If every community had an Appalshop, we would all be much better at exchanging handshakes and recipes. They are a beacon of decency and forward-thinking in our country’s continued quest for equal human rights.
Hannah Adams joined Appalshop in 2021 as the Lead Educator of Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute (AMI). Hannah first began working with AMI in 2017 as a youth media intern and has been an active participant ever since. Her work with AMI inspired her to seek higher education at Morehead State University, where she received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Convergent Media. Hannah's work has been published by NPR, YR Media, and 100 Days in Appalachia, among others. A Letcher County native, Hannah is grateful to continue her work with AMI helping Appalachian youth find a passion for media production.
Appalachian Media Institute
Tommy Anderson (they/she) was raised in the sunshine and the shadows of the Pine Mountain ridge in Shelby Gap, Ky. As a musical and charismatic youth facing unique challenges, Tommy’s passion and energy were brought into focus by Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute (AMI) where she learned to tell her stories and appreciate her Appalachian roots and identity in a way she never knew possible. After 5 years at AMI, Tommy left the Appalshop nest, studying Psychology and English at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, theater/performance studies at UVA-Wise, and Old-Time mountain music and art at Mountain Empire Community College. While studying and working in the region, Tommy began teaching for the Wise County Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAMs) Program through Pro-Art Association until advancing to the position of Program Manager/Project Coordinator. While teaching old-time fiddle to school-age kids 4-5 days a week in Wise County, Tommy managed booking, coordination, and promotion for a spectrum of fine arts events for Pro-Art, expanded the enrollment of the Wise County JAMs programs, was a mentor, and volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) through the Lonesome Pine Office on Youth in Big Stone Gap, VA. After six years at Pro-Art, Tommy came back fully into the Appalshop fold, taking on a number of important duties until she finally nestled in a destined and well-suited spot as Associate Artistic Director for an all-new generation of Roadside Theater.
Associate Artistic Director
Aaron Asbury joined Appalshop in September of 2021 as the Program Coordinator of Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute (AMI). Aaron graduated from the University of Pikeville in 2018 with dual majors in Film & Media Arts and Communication. He has worked within the media field for several years now, previously acting as channel manager for Pike TV and a lead organizer of the University of Pikeville Film and Media Arts Festival.
With several family members teaching and working in the education system, Aaron is excited to take on the work of spreading vital artistic skills of film and media arts to the youth of Appalachia.
AMI Program Coordinator
Elizabeth Barret joined Appalshop in 1973 as a filmmaker. Her work is shaped by the history, culture, and social issues of Appalachia. Barret is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Creative Arts, Rockefeller Foundation Film/Video/ Multimedia Fellowship, and Kentucky Arts Council’s Al Smith Fellowship in Media Arts. Her self-reflexive documentary exploration and meditation on issues of media representation, Stranger With A Camera (2000), premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast nationally on PBS series P.O.V. Barret is the Director of Appalshop’s Archive and is currently at work on a new film, Portraits & Dreams: Revisited in collaboration with photographer Wendy Ewald. Barret also serves as Co-Director of the Appalshop Archive.
Filmmaker/Archive Project Director
Benny Becker first joined Appalshop in 2016, and has been in the role of Story Trainer & Co-Producer for WMMT since 2021. Benny started at Appalshop as WMMT's reporter/producer for the launch of the Ohio Valley ReSource regional journalism collaborative. His reporting on water issues and black lung disease in collaboration with NPR won multiple national and regional awards. After an intermission as an Abrams Nieman Fellow for Local Investigative Journalism at Harvard University, Benny came back to Appalshop in 2020 as a Guest Educator for the Appalachian Media Institute, then Interim General Manager for WMMT. Benny lives in Beckley, West Virginia, and is originally from Morgantown. He likes to hug trees, play in creeks, and dance like a fool.
WMMT Story Trainer/Co-Producer
Kathleen Byrne joined Appalshop in 2020 as our Institutional Development Director. She graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts with a B.F.A in Filmmaking with a concentration in film producing. She later earned her M.A. in Arts Administration from the University of Kentucky. Before joining Appalshop, she spent time working for the Charlotte Regional Film Commission in Charlotte, N.C. There she helped recruit such films and television shows such as Leatherheads, The Hunger Games, Homeland and Banshee. She also worked in economic development as a director at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. It was through this work that she came to realize the important cross section of arts and economic development. Married to a Letcher County native since 1998, she was happy to have this opportunity to move her family home. She and her husband, Brian Warf, have two sons.
Institutional Development Director
Born and raised in Raceland, KY, Charlie comes to us now from Columbia, SC. He has a bachelors in Arts Administration from UK and a masters in Arts Policy and Administration from Ohio State. He’s worked with national opera companies and for international opera festivals along with multi-year stints as an educator for a children’s museum and a fundraiser for a historic preservation and advocacy organization. Charlie is excited to bring the focus of his work back home to Appalachia, a place he’ll openly admit he once resented. But the persistence of a valued advisor and mentor helped him rediscover the meaning of place and culture in his life and he looks forward to funding opportunities for others to realize the same power and agency. Charlie lives with his spouse Malory in Columbia, SC with their two rescues Arlo and Theo and loves chatting Appalachia over a pour of Kentucky spirit.
Development Communications Manager
Annie Jane Cotten serves as the Co-Director of Appalshop’s Community Development Program, the Regional Initiatives manager, and Letcher County Culture Hub lead organizer. With over 20 years of organizing experience, Annie Jane has been an organizer, citizen science monitor, organizational leader, and community development specialist for over 12 years in Central Appalachia. With roots in the Deep South, and previous experience working directly with communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina to create a just recovery, they understand the deep need for economic development that centers community self-determination, amplifies marginalized voices, and fosters mutual aid. Annie Jane is passionate about organizing efforts that utilize arts and culture to foster vibrant, sustainable community-led and community-owned economies. Annie Jane is a former Board President of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, a former Program Director and board member of The Clinch Coalitionand currently serves as an active steering committee member of the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange, What’s Next EKY, and the national Performing Our Future Coalition. Annie Jane is also a certified holistic community herbalist and enjoys taking mountain walks with her dog Kitty.
Annie Jane Cotten
Culture Hub Organizer
Letcher County Culture Hub
Becca Finney has spent the fifteen years as a collaborative theater-maker in rural spaces. They are a character-based physical theater maker who fashions work from the images, sounds, stories and textures discovered in their (both local and global) neighborhood. Becca believes all theater-makers should also be good neighbors. She was born and raised in central Kentucky into a family with a history of civic service, a legacy which she embraces and which fuels her work with both generosity and political persistence. Becca earned a BFA in Dramatic Arts from Centre College, and a MFA in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from Dell’Arte International.
Director, Roadside Theater
Alex joined Appalshop in 2014 as our Executive Director. He graduated from Berea College in 2008 with a B.A. in Philosophy and earned his J.D., Doctor of Laws from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2012. Alex also holds certificates in International Comparative Law from Queen Mary at the University of London, England, and in Thai and Southeast Asian Studies from Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Before joining Appalshop, Gibson practiced law within the torts, insurance, and business litigation practice groups at Stites & Harbison, PLLC in Louisville, and in the business litigation group at Ballard, Spahr, Andrews, and Ingersol in Philadelphia. He also served as a federal law clerk for the Honorable Thomas W. Phillips, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, where he assisted in the resolution of multi-million dollar lawsuits, federal criminal trials, and questions of constitutional law concentrating on the First Amendment. Alex has provided pro bono legal services to asylum seekers from central and west Africa; conducted tax workshops in West Philadelphia; and served as part of a delegation that went to serve Mombasa, Kenya, in order to teach constitutional law to women’s rights groups in the wake of Kenyan constitutional reform. He was raised in Jackson County, Kentucky on a tobacco farm and will play anyone in 1-on-1 basketball — as long as his opponent signs an embarrassment release form.
Marley joined Appalshop in 2017 as a Community Development Worker. A native of Virginia, he graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from James Madison University in 2009, and graduated from the University of Virginia with a Master’s Degree in Urban and Environmental Planning in 2017. At Appalshop, Marley supports collaborative projects with community partners in Eastern Kentucky and Southwest Virginia, assists internal development and fundraising, and coordinates the cross-project Buildings and Grounds group. Prior to joining Appalshop, he worked as an environmental and economic justice community organizer in Southwest Virginia, linking ecological sustainability, community economic resilience, participatory democracy and social justice in pursuit of a better tomorrow for all. Marley is a passionate gardener, canoeist, and host of Toast and Jams on WMMT.
Community Development Project Manager
Kyra Higgins joined Appalshop in 2015 as an AMI intern. Her experience encouraged her to pursue her bachelors degree in the arts at Georgetown College. Kyra is a native East Kentuckian who loves to envision her community through storytelling by way of physicalizations, in place making, writing, poetry, personal accounts, film, media, interviews, paint, dance. She thrives on making space for the voices in her community and the folks she meets. She is hoping to funnel her energy into place and people.
Diabetes Prevention Worker
Kyla Horn joined Appalshop in 2020 as the Program Manager of All Access EKY, a collaboration to raise awareness and support for comprehensive reproductive health services for women in Appalachian Kentucky. Kyla attended Morehead State University, just like both of the grandparents who raised her, and obtained her degree in Health Promotion. She dedicated her time to developing a program that worked to identify and reduce health disparities in regard to sexual activity in young eastern Kentucky girls. Kyla completed her practicum at a local health department where she discovered her passion for public health and gained an in-depth understanding of the community health system. In her free time, Kyla enjoys reading and spending time with her two dogs!
AAEKY Program Manager
All Access EKY
Kevin Howard from Letcher County, Kentucky on top of being our Event Coordinator is a singer, country lead guitarist, and traditional banjo player. Kevin has served as banjo instructor and artistic director at Cowan Creek Mountain Music School and has also taught for over a decade in the Passing the Pick and Bow Program, Appalshop’s afterschool music program in Letcher and Knott Counties.
Public Performance and Programming Coord
Willa Johnson, Director of Film Department, has grown up in Letcher County and credits Appalshop for her career in youth education and media. She began her work with Appalshop as a member of the Appalachian Media Institute (AMI) in 2007 as a youth intern. She has worked with various nonprofits throughout Central Appalachia as an organizer, media consultant, and community engagement coordinator. She returned to Appalshop in 2017 where she has since directed AMI and has now stepped into the role of Director of Films to help a new wave of talented filmmakers find support for their art. She is a cofounder of the STAY Project and was named one of the Nation's Top 50 Fixers in 2019 by Grist.
Director of Film Department
Tucker Leighty-Phillips (he/him) grew up in Laurel County, Kentucky, where he booked punk rock shows before becoming a road crew member for a number of national touring bands. He returns to Kentucky from Tempe, Arizona, where he recently completed an MFA in Creative Writing, teaching fiction courses at the undergraduate level as well as in larger community spaces. He hopes his passion for writing and narrative will find a place among and engage a larger network of enthusiastic storytellers.
Relationship Development Manager
Roger May joined Appalshop in 2021 as our Operations Director. Based in Alum Creek, West Virginia, Roger was born in the Tug River Valley on the West Virginia and Kentucky border. His photographs explore the complicated history of place, faith and identity in the coalfields, and have been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, The Guardian, and Oxford American, among others. Roger has taught at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and Hindman Settlement School, lecturing throughout the region, and the photography project that he founded called Looking at Appalachia continues to present a crowdsourced visual representation of the 13 Appalachian states. When he's not making photographs, you can find Roger renovating a 100+ year-old cabin and working on raising bees and chickens.
Katie Myers joined WMMT in 2021 as our WMMT/Ohio Valley Resource Reporter, covering the economic transition beat. In the past, she worked directly with communities in Kentucky and Tennessee on environmental issues, energy democracy, and the digital divide, and is a founding member of the Southern Connected Communities project, a community-owned rural ISP. She has published audio and written work with Inside Appalachia, Scalawag, Daily Yonder, and Belt Magazine, among others, and received a Kristi Havens Memorial Fellowship from the Sundress Academy of the Arts. She has also worked as a production assistant with Black in Appalachia, a project of East Tennessee PBS. Katie believes in storytelling that punches up. In her spare time, Katie likes to write stage plays, porch sit with friends, and get lost on the backroads.
Coming from a background in live music & wedding photography, it is second nature for Christine to capture visual stories of real people and real history. Deep in the hollers and among talented artists, the Appalachian landscape is where she calls home. As a fierce advocate for the culture, she hopes to amplify the Appalachian experience so that each story is recorded and celebrated.
Engagement and Communications Fellow
Joshua Caleb Daniel Outsey, age 36, has been an actor, both on stage and on television. He is also a dedicated Community Organizer and hip hop recording artist and performer. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1986. He attended high school at Berea Community High School in Berea, Ky. At the age of 19, he relocated to Knoxville, TN, where he began organizing for social change. Joshua is a co-founder of “ Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development” (SEEED) in Knoxville , TN. For over a decade, he has worked as an advocate for racial equality and economic and environmental justice in and around urban and rural Appalachia. In 2014 He served as a fellow in the Appalachian Transition Fellowship at the Highlander Center for Education and Research. He continues to promote diversity and inclusion through his artistic performance and creative writing. Currently, Joshua is a new employee on the archive team at Appalshop. He has been researching and documenting the history of Black Churches throughout Central and South Central Appalachia. When he is not writing music and poetry, Joshua enjoys being outdoors. His affinity for nature is fulfilled when he is hiking, camping, or hanging out with his friends around campfires. Currently, he lives in Big Stone Gap, VA with his wife, Terran Young, and their daughter, Eden.
Project Documentation Coordinator
Mimi Pickering began learning filmmaking at Appalshop in 1971. The recipient of numerous awards such as a Guggenheim Fellowship and two Kentucky Arts Council Artist Fellowships, her film The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man was selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry in 2005. Other documentaries include Chemical Valley, which aired on the PBS series P.O.V., and Hazel Dickens: It’s Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song. Most recently Mimi and former Appalshop filmmaker Anne Lewis produced Anne Braden: Southern Patriot, a biography of the storied civil rights and civil liberties activist. As Director of Appalshop’s Community Media Initiative (CMI), Mimi produces Making Connections News, a WMMT program and podcast exploring sustainable economic options for the coalfields. She is also Appalshop team leader for All Access EKY, a collaboration to raise awareness and support for comprehensive reproductive health services for people in Appalachian Kentucky, and manages Prevent Diabetes EKY, a story-based health promotion initiative.
CMI Project Director
Community Media Initiative and All Access EKY
Daryl Royse joined Appalshop in 2017 as Financial Director. He is a native of Flemingsburg, Kentucky, and graduated from Georgetown College with degrees in Accounting and English. Daryl lived in Lexington, KY, for over 20 years, working as an Accountant, specializing in financial analysis, cost accounting, and business planning. He also served over 15 years on several LGBT non-profit boards, working to improve access to basic services, promote equality and fairness, and facilitate community awareness. In 2015, Daryl and his husband, Brad Shepherd, relocated to Whitesburg and opened Heritage Kitchen, an American comfort food restaurant. Daryl is currently completing his MBA at Morehead State University, and when not working enjoys spending time with family, including their children, Auston and Jay.
Caroline Rubens joined Appalshop in 2007 as staff Archivist. In her current role as Director of the Appalshop Archive, she supervises the preservation, cataloging and dissemination of Appalshop’s archival holdings, manages public programming initiatives, and leads fundraising efforts. Rubens holds an MA in Moving Image Archiving and Preservation from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and advocates in various forums for the preservation of independent and community media. She has participated in professional and scholarly conferences, presenting on topics ranging from the management of a non-profit regional repository to the creative re-use of archival materials. She believes that preserving the archival records of historically underrepresented groups encourages new scholarship and understanding and inspires members of a community to re-envision the future. Rubens is a native of northern New Jersey, was a longtime resident of New York City, and now happily calls Eastern Kentucky home. She remains, however, a Mets fan.
Meredith Scalos joined Appalshop in 2022 as the Communications Director. Born and raised in rural Taylor County, Kentucky, her family roots have deep Appalachian ties in Floyd and Madison counties as well. After graduating from Georgetown College with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Musical Theater, Meredith went on to work in political and advocacy organizational communications. Meredith has worked for the Kentucky Office of the Speaker of the House, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and several Kentucky-based political candidates and issue campaigns throughout her career as well as national-level communications experience on campaigns based in Washington D.C., New York City, Baltimore, and more. She has a deep passion for organizing in the rural American South - more specifically in Kentucky and Central Appalachia as a whole. She also has a Masters of Philosophy in International Development from the University of Oxford, where she completed fieldwork study on placemaking in the Appalachian coalfieds as a means for community-centered economic development. When she isn't speaking to anyone who will listen about the vision of a bright, creative, organized rural South, she's tending her plants, listening to music, and honing her traditional folkcraft skills such as knitting and crocheting.
Leo Shannon joined Appalshop in 2021 as our Archive Assistant. Leo is a fiddler and visual artist from Seattle, Washington who learned to play as a boy from older musicians around him and from friends his own age, particularly those who shared his interest in American traditional music. Since age 7, Leo has played as part of a group of friends called The Onlies, who continue to travel the country performing old time music. Before moving to Whitesburg, Kentucky, he spent four years in Swannanoa, North Carolina, studying regional history and sound technologies, and exploring the deep world of archives.
Jessica Shelton joined Appalshop as our Development Associate in 2019 and now has transitioned to be Director of Appalshop's Appalachian Media Institute (AMI). Originally from Floyd County in Eastern Kentucky, Jessica graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2015 with a degree in Media Arts and Studies. She is also an alum of the Governor's Scholar Program, and has a passion for fostering and maintaining local talent. As part of this vision, Jessica is thrilled to be making the move to AMI to further build regional power for young Appalachians as media-makers and creators of their own narratives. Before returning to Kentucky to work for Appalshop, Jessica worked in advertising and early childhood education, with experience in competitive markets in St. Louis, Nashville, and Denver. When she isn't working for the Shop, Jessica can be found hanging out with her two lovely cats, hiking, painting, or cooking up new and old favorite recipes in the kitchen.
AMI Project Director
Herb E. Smith joined Appalshop in 1969 when it was just a film workshop. He has been documenting the history and culture of the Appalachian region for 50 years, graduating from Whitesburg High in 1970 and studying filmmaking at the newly formed Appalshop, where he still plays an active role. His films document Appalachian traditions, like Unbroken Tradition about potter Jerry Brown, and The Ralph Stanley Story about the acclaimed mountain singer and musician. With his dad working in underground coal mines owned by Bethlehem Steel — and both his grandfathers and brothers spending years in Eastern Kentucky coal mines — his films also deal with environmental and safety concerns of coal mining areas, including coal mining explosions, black lung disease, and pollution of the streams. He’s shown films throughout the country in venues from community centers and union halls to the Museum of Modern Art and the Kennedy Center. International screenings of his work include Paris, Berlin, Rome, Calcutta, Bombay, Chengdu, and Yogyakarta.
Nicole Smith joined Appalshop as our Executive Assistant in 2022. Raised in Boone County, Kentucky, Nicole graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a degree in Communication Studies. She began her career serving Kentucky’s teens as a regional director, volunteer coordinator, and program director for the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association. Nicole went on to serve as an administrative assistant in the college office at the Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati, Ohio as well as the college office coordinator at The Dalton School in New York, New York. In her free time Nicole enjoys baking, cheering on the Cincinnati Reds, and taking too many pictures of her cat, Alfred.
Shane Terry comes from a humble background within Letcher County's neighboring county of Knott. Shane has been involved with many programs under Appalshop's umbrella, including his first WMMT radio show, The Shanger Zone, in 2010. Since then, he has honed many of his skills, including broadcasting and filmmaking, at Berea College. After graduation, Shane went on to work with other partners on film and documentation throughout the region, as well as his own personal interests that include environmental and socio-economic issues. After coming to WMMT as the Operations Coordinator, Shane's journey has come full circle as he now puts DJs behind the wheel to host their own shows. So far, he has made professional and personal connections with our community DJs and has supported the many different visions they have brought to the station. Shane feels strongly that WMMT is a place where "we don't just play old-time and bluegrass. Our DJs bring their own styles, genres, backgrounds, and personalities to WMMT, and that in itself illustrates our complex reality in central Appalachia." When not in the station, Shane likes to get behind the camera and carry a beat as a drummer for different bands.
Tiffany Turner (she/her) is a Florida-born, Mississippi-raised Southern girl. In her former career, she was a healthcare professional (Nurse) for 13 years. Her expertise spanned across home healthcare, pediatrics and geriatrics. She is a community activist in Columbus, MS, where she and her husband have spent a decade leading a youth-based nonprofit organization focused on growing the community through fun and festivals. Tiffany is a voting rights advocate and has assisted with voting rights restoration in both Mississippi and Alabama. She is currently lead organizer of Performing Our Future, a national coalition of four delegations (Alabama, Kentucky, Maryland, and Wisconsin) where we co-create and share knowledge to collectively own what we make. She enjoys singing, dancing and changing the world one day at a time.
Eric VanHoose first joined Appalshop in 2018 and has been a Bloomberg Fellow and Systems Administrator since 2021. As Educator for Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute, Eric launched a 3D printing pilot program teaching six apprentices how to design and print 3D media. Eric received Ithaca College’s S’Park Mentor award in the fall of 2019 in recognition for his work with AMI. After successfully creating the second Collegiate Esports Program in the nation, VanHoose went on to become the Founding Chairman of the National Association of Collegiate Esports. As a born-and-raised Appalachian, Eric is happy to be working in media and technology in his home region.
Téa Wimer joined Appalshop in 2021 as our WMMT Development Coordinator and in 2022 was promoted to General Manager of the station. Téa has a deep love and appreciation for community radio and its transformative and comforting powers. A paid summer gig at WPRB in Princeton, New Jersey led to a weekly show as DJ Dewey and Peppermint Pig, and they spent more than two years at the station as Development & Business Director in an opportunity to truly be in the guts of community/college radio. Téa graduated in 2019 with a B.A. in Religious Studies from Princeton University, with special interests in gender/sexuality studies and ethnography. Their hobbies include graphic design, animation and indie comics, food everything, and being a good old school pen pal.
WMMT General Manager
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