Appalshop News

Meet our Interim Executive Director

1 week ago

We have exciting news! Our board has named Tiffany Sturdivant as interim executive director of Appalshop. 

Beyond serving Appalshop as vice chair of the board, Tiffany has been the lead organizer for Roadside Theater’s Performing Our Future, a national coalition focused on the intersectionality of art, culture, and community development; and lead organizer of our Community Media Initiative’s AppalHealth, which documented the life and healthcare experiences of African American in surrounding communities. Tiffany will serve as interim for one year, during which she will be a member of a leadership team that will work in participatory and collaborative ways to guide Appalshop through this transition. By using a structure that allows us to co-create a vision, we will avoid putting all the pressure on a single person.

Speaking of burnout—a hallmark of nonprofit work—we want to make sure our next executive director has a firm foundation to build from. Tiffany’s interim role serendipitously coincides with important organizational health work we are doing with Rural Support Partners (RSP). RSP is an experienced partner that works closely with nonprofits like ours to create an environment that fosters empowered participation and collaboration. By cultivating these conditions, RSP helps organizations improve staff well-being and overall organizational health.

The US as a whole is in the throes of a labor crisis. During the pandemic, 25% of US workers changed occupations, and by 2025 half of the workforce will need reskilling. This reality is exacerbated in the nonprofit realm. Many folks don’t realize that nonprofits, like schools, were structurally modeled after industrial systems that feed oppression, burnout, and extraction. Here at Appalshop, after a generational transition, a pandemic, and a flood—on top of existing in the already-taxing world of nonprofits in a rural space—we recognize the need for a revolutionary shift. 

We will be working with RSP to help us become adaptable and collaborative even while facing existential community crises such as growing wage gaps, severe climate catastrophes, and decreasing healthcare access. As our operations director, Roger May, says, “We want to leave staff and partners better than we found them, from the executive director to the newest staff.” Throughout this process, we will be documenting our path. In order to do so with integrity, we must be vulnerable, honest about our struggles, and open about the sometimes bitter realities of nonprofit life. It won’t be easy, but for Appalshop to survive, it is necessary work.

We hope you’ll follow along as we strengthen our foundation and, in the next year or so, welcome a permanent executive director who can help us thrive.

A Q&A with Tiffany

How long have you worked at Appalshop? Do you have any favorite memories from your time here? 

I have worked for Appalshop for almost four years. I’ve spent time with Roadside Theater, Community Development, and the Community Media Institute. My favorite memories from here have been seeing my very first square dance during my first Seedtime Festival and, most recently, conducting oral history interviews with partners and community members.

What's your favorite Appalshop film and why?

Fast Food Women and Nature’s Way. Both these films showcase innovation and resilience in Appalachian communities and culture. We are making the best out of what we have in front of us. The creation of these films provoke the question of what these communities have faced, as well as why and how we live and exist in these mountains. 

Where are you from originally, and what do you love about that place?

I am originally from Columbus, Mississippi. What I love about that place is the people. Our city is called the Friendly City. It’s a place where everybody knows each other and helps one another. It’s filled with southern charm and amazing beauty. Look it up! 

How did you first learn of Appalshop?

I first learned about Appalshop from the Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice coordinator in Uniontown, Alabama. I was doing voter restoration for formerly incarcerated people related to new legislation. I was encouraged to apply to Roadside Theater for the role of Lead Organizer for Performing Our Future, a multicultural coalition of rural and urban communities that speaks to artists and organizers working across areas of divide to explore the intersections of art and community.

What did you do for work before Appalshop?

Before working with Appalshop, I was a pediatric nurse in one of the best children’s clinics in Columbus, Mississippi. I was also a community organizer and activist primarily focused on civil rights, voter, and community engagement.

What does Appalachia mean to you?

Appalachia is more than a locale, it is a combination of grace, beauty, and culture. There is a special spirit present in these mountains that engulfs you as soon as you enter these beautiful rolling hills!   

What are you most excited about achieving during your interim position?

I am most excited about continuing the important work of uplifting those unheard voices of Appalachia through the creation of art and giving people the power to tell their stories in their own words. 

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