I recently attended the “Artists Thr!ve Summit” hosted by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. Artists Thr!ve is a rubric, a tool, to help organizations in the arts services sector determine if and to what extent their work supports artists: do artists give up, struggle, survive, or thrive? The summit’s program was peppered with visits to studios and galleries, as well as an all-day bus tour of cultural organizations in Eastern Kentucky. Both the Appalachian Media Insitute, a program of Appalshop, and the Berea Artist Accelerator seem to have figured out a simple but impactful way to reach the goal of “artists thrive” – PAY THEM!!
The newer program, the Berea Artists Accelerator, supports early career artists and artisans with space, training, and a monthly stipend that amounts to a living wage with enough left over to buy their materials. In an “artisan’s town” the program is community economic development initiative. Appalshop’s AMI program has been around for almost 30 years. It provides PAID summer training internships:
The work of AMI youth producers has been heard on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Sundance Film Festival, and recognized with the Coming Up Taller award presented by Hillary Clinton. While documentaries made by AMI youth producers have been seen by audiences from across the United States and across the world, many pieces have had their biggest impacts in local dialogues and debates surrounding issues such as domestic violence, prejudice, drug abuse, and youth activism.
As a consequence of these programs, young artists and artisans stay in their community, stay off drugs (a big problem in rural Kentucky), and produce work of lasting impact. In short, they thrive! And, while the communities around them are certainly distressed, Berea and, too a lesser extant Whitesburg, seem to be doing OK too.
(photo of artisans working in the Berea Artists Accelerator)
EDITED FOR CLARIFICATION: These programs are, notably, supporting *early* career artists and artisans, in the Accelerator case giving them small business training, so that they can go on to be independent creative producers in a sustainable way after “graduation” from the respective programs.