Unique Whitesburg media and arts group gets Bloomberg funding

WHITESBURG, Ky. (WTVQ) – A unique media and arts center in Whitesburg is getting a boost from a well-known philanthropist.

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Wednesday the launch of the Digital Accelerator Program to help cultural non-profit organizations stabilize and thrive in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic through strategic improvements to their technology infrastructure.

Recognizing that digital adaptation is critical for the non-profit cultural sector to remain competitive and fulfill its potential, $30 million in support will be dedicated to help arts organizations invest in tools and training.

The program seeks to help cultural organizations build audiences, increase fundraising, drive revenue, and continue to deliver dynamic programming virtually and in person – including extensive educational offerings.

The sector-defining program will also create a network of non-profit cultural organizations with an initial cohort of 26 in the United States, expanding further in the coming year.

One of those is Appalshop in Whitesburg.

According to Wikipedia, Appalshop was founded in 1969 as the Appalachian Film Workshop, a project of the United States government’s War on Poverty. The organization was one of 10 Community Film Workshops started by a partnership between the federal Office of Economic Opportunity and the American Film Institute.

In 1974 the worker-operated organization evolved into a nonprofit company called Appalshop and established itself as a hub of filmmaking in Appalachia, and since that time has produced more than 100 films, covering such subjects as coal mining, the environment, traditional culture, and the economy.

The name was officially changed to reflect changing business structure and goals.

Appalshop also produces theater, music, and spoken-word recordings (released on its June Appal Recordings label), as well as photography, multimedia, and books.

Since 1985, Appalshop has also operated WMMT-FM (Mountain Community Radio), a radio station located in Whitesburg, which serves much of central Appalachia (including portions of eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia, and western West Virginia) with music and programming relevant to the region and its culture. WMMT also broadcasts live on the web.

As stated on its website, Appalshop’s goals are:

  • To document, disseminate, and revitalize the lasting traditions and contemporary creativity of Appalachia;
  • To tell stories the commercial cultural industries don’t tell, challenging stereotypes with Appalachian voices and visions;
  • To support communities’ efforts to achieve justice and equity and solve their own problems in their own ways;
  • To celebrate cultural diversity as a positive social value; and
  • To participate in regional, national, and global dialogue toward these ends.

“When the pandemic hit, cultural organizations everywhere got creative and adapted quickly to keep their virtual doors open,” said Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Now we’re excited to launch the Accelerator program to help more arts organizations sustain innovations and investments – and strengthen tech and management practices that are key to their long-term success.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies invited organizations to apply based on creative excellence, service to diverse communities, talented leadership, and their efforts to improve digital capacity during the pandemic.

The first phase of the program will focus on institutions in the US and the UK which will receive training and support.

A Bloomberg Tech Fellow, designated by each participating organization from existing staff, will drive the development and implementation of their digital project. Tech Fellows have been selected based on their track record as a change agent within their organizations.

Bloomberg Philanthropies will work with technology experts who will provide strategic assessment and implementation support to the Bloomberg Tech Fellows. In the UK, these services will be provided by the Arts Council’s Digital Culture Network, and in the US, by the Lapine Group.

The organizations selected to participate in the Digital Accelerator program reach and represent a broad spectrum of creative endeavour, and a deep commitment to serving audiences.

Participating US organizations include:

Apollo Theater Foundation Inc.


Austin Opera

Ballet Hispánico of New York Inc.


Ghetto Film School, Inc.

Harlem Stage Inc.


Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company

Mark Morris Dance Group

Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

New York City Center

Oakland Museum of California


Queens Museum

RedLine Contemporary Art Center

Sphinx Organization

St. Ann’s Warehouse

Tenement Museum

The Field

The Laundromat Project

92nd Street Y

New Museum

Roundabout Theatre Company

SMU DataArts

Categories: Local News, News, State News

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