and built a park and area for horseback riding.

Years later Johnson developed black lung disease and couldn’t keep the center going. After he died, his widow, Mabel, helped establish a new Hemphill Community Center in this mountainous region in the heart of Appalachia. Read more…

Building Democracy in 'Trump Country'

Ben Fink works at Kentucky's Appalshop, a grass-roots multimedia arts center. He writes about how he and his community have been working with each other in the aftermath of the presidential election.

BY BEN FINK | MARCH 10, 2017

A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them Letcher County, Kentucky, is one of the most open-minded places I’ve ever lived.
I moved here a year ago. I’ve spent most of my life in cities and suburbs, and I arrived with all the assumptions you can imagine about Central Appalachia and the people who live here.

I might not have believed it either, before I moved here a year ago. I’ve spent most of my life in cities and suburbs, and I arrived with all the assumptions you can imagine about Central Appalachia and the people who live here. Read more…