Appalachian Counties in WV, TN, KY, OH, NC, VA


Vision and Strategies

Understanding the destructive impact of extractive economies, including philanthropy, the Central Appalachia Assembly created the visual of a North Star to express its guiding values in how their pool of $4.5M would be used. Assembly member Hasan Davis summed up the vision and values of the North Star:


“To elevate arts and culture as transformative instruments guided by equity and justice to reclaim the power of our diversity and unique traditions on the path to healing and recovery of our youth, families, communities, and our futures.”


Having completed the facilitated process in January 2020, the Assembly ratified a suite of strategy areas guided by this North Star and assumed ownership of their funds. They identified their strategies as pathways towards arts, culture, and equitable development, and include: Shifting Narratives, Regionalist/Network Weaving, Direct Support, Healing + Restoration, and Removing Barriers.

With a deeply held belief that building community and learning comes first, the Assembly aspires to operate as a trusted partner, convener and “learning lab” that helps build the field of community controlled philanthropy, creative placemaking and placekeeping, and support for Appalachian artists, activists, tradition bearers, and arts organizations in service to a more just and equitable future. Over the course of 2020, a small transition team nominated by the Assembly implemented a Seed-Learning Grant strategy which distributed $406,000 to practitioners in the region who make up the first learning cohort. 

Into 2021 and beyond, the Assembly has adopted a cooperative structure which shows up as a multi-ring learning community with permeable barriers allowing for adaptability and deepened relationships. These community structures will create pathways for membership in the cooperative, for leadership by community, and for learning throughout.

The Assembly

Current Transition Team
Lora Smith, Leslie Schaller, Lou Murrey, Devin Preston, Michael Tierney, Judi Jennings, Hasan Davis, Jill Marie Robertson, Gwen Johnson


Assembly Members
Linda Caldwell, Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association
Donna Collins, Ohio Arts Council
David Cooke, Berea College Appalachian Fund
Hasan Davis, Artist Hasan Davis Solutions
Beth Flowers, AIR Institute
Shannon Ford, Tennessee Arts Commission
Mark Freed, Town of Boone Cultural Resources Department
Alex Gibson, Appalshop
Robert Gipe, Higher Ground
Savannah Hall, Appalachian Artisan Center
Dana Hantel, Coalfield Development Corporation
William Isom II, East Tennessee PBS
Judi Jennings, Louisville Family Justice Advocates
Gwen Johnson, Hemphill Community Center/ Black Sheep Bakery
Jules Kessler, STAY Project, Stay Together Appalachian Youth
Renee Margocee, Tamarack Foundation for the Arts
Lori McKinney, The RiffRaff Arts Collective
Margo Miller, Appalachian Community Fund
Brett Morris, Junior Appalachian Musicians, Inc.
Lou Murrey, STAY Project, Stay Together Appalachian Youth
Devin Preston, High Rocks Educational Organization
Jill Marie Robertson, Independent Artist
Leslie Schaller, ACEnet
Lora Smith, Appalachian Impact Fund
Michael Tierney, Step by Step
Joe Tolbert Jr., Art at the Intersections
Stephanie Tyree, WV Community Development Hub
Catherine Venable-Moore, Writer + Independent Artist
Julie Walters Steele, Reynolds Homestead
Betsy Whaley, Mountain Association Community Economic Development Corporation, MACED
Kandi Workman, Step by Step


Facilitation Team
Tanya Torp, Tanya Torp Consulting
Thomas Watson, Rural Support Partners

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