The Higher Ground Project

Higher Ground Coalition/The Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College

Funding Received: 2012
Cumberland, KY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
October 20, 2012

Led by The Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, this participatory community arts project and the coalition behind it will transform spaces to catalyze economic development by connecting art, design and commerce in a rural Appalachian coalfield county.

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: Is there a new challenge that engaging in creative placemaking presents for you, your organization and the artists who work with you? Are there new skills required?

Gipe: A big thing that’s changing for us with the new project is that we’re pushing out into new venues, new communities, and we’re trying to have more things going at once as a way of forcing us to develop a more diverse leadership base.

Right now, we’ve taken songs and scenes from the first three Higher Ground plays and packed them into one hour-long showcase for the upcoming Network of Ensemble Theaters Microfest that is coming to Harlan at the end of October. Seventy arts professionals and funders are coming from around the country to see how we are using the arts to do community development, and we’ve been using it as an opportunity to let some of our cast members lead on the script rewrite and rehearsals. Other coalition members will be leading tours around the county, showing the visitors the ArtPlace sites.

Sharing responsibility isn’t as easy for some people as it seems like it would be, but we’re finding that it’s a great way to increase our capacity.