Home » Workshop connects business and arts to strengthen communities

Workshop connects business and arts to strengthen communities


By Chris Cathers

Participants at the 2018 Creative Industry Summit in Georgetown engaged in the AIR Institute of Berea College’s Arts Builds Business Builds Arts workshop.

As The Lane Report’s Central Kentucky Market Review, released last month, indicates on its cover, Central Kentucky is primed for growth. Furthermore, the arts and business, together, can play a vital part in that growth, and the Kentucky Arts Council has teamed with the AIR Institute of Berea College to help bring those two seemingly different sectors together through a 2½-day community development workshop called AIR Shift.

“What if we got all these people in a room together and we discover that we have the same value system and we struggle with the same things?” asked Beth Flowers, the executive director of the AIR Institute. “In fact, if we find common ground and respect each other, we can help solve each other’s problems. Our communities get stronger and we become more nimble to deal with this new economy that is still completely unpredictable.”

That sums up the premise of AIR Shift – being a connection of art, business and community. Participating in an AIR Shift workshop involves applying a broad interpretation of what and where the creative industry is.

“The first step toward that is working in your community to discover if you have people there who actually care about their local creative economy,” Flowers said. “We’re defining that very broadly: actor, dancer, artist, musician, writer, but also craft beer, the local food movement, natural beauty products and the businesses that surround cultural tourism and nonprofits.”

During the AIR Shift workshop, small teams come up with a project with a one-year timeline that has some connection with art. Past workshops have yielded projects like youth farmers markets, local trail projects and downtown Main Street projects.

The program helps communities grow the creative economy by teaching people how to collaborate on a project that is for the community and about the value of art and creativity in their community, coming from the people who live there.

“This is the opposite of someone coming in from the outside and telling you what you need. This allows all of us to say, ‘This is what we need. This is what we think we can do. It’s little, but we’re doing it together and making it happen,’” Flowers said. “It’s not going to solve all of the world’s problems, but it’s the beginning of people finding common ground and respect, and using the arts to bring us together.”

Emily B. Moses, the Kentucky Arts Council executive staff advisor, is an AIR Shift facilitator and the statewide contact for communities that want to conduct AIR Shift workshops in their area. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the program and how to bring it to their part of Kentucky should contact Moses first ([email protected] or (502) 892-3109).

There is a cost for conducting an AIR Shift workshop, which includes fees for facilitators and other expenses associated with hosting a gathering, but for communities that are in the 54-county Appalachian Region Commission area of Kentucky, the Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development is covering the costs associated with facilitation. The Kentucky Arts Council also has limited funds to pay for project implementation, available on a first-come, first-served basis, for any county in the state. The arts council also has limited funds to cover facilitation costs for any county outside the ARC.

You can learn more about AIR Shift by listening to episode 12 of the arts council’s podcast, KyArtsCast, at kyartscast.ky.gov

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