The Higher Ground ProjectCumberland, KY
Recently ArtPlace asked Robert Gipe, the coordinator of the Higher Ground coalition, a community performance and public art group in Harlan County, Kentucky some questions about how their ArtPlace initiative is affecting Higher Ground’s artmaking process. Here’s how he responded:
ArtPlace: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?
Gipe: Our organization is pretty loose, so who’s inside and who’s outside isn’t the easiest thing to determine. We’ve had a coalition of seventy to eighty folks in the county involved on a regular basis, and in a rural place like ours, that gives us a tie to a lot of other groups—civic groups and churches, different employers around the county, people in different communities throughout the county. That’s come in handy on this new project when we were looking for unconventional theater venues, and places to do arts programming in places we haven’t been before. We’ve also had great partnerships with particular colleges in the past—Jeff Whetstone’s photography students at the University of North Carolina, Joyce Ogden’s public art students at Spalding University in Louisville have helped us get a lot of our public art done. We’re building on that model of collaboration in our latest work with the University of Kentucky College of Design.
We’ve had great theater production partners—Gerard Stropnicky, Jerry Matheny, and A.C. Hickox on the early plays, Pam D. Roberts, Robert Martin, Linda Parris-Bailey and many other artists at Carpetbag Theatre on the most recent play. And choreographer Kevin Iega Jeff has been with us throughout. As we tend more to how the plays can transform space, we’ve started a new partnership with Community Performance International. Our local college, Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, has been a huge part of Higher Ground’s success—both on the academic side and the technical side. It is awesome to have a cooperative carpentry and welding program for our theater and public art programs.