The Appalachian Region, as defined by the federal Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)’s authorizing legislation, is a 205,000-square-mile region that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. It includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Forty-two percent of the Region’s population is rural, compared with 20 percent of the national population.
In January 2018, forty people from Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia attended an exploratory summit to discuss ways the Appalachian region could better support artists, makers, creative professionals, and expand local creative economies. This group, that included artists and creative professionals, faculty and staff from higher education institutions, independent arts groups and programs, state arts councils, South Arts, and economic development agencies, and CDFIs, agreed that it made sense to work together to find funding to support this effort and the Appalachian Creative Economies Network was born.
The AIR Institute of Berea College is serving as administrative support for a regional capacity-building initiative that will improve business and strategic collaboration skills of creative entrepreneurs working in communities across seven Appalachian states: Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, and West Virginia.