It’s How We Thrive

Air has evolved since its humble beginnings in Fort Collins, Colorado. We’ve transformed from a small town’s big idea to an impactful program that has served thousands of artists, creatives, entrepreneurs, and communities across the United States.

Guiding Documents


Air ignites creative economies worldwide by unlocking community genius.


Air 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.


Air 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.

History and Evolution

2020 – Air incorporated as a Maryland nonprofit and seated a new national Board of Directors who refined and adopted a new mission statement and values. 501C3 status was granted and online programs were piloted and launched to meet the COVID moment. The first online ABBBA Workshops and Evolve cohorts ran successfully.

Participating States

2019 – Because of the success and national demand for Air programs, Berea College decided to give Air the freedom to evolve and expand. Frederick, Maryland was identified as the headquarters because of its vibrant arts scene, proximity to the DMV region, and the existing Air affiliates in Appalachia.

2018 – Air hosted an Appalachian Creative Economies Summit and Artists Thrive in Berea, KY that included leaders from eight states. Community Shift Workshops and projects launched in Virginia at the Reynolds Homestead and in Berea, KY.

2017 – Air hosted the first national Artists Thrive Conference at Berea College. The first cohort of Air Facilitators were trained in Patrick County, VA with the Virginia Tech Reynolds Homestead leadership team. The Art Builds Business Builds Art Workshop was developed to help assess community readiness for Air Programs.

2016 – Berea College acquired the intellectual property of the Air programs and hired Beth Flowers, the creative force and leader of the program, as the Director of the Air Institute of Berea College. The City of Berea became the first Air Affiliate in KY and hosted a Shift Workshop and Evolve Program.

2015 – Air expanded beyond the Intermountain West. Berea College in Berea, Kentucky became a Local Affiliate and six people were trained as facilitators. Air also launched a new website and edited and re-designed the Air:Shift Participant Guide for better usability and deeper content.

2014 – Air became a standalone nonprofit and was granted 501C3 tax status. A new local affiliate, train-the-trainer facilitator training model was designed, piloted, and refined. Air Shift Workshop hosted by COPPeR was held in Colorado Springs.

2013 – The first non-pilot Air Shift Workshop sold out in Fort Collins, CO with attendees joining from as far as Michigan and Canada. The second Evolve pilot included 15 participants. The first modified Shift curriculum – Higher Education Internship Seminar –  ran at Colorado State University.

2012 – Curriculum and website development began. Hundreds of people, from more than 10 states, participated in the planning process and curriculum design. Folks from 7 states participated in pilots that helped refine the Shift Workshop and Evolve Program. The website was launched to help build a digital creative network.

2011 – The incubator project was awarded a $100,000 NEA Our Town grant to design and build the Arts Incubator of the Rockies (AIR) to serve the Intermountain West. State Arts Council leaders and WESTAF convened with project staff and agreed that they were supportive partners, committed to contributing to its success.

2010 – Beet Street researched professional development programs, arts and business incubators across the country, and explored distance learning and social networking technology. Piloted a non-profit arts version of the Kauffman Foundation FastTrac business planning program for 12 local arts organizations.