Hope for the Future: Arts and Youth

In East Kentucky, Harlan Daily Enterprise reporter Jennifer McDaniels writes about next weeks Arts and Youth forum sponsored by the After Coal project.

Arts And Youth Forum To Be Held At SKCTC Harlan Campus 

Harlan County youth participate in the Higher Ground theater project in the fall of 2013

As Harlan County works to diversify its local economy, a number of community and educational groups are working to ensure that the decline in the coal industry will not gravely impact the area’s sustainability. A partnership between the grassroots group The Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and Appalachian State University has generated a series of public forums in eastern Kentucky that have tackled this issue and generated dialogue concerning the future after coal. One of these planned forums is scheduled in conjunction with Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College on Tuesday night at the Harlan Campus.

Richard Davies from Merthyr Tydfil College will discuss his work with youth in the former Welsh coalfeilds
Richard Davies from Merthyr Tydfil College will discuss his work with youth in the former Welsh coalfields

An Arts and Youth Forum will be open to the public Tuesday night and will feature special speaker Richard Davies of Wales, who directs the media program at Merthyr Tydfill College in a former South Wales mining town. Davies will present work created by his students and share lessons learned converting an old town hall in Wales into an arts center for the college. Local youth have also been invited to take part in this exchange. Students with SKCTC’s “Higher Ground” will be present at Tuesday’s forum to showcase their work.

Tom Hansell of the Center For Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University said questions will be posed that should set the stage for much needed dialogue in coalfield communities like Harlan County.

“What role can young people play in reinventing their communities, and can eastern Kentucky learn from the experiences of other coal mining regions? This is just an example of some of the conversation that will be facilitated Tuesday night.”

The coalfields of South Wales shut down 30 years ago, and former mining towns were forced to diversify their economy. According to Hansell, as central Appalachian coal employment continues to decline, many are looking to Wales for ideas. Tuesday’s Arts And Youth Forum is the third in a series of forums that have been held throughout eastern Kentucky this fall. A Homegrown Tourism forum was held in Elkhorn City in September, and a Sustainable Development forum was held in Whitesburg earlier this month.

Tuesday’s Arts And Youth forum begins at 6 pm in the theater of SKCTC’s Harlan Campus. A reception welcoming Davies, as well as Harlan County candidates vying for local political offices, will be held at the campus at 5 pm. Refreshments will be served, and candidates are encouraged to attend for a public “meet and greet” before the start of the forum.

The series of fall forums has been supported by a grant from the Chorus Foundation.