The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country (ATHC) joined over 725 organizations and individuals across the country endorsing a plan for putting creative workers back to work after the pandemic. Endorsers include major cultural organizations in all genres, national service organizations, and influential individuals in the arts and entertainment industries.
The App Theatre, in partnership with Americans for the Arts, has proposed a 15-action national recovery strategy that elected officials and other decisionmakers can use to put creative workers to work—activating the cultural economy and drawing upon the energies of the country’s 5.1 million creative workers to energize Americans, reimagine how communities can thrive, and improve the lives of all.
ATHC Executive Director Laura Kratt said that, “The creative economy is an economic driver—an $878-billion industry that supports 5.1 million jobs and represents 4.5% of the nation’s economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.”
Locally, ATHC is only one of many cultural organizations that have made an impact on the creative economy. Prior to the pandemic-related closure, the theatre was on track to fulfill the projected 60 annual destination events which the Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis at Appalachian State University estimated would infuse over three million dollars of direct spending into the High Country region which, when combined with indirect impacts, would have totaled $4,412,000.
This cross-cutting set of policy proposals was developed in collaboration with, and with input from, over 100 field partners, and will be delivered to both Presidential campaigns as well as to members of Congress to inform their recovery and rebuilding strategies. These ideas will also be shared with decisionmakers in Boone and Watauga Country, to integrate the creative economy into North Carolina’s recovery and rebuilding strategies.
The 15 actions are divided into five general areas and include:
Engage In, and Drive, Direct Employment of Creative Workers
1. Use executive action to advance direct employment of creative workers within federal agencies and programs.
2. Use executive action to direct federal departments to commission artists and community arts organizations.
3. Put artists to work addressing public and mental health in communities.
4. Use executive action to complete the launch of an ArtistCorps within AmeriCorps.
Drive Local, State, and Private Sector Activation of Creative Workers
5. Incentivize private businesses and local and state agencies and tribal governments to integrate creative workers to envision successful business structures in recovery and beyond.
6. Prioritize and incentivize public and private sector support, access to capital, and equitable funding of arts producing organizations, small creative businesses, community cultural centers, and collectives.
7. Utilize and provide resources to local-level Workforce Investment Boards to develop and deploy creative entrepreneur support programs.
Adjust Existing Policies to Recognize Creative Workers as Workers
8. Through executive action and in partnership with Congress, ensure that the creative economy is explicitly included in existing policy, rules, and regulations.
9. Overhaul outdated employment, insurance, food, and housing policies to make them more inclusive of the more than 55 million independent workers, including the bulk of the 5.1 million creative workers in the country.
Integrate Creative Interventions into Response, Recovery and Resilience Programs
10.Through executive action and in collaboration with Congress, direct and incentivize the integration of creative workers and creative organizations at the municipal, county, state, and tribal levels during disaster relief and recovery efforts.
11.Through executive action or policy modification, integrate artists and culture workers into critical, long-term community recovery planning.
12.Improve treatment of creative workers and businesses within the federal disaster response structure for all declared disasters.
Support Access to Arts, Culture, and Arts Education
13.Expand opportunities and lower barriers for public access to cultural experiences and venues.
14.Support and incentivize private, state, local, and tribal philanthropic investment in arts-based education and educators.
15.Prioritize digital training, access, and connectivity to enhance the connection between artists and all Americans.
Keith Martin, Chair of the Appalachian Theatre and a longtime member of Americans for the Arts, echoed the slogan for the proposal when he said, “There can be no recovery without creativity.” He applauded the unanimous vote of the ATHC Board of Trustees in supporting the national effort while noting that, “Locally, the Theatre will lead the cultural recovery effort in active partnership with other cultural organizations and our user groups. Remember, this temporary closure is merely an extended intermission; we’ll be back bigger, better, and bolder than ever before.”
Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch commented, “The arts are part of the heart and soul of America, and creativity has always been essential to recovery – there can be no recovery without it. To thrive post-pandemic, the United States must leverage its creative power, putting creative workers to work rebuilding, reimagining, unifying, and healing communities in every state and territory, as well as within tribal lands. I strongly urge the next Administration to put creative workers to work alongside all of the others ready to help rebuild and reimagine our communities and places, and the whole country will be made better for it.”
To date, 725 arts and culture organizations and creative workers from 48 states and the District of Columbia have endorsed the creative workforce proposal. Endorsing organizations include non-profit arts groups and for-profit creative businesses in all genres; local, state, regional and national arts agencies and advocacy groups; foundations; media organizations; and trade associations.
In addition to the App Theatre, select endorsing organizations include: Americans for the Arts, Alternate ROOTS, American Alliance of Museums, American Craft Council, American Theatre Wing, Association for Creative Industries, Association of Performing Arts Professionals, Association of Teaching Artists, Association of Writers & Writing Programs, Grantmakers in the Arts, the International Storytelling Center, International Folk Alliance, League of American Orchestras, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, National Council for the Traditional Arts, National Guild for Community Arts Education, National YoungArts Foundation, Springboard for the Arts, the Stage Managers Association of the United States, The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture, Theatre Communications Group, and United Scenic Artists.
Endorsing individuals come from across the country, and include artists, cultural leaders, clergy, teachers, foundation leaders, and concerned citizens—including former National Endowment for the Arts chair Jane Alexander, award-winning actress Annette Bening, and artist and civil rights advocate Christine Sun Kim.
“Making the Appalachian Theatre a regional tourist destination for the High Country has always been a central focus of the organization,” according to Kratt, who cited their mission as follows: “to revitalize and sustain this historic community touchstone as a quality home for diverse artists and audiences with a special focus on programs that celebrate our distinctive Appalachian heritage and enhance our capacity to serve as an economic catalyst for Boone and the High Country.”
Once a gorgeous 999-seat Art Deco movie house, the building closed in 2007 and sat empty and gutted for years. On October 14, 2019, the Appalachian Theatre re-opened its doors after a $10 million renovation that brought the distinctive Art Deco details back to this historic theatre and created a new 629-seat, state-of-the-art, acoustically fabulous venue for live concerts, films, plays, and dance performances. The historic Appalachian Theatre has entertained regional audiences in the heart of downtown Boone, North Carolina since 1938. The website is www.apptheatre.org.
To view the full 15-action proposal as well as the ever-growing list of endorsing organizations and individuals, visit “To Rebuild and Reimagine America, We Must Put Creative Workers to Work” at www.americansforthearts.org/CreativeWork.