Like many, 2020 was a transformative year for the AIR Institute.
In January and February Beth Flowers led AIR Facilitator Trainings for the six Appalachian state affiliates in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. Shift Workshops were held in Martinsville, VA and Logan, OH. On Saturday, February 29 Beth finished the last training and drove from Berea, KY to the new home of the AIR Institute in Frederick, Maryland, just in time to lock down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, of course, nothing stopped; everything just changed! Because of the success and national demand for the AIR programs, Berea College and AIR had decided that it was best to allow AIR the freedom to evolve and expand. Frederick, Maryland was identified as a great place for the new AIR Institute headquarters because of its vibrant arts scene, deep connection to the mountains of Western Maryland, and proximity to Washington D.C., airports and easy transportation routes to the existing AIR affiliates in Appalachia. In March, the AIR Institute incorporated as a Maryland nonprofit corporation, seated a national board, and on March 30, Berea College transferred all intellectual and financial assets of the program to the new AIR Institute.
April 1, Beth Flowers was formally hired as the Executive Director of the AIR Institute by the Board of Directors. Fortunately, a home office for Beth was always the plan for AIR as it began its evolution to a national model, so when COVID-19 changed all of our lives, AIR was well situated for shifting and evolving to new online platforms and models.
During May and June, the Board of Directors and Beth refined and adopted a new mission statement and values that we are proud of and believe will take AIR to its vision of raising the value of the arts and creativity in every community across the country. New strategies and delivery models are now in development and there are plans for new state affiliates and programs that will reach the entire United States.
July brought official 501C3 federal nonprofit tax status and now new partners and affiliates are preparing for virtual, hybrid, and maybe even in-person trainings in 2021.
The AIR Institute provides rural and under-resourced communities with programming that inspires new connections and ignites the creative economy. Creative people expand business skills, businesspeople get more creative; they learn to collaborate, adapt, and thrive together.
The AIR Institute is built upon values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We believe diversity of people, opinions, and experiences, at decision-making tables, make communities and economies stronger. We believe that historical and current inequities must be addressed and remedied. We work to ensure that our communities have full access to essential education, tools, and resources that build self-determination, resilience, cultural equity, and creativity. We practice and teach consensus-based collaboration. We believe every community is unique and should define its own measure of success: quality of life, economic stability, individual accessibility, and opportunity.