Appalshop News

Appalshop Abroad

1 month ago

Over the past three weeks, Appalshop staff fanned across Europe to revive our strong history of international partnerships. For decades we enjoyed collaborating with community arts partners around the world, recognizing that Appalachia has global influence—from Dolly Parton’s melodies to our coal and steel building cities around the world—and experiences global issues—from underfunded communities to extractive capitalism. 

While the trip was an exhausting whirlwind, we are thrilled to have rekindled old friendships and ignited new ones. These connections allow us to create new artistic opportunities, broaden understanding of culture and community, raise awareness of our region and our work globally, and grow as individuals and as an organization. 

Thanks to a generous grant from the Chorus Foundation, our trip began at the International Community Arts Festival (ICAF) in Rotterdam, Netherlands. We met like-minded artists doing incredible theater, film, and cultural work. A favorite session featured Health Action Training, a group that applies storytelling and theater techniques to help health-care workers connect with patients without taking on their trauma. Tiffany Turner is working on some imaginative, exciting collaborations to bring this training to Appalachia. 

Another great connection was the Tak Takut Kids Club, normally held in public housing in Singapore. They start the day with a blank schedule, which kids fill with any performance or talent they want to showcase. Tommy Anderson attended a show that began with a shadow play, included lots of dancing, and even had an arm wrestling match, which Tommy got to participate in! 

After ICAF, we split into groups to cover over 40 meetings in 11 countries, from Romania to Belgium to Spain. In addition to meeting with potential partners for programmatic work, we also connected with several artist residencies in all genres, from film and theater to fine arts and music. Here are just a few examples of the incredible work happening abroad.  

  • In London, England, Willa Johnson and Jessica Shelton met with Philip Reevell of BBC to discuss future collaborations around flood recovery and connecting rural communities across the globe that have been affected by the climate crisis. Philip previously teamed up with us to report on the 2022 flood, and we are grateful to build on that work.
  • Tucker Leighty-Phillips spent some time in Cardiff, Wales, meeting with theater makers, including Common Wealth Theatre Company, a site-specific, political theater organization with bases in Cardiff and Bradford, England. They discussed what it means to make place-based theater and how engaging with faraway places can enrich our own stories through shared experience.
  • In A Coruña, Spain, Eric  VanHoose and Rachel Rosolina met with A Vila do Maña (Village of the Future), which combats Spain’s rural exodus by using a week-long art program to promote children’s awareness of place, identity, and sense of belonging. After five days of creating street art in their village, the children go from saying their favorite place is a fast food restaurant to feeling proud of their roots and connected to their community.
  • Alex Gibson and Rachel Rosolina spent an incredible day in Genk, Belgium, seeing what a post-coal economy can look like for the arts. Genk is a coal mining town that has repurposed and refurbished mining buildings for the arts and community, thanks to organizations like Arktos, Gigos, C-Mine, and Muze Cultuurcentrum. 

After weeks of connecting and learning, we believe even more strongly that the power of art can bring people together and create profound, cross-cultural understanding. Our goal moving forward is to deepen these incredible new relationships, for the betterment of the arts, the region, and Appalshop. 

If you’d like to support our international initiative, donate now! We hope to send Appalachian artists abroad, collaborate on global projects, and host guests ourselves, so stay tuned for more tales of our adventures. And thanks for being along for the ride!

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