Student Series: Appalachian Artisan Center Revitalizes Community

The fourth installment in our student series.

Appalachian Artisan Center Revitalizes Community

by Jessica Durham

Producing a wealth of heritage and pride out of the old sandstone Young Building, the Appalachian Artisan Center (AAC) “uses heritage to build tomorrow”, states the executive director Tricia Watts. The Appalachian Artisan center opened its doors in December 2001 with a collection of arts and crafts from the people of Eastern Kentucky. The art gallery carries cultural and original masterpieces for sell from 223 artists from over forty-nine Eastern Kentucky counties. The treasures found in the AAC includes handcrafted jewelry, pottery, woven rugs, quilts, paintings, books photographs, furniture, toys, baskets, and many other items unique to Appalachian culture.

In December of 1997, Governor Paul Patton announced Hindman, KY as one of the two locations to allocate funds from the Appalachian Community Development Initiative. Thereafter, citizens and local groups discussed the different needs of the community that could produce the best economic and productive outcomes for the people in Hindman, as well as the rest of Appalachian Kentucky. The AAC was envisioned as a sound development project that would strengthen the economic independence of people in the region. As a 501(c) 3 non-profit charitable organization the AAC currently depends on donations, business sponsorship, and grants. Yet, in these economic hard times, Watts finds that individual revenue for the ACC is down and that the organization is always in need of more donations. Watts’ notes that with more revenue the ACC can have more studio workshops and offer additional support to artists that currently participate in the AAC Master Artist Program.

Even so, with a skeleton staff of only two fulltime and three part-time employees, the ACC insists on bringing artists, musicians, storytellers, and crafters into the limelight to display their craft. The artists control the pricing on their merchandise and receive checks monthly according to their sells, which Watts considers to be one of the most fulfilling aspects of working with the organization. Additionally, contributions help sponsor Appalachian Folk Art Camps for children. The AAC also offers workshops for artists to help them master their skill and to enrich the community. Fundraising often supports seminars that teach artists how to start their own business and become economically sufficient through their craft. In addition, the Appalachian Artisan Center draws tourists to Hindman, which adds yet another socio-economic benefit to the community.

“Reaching out to others who are unfamiliar with the arts”, states Watts, “makes the work and tireless effort with the AAC worth it.” The AAC has empowered artists and the people of the region with economic security without the exploitation of the people and their natural resources. The organization’s mission statement states, “The Appalachian Artist Center is dedicated to building and strengthening an arts-based economic sector through education, business development, and support services for artists.” Jerry Howard, an artist who has benefited from the AAC says, “I owe the AAC a lot for giving me the confidence to begin the arts and crafts business.”

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.