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Kentucky Arts Council and the Kentucky Promise Zone


Kentucky’s Promise Zone is made up of eight counties in southeastern KY which is part of Appalachia (Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Perry, and six of the eight census tracts in Whitley County)

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, a community development corporation is the lead entity on the project.
Overall poverty rate in the zone is 30.4%

Downturn of the coal industry has caused a huge increase in unemployment and the need for overall improvement in quality of life

Purpose: engage the communities in a collaborative, comprehensive process aimed at improving the overall quality of life in the region.

Goals we can help meet:

Increase Recreation, Arts, Community Engagement

Build a Sustainable Regional Economy

Revitalize Downtowns

Expand and Engage Pool of Community Leaders

Of equal importance will be the immeasurable returns in terms of self-sufficiency, self-esteem and community well-being.


SOAR: The eight counties are also all part of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region, or SOAR initiative developed by KY Governor Beshear and KY Congressman Hal Rogers to expand job creation, enhance regional opportunity, innovation, and identity, improve the quality of life

There are several working groups for the SOAR initiative—I serve on the TAH group, another staff member serves on the Young Leadership workgroup.

We have staff attend all of the SOAR Summits so we can stay involved in what’s going on, and making sure that we an keep talking about how the arts can be a valuable partner. We’ve also provided resources including the

Our work with the Promise Zone area is largely based on needs identified in our six-year strategic plan and in the findings and recommendations from Kentucky’s Creative Industry Study completed last Dec. which fit with the Promise Zone goals our work can help support.

Our Town and ArtPlace America Grants – Several Our Town and ArtPlace America grants that have been awarded in eastern KY; 5 communities are in the Promise Zone (Hindman, Hazard, Jenkins, Whitesburg, Cumberland. Were pleased to have Chairman Chu visit in April and have the opportunity to see some of the projects in Hindman, Whitesburg and Jenkins.


Brushy Fork Institute – Held meeting this week with the Brushy Fork Institute of Berea College, latest KY recipient of an Our Town grant in the latest round. They are working on asset mapping in the Promise Zone area, and as their preliminary creative asset survey they’re beginning with what we created for our cultural district program. We’ve created more detailed instructions for that process and have already shared with them per our meeting on Monday.

We’re also collaborating on the training we’re providing to ensure there’s no overlap, and that we can be resources to each other; and are putting them in contact with the KY Creative Commonwealth Network.

Kentucky Creative Commonwealth Network – brought the group together initially with funding through a Citizens Institute on Rural Design project on which we were a partner. Group meets and shares resources on a regular basis; several partnerships have been established through this network.

Extension – we have 3 fine arts extension agents in eastern KY, one in the Promise Zone area. Working with extension agents-have provided some of our traveling exhibits and other programming. Creative Industry Mgr. Emily Moses and I presented at the national Community Development Society conference held in Lexington two weeks ago—amazed by all the work in community development integrating or focusing on the arts being done by extension programs in other states. If you don’t have that existing relationship, check it out.

AAA grant –Arts Access Assistance project grant supports quality arts programming for underserved populations in environments where arts are not the primary emphasis. The FY 16 theme is Vibrant Appalachian Communities, for projects that would use the arts to celebrate, evoke pride in and call attention to unique community assets.
5 $8.000 grants were awarded, all in the SOAR region; 3 of those were in Promise Zone.

ETSY training: Partnered with Mountain Association for Community Development and the Hazard Community and Technical College, in the Promise Zone to present Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship Training Program.


Kauffman training: Have partnered with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development and the City of Berea to provide Kauffman business training targeted to entrepreneurs in the ARC region, which includes the Promise Zone. There will be one track for new businesses (up to 3 years) and another track for businesses that have been in operation 5 years or longer and are interested in growth.  


Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky: We have started conversations with them on how the arts council can be a resource in their work with communities to identify innovative ways to achieve economic transition and leverage resources.


Selling to the World: workshop presented in Bell County in part by the KY Small Business Development Center, and for two years our staff has conducted business workshops for entrepreneurs.


USDA: We have developed a relationship with the KY USDA offices, and representatives from their offices have presented at our workshops and conferences to provide information on USDA resources and funding opportunities that can be used to support the arts.

Emily Moses – addressed their committee recently to discuss further ways we might partner.

They attended the eastern KY portion of Chairman Chu’s recent visit to KY

USDA is part of Kentucky State/Federal Tourism Policy Council, which is facilitated by our cabinet and provides another opportunity to meet with them.

Trail Towns – Explain initiative and our meetings and work with the towns


Promise Neighborhood Initiative: One of the counties (Clay) is also part of the Promise Neighborhood initiative which received federal funding in 2011. Berea College leading that initiative to build a complete continuum of cradle-to-career solutions of both educational programs and family and community supports, with great schools at the center. Our work with them has been focused largely on arts education and they have used funds to help train artists to work in the classroom, and then feeding them into our teaching artist directory; and using the funds as a match for our residencies in the classroom. Conversation this week with someone from that program: feel like they have changed the culture in the schools”



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