MicroFest: Democratic Arts in Appalachia’s Coal Country

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Resource Details
Publication Date: 
January 2013
Mark W. Kidd
Number of Pages: 
PDF icon MKiddPaper_Final.pdf1.22 MB

Mark Kidd’s own cross-sector work in arts and regional development lends valuable socio-economic and environmental context to MicroFest: Appalachia’s many rich examples and experiences.  In his essay, Kidd contrasts a current national creative placemaking trend which emphasizes economic and physical development with creative placemaking in Central Appalachia that is grounded in community-based arts and aims to establish a civic and creative infrastructure capable of taking on and sustaining a variety of projects, including economic development, in an ongoing way. He writes, “The social justice and civic capacity building outcomes of the collaborations that MicroFest is visiting offer an important lens to understand the responsibility of the ‘creative’ in placemaking in Appalachia.”   Mining several MicroFest examples, Kidd illuminates the positive effects of culturally based community engagement, organizing, and activism in Appalachia:  Carpetbag Theatre’s catalytic role (along with other cultural leaders) in downtown Knoxville revitalization efforts; the human economies demonstrated by culturally sensitive food justice programs and projects; and the multiple plays comprising the Higher Ground project which create safe and collective space for revealing common ground, fostering meaningful dialogue related to issues such as prescription drug abuse and the changing coalmining industry, and forming social bonds.  With such potent examples, Kidd asserts, “There is ample evidence that community-based art can work in a lasting way to develop and support coalitions for social justice and community development,” and asks,  “How can we learn from and support this work on a much wider scale?”

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