Performing Our Future’s initial work was supported in part by the national art and community development (creative placemaking) fund ArtPlace America. In the following years ArtPlace remained an ally, publishing several features about the project.
“Creatively Building Power, Wealth, & Ownership—Together”
“Our work starts with large numbers of ordinary people sharing stories, through story circles, relational meetings, and community-led art-making of all kinds. Through that work, expressing and bringing life to communities' shared traditions and values, people recognize how much they share. That goes even for people who thought they had nothing in common, who have long been divided along political or economic or racial or religious or rural/urban lines. […] There was a lot they didn't agree on. But they all could find themselves in the story of communities protecting and strengthening their centers of power […]”
“The biggest challenges are all external. They stem from over 40 years of national, state, and local policy that favors corporations and other big institutions and takes resources away from communities working to tell their own stories and build their own power and wealth. The communities involved in POF have borne the brunt of this policy shift. Think about a situation where all levels of government deemed it okay to dump a mountain of coal ash in people's backyards, despite demonstrated and ongoing health issues. It also shows up in less obvious ways. Think about the dominant model of ‘trickle-down’ community development funding, where the emphasis is on sector-specific projects run by professional organizations with predetermined ‘deliverables.’ Communities, and their grassroots leaders, tend to be the last consulted and the least supported. It even affects the way we think about ‘artists.’ Too often it's assumed that an artist is an individual entrepreneur, as opposed to a representative of a community that expresses that community's inherent genius. These are ways of thinking and acting that hurt community-led work and disempower ordinary people in all the communities we work in.”
"The Many Environments of Creative Placemaking"
“I consider the county-wide hub to be a naturally occurring rural cultural district, grounded in rich folk traditions and geographic assets—and also facing equally strong social, economic, and health challenges. Over the last two years, as a creative placemaking project of Appalshop funded by an ArtPlace America grant, local residents successfully worked together to connect their post-coal natural environment with their traditional and contemporary art-making unbuilt environment. […]
“There was a lot to celebrate that spring day on Cowan Creek. Three new businesses were being incubated. Existing economic and social enterprises were being revitalized and expanded. Two long-standing cultural institutions, the Carcassonne Square Dance and King’s Creek Bluegrass Festival, were newly financially stable and planning for the future. A wide array of arts and story-sharing activities inspired new thinking about what is possible for the community and region.
“The [Roadside play] reading gave voice to the pains of poverty and addiction as well as hope for recovery. A vigorous dialogue among attendees followed, with one observer characterizing the play and discussion as creating a safe space to help rebuild the fabric of possibility for unity, healing, and progress here.”
“Building Power Through Culture in East Kentucky”
“One thing that’s different about Appalshop, compared with a lot of nonprofits, is we don’t do ‘community engagement’ or ‘community outreach.’ We aren’t looking to ‘help’ or ‘save’ the community. We are part of the community, no less and no more. And the way we work with our neighbors is through stories. Stories are how we learn, how we make meaning out of our lives, how we understand who we are and what we can do, individually and together. […]
“When we work together to make places where we all feel like we belong, we can feel safe enough to open ourselves to people and ideas we might otherwise fear. When we build a culture and economy based on shared agency, voice and ownership, we can live with dignity and own the value we create. That’s what we’re imagining here in east Kentucky — and with a growing network of partners from rural and urban communities across the country.”