Federal Reserve recognizes Kentucky Arts Council contributions in eastern Kentucky

Interest in the development of economic diversification in eastern Kentucky as a result of the downturn in the coal industry is widespread. The arts have become central to the mission of sustaining a bright future in regions of the Commonwealth where coal is mined.

Logos-clusterAs elected officials, policymakers, and economic and community developers explore opportunities to attract new industries that would lead to meaningful job creation and vibrant communities, there is room at the table for artists, arts organizations, creative entrepreneurs and others to contribute toward solutions. The Kentucky Arts Council, along with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and ArtPlace America, has done significant work in eastern Kentucky in recent years and that work is not going unnoticed.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of many institutions tracking developments related to the eastern Kentucky economy. Eastern Kentucky is included in its service region. The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 Reserve Banks that, together with the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., comprise the Federal Reserve System. In addition to its role as the central bank of the United States, the Fed works to support and sustain communities. It conducts research on a wide variety of matters — among them monetary policy, banking supervision and community development — with the aim of delivering answers and advancing conversations. The research can and does impact the region the Bank serves, the national economy and the banking industry in revealing answers regarding inflation and unemployment, among many monetary matters.

The Cleveland Fed is currently publishing a series of articles in its “Forefront” magazine about the transition economy in eastern Kentucky. These articles, in addition to case studies, will be collected and published in print. The most recent article focused on the impact of creative placemaking and arts initiatives taking place right now in the eastern region and the three organizations – again, the arts council, NEA, and ArtPlace – that are involved in the work.

All Kentuckians have a stake in the economic and community welfare of any region or major industry of the state. This is especially true of the coal industry that for decades has benefited the entire Commonwealth by generating significant tax revenue and providing jobs with good wages for Kentuckians who make their homes in the regions where coal is mined – both eastern and western Kentucky.

ff 20160224 img02

Kentucky coal production and employment from 1927-2015. Source: Kentucky Coal Facts, 15th edition, prepared by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, the Department for Energy Development and Independence and the Kentucky Coal Association, Aug. 28, 2015.

According to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Kentucky Quarterly Coal Report, employment at coal mines in Kentucky was reduced in the year 2015 by 27.7 percent or 3,218 workers. Reductions in employment include layoffs, furloughs and the temporary idling of coal mines. Unfortunately, the trend continues into 2016. Preliminary data from the 2016 first quarter report showed coal mines further reduced on-site employment by 1,501 workers, or 17.9 percent of their workforce. As of April 1, 2016, an estimated 6,900 people were employed at Kentucky coal mines, which is the lowest level recorded since 1898 when there were an average of 6,399 coal miners.


Can the arts or placemaking initiatives alone solve the issues facing our mining regions or our state? No, to say so would be foolish. But arts and creativity can most definitely be a valuable tool to use to address the issues. There’s plenty of research to back that statement including Kentucky-specific data and case studies released in the arts council’s Kentucky Creative Industry Report.

CIR coverInformation in the report supports the ideas that arts and culture are vital to community and economic development and invigoration. According to the report, the creative industry thrives in the areas of Kentucky where it is found and growth is inevitable if support is given to those who work in the industry. In 2013, the creative industry and its supply chains employed 108,500 people and accounted for $1.9 billion in earnings. The top needs of artists and creative entrepreneurs working in the industry mainly fall under the category of business training, according to a survey conducted for the report. Therefore, as the state arts agency, the arts council truly is the agency in the Commonwealth that is properly situated to address these issues. The arts council wants to do its part to support and grow the creative industry and the state has multiple resources to do so. We’re working hard to make connections for artists and creative entrepreneurs to put them in touch with the vast array of technical assistance providers in the state who can assist them directly.

The Kentucky Arts Council has initiated several projects in eastern Kentucky in the last few years to assist in efforts to diversify the economy and generate community development and will continue to do so. Those projects include:

  • A placemaking conference in Pikeville the day following the inaugural Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Summit.
  • Partnership with MACED and Hazard Community and Technical College to offer Kentucky’s first Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship Program to residents in the Promise Zone and surrounding area. (Etsy is a global online marketplace for handmade goods.)
  • Partnerships with entities in Johnson, Bell and Rowan counties to offer workshops to help artists and craftspeople get started selling on Etsy.
  • Partnership with MACED, Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center, and Berea Tourism to offer the Kauffman Foundation’s FasTrac NewVenture and GrowthVenture small business development courses that graduated 25 participants.
  • Awarding five $8,000 Arts Access Assistance grants to counties in the Appalachian Regional Commission service area to develop arts programming and projects.
  • Work with communities that have received National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Grants and those who have received funding from ArtPlace America.
  • Responding to requests for presentations, training, technical assistance and general consultations and information about the arts council for communities and individuals, including elected officials, who want to explore how arts and culture can be an economic driver in the region.

It’s always a compliment to be recognized by an institution such as the Federal Reserve. We’re excited to see creative placemaking and the arts considered by the Fed as an important component of community and economic development and an agent for progress and growth in eastern Kentucky. This recognition reinforces and lends credence to the arts council’s work and mission, and further assists us in fostering partnerships with sectors that might not be familiar with the array of positive outcomes associated with the creative industry.

You can read the first two “Forefront” articles on the Fed’s website. The first article, by Matt Klesta, examines the local impact on the decline in coal in eastern Kentucky. The second article, by Bonnie Blankenship, examines the changing economy and the role the arts and creative placemaking are playing in diversification efforts there. For more information about the Fed, visit https://www.clevelandfed.org/.

Emily B. Moses
Creative Industry Manager

Categories: Other

A cup of ambition

Arts appreciators — and even those who don’t know they appreciate the arts — would certainly notice if all the artful products of creative minds suddenly disappeared. We’re sensitive to extremes in scarcity, but are we grateful for what we have in abundance? We’ve all heard “art in everyday life,” “artful living,” or “without art the Earth is just ‘eh.’” But, do we pause, take note and appreciate every time creative people show us that arts are a part of everything and often the reason for doing anything (or the reason for doing anything without incessantly complaining about it)?

I wanted to take a minute to point out the creative work of an artist who — literally — serves an audience who may or may not consider themselves artsy. She makes art with something routine and commonplace for anyone desiring productivity, creative or otherwise. Some of us rely heavily on her medium for survival.

Lauren Hunter-Smith makes art out of coffee, more precisely, lattes. You can see or even consume her craftsmanship in person at Third Street Stuff & Coffee, or you can enjoy her lattes remotely on Instagram.  She’s currently working on her first series, letters of the alphabet illustrated by animals.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thank you to all those artists, like Lauren, who make life less ordinary.

Sarah Schmitt, Community Arts and Access Director

Categories: Other, Visual Arts

Morehead bookstore is all about community

Susan Thomas is the co-owner and manager of CoffeeTree Books in Morehead, Ky. In honor of Independent Bookstore Day, arts council program assistant, Chelsea Sparks, got to talk to Susan about her bookstore and learn a little bit more about its relationship to the community.download

CS: How did you find out about Independent Bookstore Day?

ST: We’re part of a very active regional bookseller association that encouraged us to join in. This will be our third year participating.


CS: What makes Independent Bookstore Day special?

ST: There is special merchandise just for independent bookstores on this one day of the year. We’ve got special editions, coloring books, freebies and stuffed animals that you can only find at bookstores that are participating. The space we’re in used to be a theatre so we’re even doing movie popcorn this year for everyone who stops by.


CS: Why are independent bookstores important to Kentucky?

ST: Diversity in literature. We make sure that book culture endures and that the independent writers and their many different schools of thought are represented. Independent bookstores are where a lot of great writers get their start and it’s our job to offer a way for lesser known authors to connect to audiences.


CS: What do you see as your role in your community?

ST: We are totally a community staple. When the Kim Davis stuff was going on, the media hung out here at the bookstore. We have a big space where people spend time and gather; there’s a coffee shop so they eat and we’ve got music. We moved after the big flood five years ago and it’s been awesome to be closer to the university. We have such a diverse community in Morehead and everyone comes through here looking for different books. Every day is just a big wide world.


CS: What is the best part about owning an independent bookstore?

ST: CoffeeTree is where ideas and people come together. We’ve evolved into being a place we’re really proud of and our community supports us. When new people come into town, the locals bring them here; they think of it as their place and I really appreciate them taking ownership. I sort of laugh every time I hire new people, because I have to let them know that the customers will tell on them if they’re not doing something right. Everyone knows everyone and it is truly a special place to be a part of.

coffeetreelogo021611 (1)
CoffeeTree Books is located at 159 E Main Street in Morehead, KY.
Learn more at www.coffeetreebooks.com.
Categories: Other

Kentucky Poet Laureate’s first year…in verse


Monday, April 25, the Kentucky Arts Council celebrated Kentucky Writers’ Day, honoring all Kentucky writers, with a ceremony at the State Capitol. The current and past Kentucky poets laureate shared their thoughts on the literary arts in the Commonwealth and read from their own poetry and prose. George Ella Lyon shared her experiences over the past year as Kentucky Poet Laureate in a reflection that began with her new “Where I’m From” poem.

POET LAUREATE, YEAR ONE                       4/3-13/16


I’m from the Mountain,



and Western Kentucky Parkways

from the Dixie Highway, I-64, I-75, 25-E:

Eleven thousand miles last year, not counting sky.

(Calculate miles per poem.)

From Warsaw to Whitley City

the mountains to the Mississippi

I’m from giving workshops that give back

from Read it again. I missed the last line.

Slower.                 Louder.                           Wow!


I’m from sixty-eight jobs

in seven states

and thirty-one cities.

I’m from my family, my cats, and my writers group.

I’m from four journals—

fat with tickets, leaves, dreams–

from rejection and acceptance.


I’m from school halls papered with poems.

From the Arts Council

and from the common wealth

of teachers and librarians

helping writers find their voices.

I’m from amazement in a woman’s face

when she said, “I don’t like writing but I loved this.”


I’m from coffee urns and Keurigs

from yellow food formerly known as eggs

kept curdled on the breakfast bar.

I’m from third grade poets

who burst into applause

when they discovered how old I am:

“You’ve been writing poems for fifty-eight years!”


I’m from round table revelations

and pot luck celebrations,

from silence.

I’m from poems that got out of prison

though the poet did not.


I’m from “My Mamaw was bad to write”

and “All I wanted was a washing machine

and a trip to Woodstock.”


I’m from where you’re from:

branches and creeks of your Kentucky poems–

Big Goose, Little Reedy, Beargrass.

They find their confluence here.

I’m from the lines you’ve written

and the welcomes you’ve given


from the poems we haven’t made yet

the truth that waits to be told.


— George Ella Lyon


Categories: Other

Kentucky: a place of inspiration


Author Ellen Birkett Morris

When I think of Kentucky, I think of scarred mountain tops and brother fighting against brother, gorgeous green hills and rich food and folkways. When I started a story cycle that dealt with a photographer from Boston documenting the bicentennial, I wasn’t surprised to find that I set the stories in Kentucky.

My stories are Kentucky stories. They deal with rich and poor, bitter and sweet. I knew that with stories set in Kentucky my protagonist would find a beautiful but broken landscape, characters who defied expectations and a place steeped in tradition, but ready meet the challenges of modern life.

My stories encompass the contradictions of Kentucky, our love of and connection to a land that has been ravaged and our aspirations for a better life. My protagonist Jasper Macks takes photos of a mountain top ravaged by mining as he listens to Hal Emerson tell the story of a coal sludge flood that devastated an entire community.  Jasper befriends Terri, a young waitress with a depressed mother, who reads poetry between serving up plates of food at the diner and dreams of working as a librarian. He joins estranged brothers on a hunting trip and witnesses a ritual burial that links the men to the land.

Kentucky stories are stories of connection and community. There are stories in my collection about the desire to be a part of a community, including the title story “Religion,” in which a virgin accidentally joins a breast feeder’s group and decided to stay. There is “May Apples,” in which a grandfather teaches his artistic grandson to love the land.

He picked up his paintbrush and mixed a yellow, the color of corn silks,

for her hair. His grandfather had taken him into the cornfield when he

was small. He held David level with the plants and taught him how to

check for holes left in the stalks by sugarcane beetles.

Kentucky stories are about coming home and finding home. In another story, a young boy from Vietnam lays his demons to rest in the Kentucky countryside as a burning barn recalls the death of his parents in a fire. In another, a mailman longs to be part of the culture change of the 60s, but finds the hippie life he aspires to may not match his expectations.

I’m proud to be a Kentucky writer and tell stories that draw on the complex and rich heritage of the Bluegrass state. I’m proud to add my voice to those that came before Berry, Mason, Kingsolver, Lyon, Naslund and so many others.

On April 25, Kentucky Writers’ Day, writers across the state will be celebrating their own Kentucky stories and those that have come before. It is an honor to have this day set aside to recognize the artistry of Kentucky writers. I plan to share the work of my favorite Kentucky writers that day via social media. I hope that you’ll take a moment that day to read and share the work of Kentucky writers and continue to do so long after the celebration is over.

Stories from Ellen Birkett Morris’s unpublished collection, “Religion & Other Stories,” have been published in Antioch Review, Shenandoah Review, Notre Dame Review and South Carolina Review. “May Apples” from this collection is the winner of the 2015 Bevel Summers Prize for short fiction.  

Categories: Other

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: