Roadside Theater/Appalshop is working with Letcher County, Kentucky residents to create an original play with music that addresses the future of their County. Youth led, the play will be performed in venues throughout the County by an intergenerational group of County residents. It is one part of Appalshop’s Culture Hub work, which also includes:
- Bringing together citizens and professional artists to imagine and create murals, photo banners, and mobile apps that link the County’s past to its future;
- Expanding the Letcher County Farmers’ Market to include more growers, more vendors, more artisans and arts activities, a mobile market across the county, and music and dance performances;
- Working with the Letcher County Cooperative Extension Office, WMMT’s Passing the Pick & Bow program, and the Carcassonne and Cowan Community Centers to revive the Carcassonne square dance, one of the County’s cultural treasures.
The Culture Hub is evolving through an ongoing collaboration with the Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project at Lafayette College, where economists and students work with people in high-poverty areas all around the world to build their economies. The collaborators ask:
- How can culture drive economic development?
- How can filmmakers, performers, and other artists organize communities that can imagine and create their own future?
- How can an arts institution become a center of democratic cultural economic life?
The Letcher County play is also one part of Performing our Future, a collaborative project with Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life. Performing Our Future works to demonstrate how the assets of local culture enacted through theater can enable communities to imagine, construct, and own their civic and economic future. The project’s claim is that culture and artistic expression are fundamental to the development of a democratic culture because of the way they shape individual and collective identities; bound or expand imagination; and influence micro- and macro-economic incentives and behavior.