Appalshop News

We're dispatching filmmakers to tell COVID-19 stories

3 months ago


We’ve been making art and media in the mountains for 50 years — and we’re constantly redefining what that means.

You probably knew that Appalshop has filmmakersradio producers, musicians, and theater producers, just to name a few of the artists on our staff.

But did you know that we also have 3D printmakers?

We’ve been training young people in our Appalachian Media Institute (AMI) since last year in the newest technology at Appalshop. So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they knew just what to do.


Using our 3D printers, AMI has been pumping out what they’re calling “comfort bands.” The bands can be attached to surgical masks to ease tension on the ears and scalp. For people who have to wear protective masks for a long time — like every essential worker on the front lines of this pandemic — comfort bands make an impossible job just a little bit more possible. 



Willa Johnson, our AMI director, has also been busy making homemade masks. Her experience led AMI to print another tool alongside comfort bands: bias tape makers. These are tools for seamstresses making masks at home, little grey boxes that fold material into position so it can be run through a sewing machine.


AMI has already donated masks, comfort bands and bias tape makers to postal workers and nurse practitioners — all printed on our 3D printers.

They’ll also be including block-printed “Appalshop Cares” cards in the packages they're preparing to send out to the rest of the community — because if there’s one thing that we know at Appalshop, it’s that “old media” and “new media” make each other better.


That’s the same philosophy behind AMI’s biggest response to COVID-19

AMI trains young filmmakers every summer through its Summer Documentary Institute to produce documentary shorts in just eight weeks. This year, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic makes gathering in person simply irresponsible. So just like it always does, AMI is innovating. 



We’ve invited seven young people who have already had some training through AMI to return for our very first virtual Summer Documentary Institute. Although participants usually produce documentary work on subjects of their choices, this year all seven participants will produce audio pieces on the same subject: COVID-19.

We need their voices now more than ever. Local reporters are stretched thin, and national reporters can’t safely visit our region. It’s up to us to document what this pandemic is doing to our communities and to tell our own stories — just like we’ve been committed to doing since young people started Appalshop way back in 1969.

We know today’s young people are up to the task. We’ll be sure to update you with what they produce, and in the meantime, you can support them here

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