From 2004 to 2008, during the annual spring break in March, faculty, staff, and twenty-plus students from the Tisch Scholars Program at New York University in New York City traveled to Whitesburg, Kentucky to participate in a five day immersion in the activist theory and practice of Appalshop.
Preparation for the immersion began at NYU months before the trip when Roadside's Dudley Cocke facilitated story circles in the Scholars’ weekly meetings. Cocke’s goal was to get students and faculty thinking about their own cultural roots and identity. Students also watched Appalshop Films and listened to WMMT-FM streaming on the internet.
The faculty and students arrived at the Tri City, Tennessee Airport and traveled to Whitesburg, Kentucky in Roadside's 1989 touring van, where they checked into the Motel 8 -- across the parking lot from Food City (open all night).
What followed was a whirlwind of activities including a 24-hour production period to create an original play, short film, set of photographs, music recording, or radio documentary in collaboration with Appalshop artists and their community partners; seminars about the community arts field’s history and national policy environment; visits to significant Appalachian cultural sites including coal mining operations; discussions with Appalshop’s documentary filmmakers; exchanges with Old Time musicians; appearances on Appalshop’s radio station; and square dancing at the Cowan Creek Community Center.
Facilitated using Roadside Theater’s methodology, daily reflection and story circles helped participants relate the activity to their own experiences and goals.
Roadside Theater’s higher education collaborations are informed by three key elements important to becoming a citizen artist: 1)Community engagement; 2)Training in both aesthetics and community organizing; and 3)Scholarship about the history, animating ideas, and policy and economic environments of the community-based arts field. This exemplar curriculum was endorsed by Imagining America’s 2008 national research study of which Roadside was a part, The Curriculum Project: Culture and Community Development in Higher Education.