Entrepreneurship in the Arts: Understanding the Craft Industry in Eastern Kentucky

Grants and Contracts Details


Kentucky Oral History Commission - Project Grant Description Title: Entrepreneurship in the Arts: Understanding the Craft Industry in Eastern Kentucky Fuipose: The craft industry is an essential component of Eastern Kentucky's economy. Many scholars have examined the craft industry in Eastern Kentucky through the 19 80s, documenting craft cooperatives and organizations in the region. These craft cooperatives and organizations often served as mediator between the artist and the actual craft market i.e. art and craft fairs or galleries. However, few have examined the topic since the 1 990s, when the craft industry began to emphasize self-sufficiency on the part of the artist to make and market their own craft. The purpose of this project is to build on previous documentation of the craft industry by analyzing how a shift from a mediated craft industry to an industry that emphasizes self- sufficiency is beginning to take place. This shift is not distinctive to Eastern Kentucky; rather it is reflective of broader neo-liberal economic changes taking place throughout the United States. Neo-liberalism encourages self-care by individuals through an emphasis on entrepreneurialism, the act of an individual taking responsibility for the creation of private business or enterprise. This project will examine local and regional shifts taking place in Eastern Kentucky as part of a broader shift taking place within the country. Through historical and regional economic analysis I will answer the following research questions: 1. In what ways has a shift in the craft industry, from mediation to self-sufficiency, begun to take place within the region of Eastern Kentucky? 2. In what ways is this shift reflective of broader neo-liberalist practices throughout the country? 3. To what extent do arts organizations at the state, regional and local levels, influence the progression of self-sufficiency throughout the region? In his work, The Handicraft Revival in Southern Appalachia, 1930-1990, Gary Barker speculated that a shift within the craft industry would occur (1991). Barker, who has held several leadership positions in the industry, acknowledges that arts and crafts production would become more of a business; and that artists would become entrepreneurs (1991). This research will analyze the extent to which a shift has taken place in the time since Barker completed his study. This shift will be examined within a larger analysis of Neo-liberal policies. Goal: It is essential that scholars and community activists understand the history of Appalachia's craft industry and how an emphasis on entrepreneurialism and self-sufficiency has emerged as a result of broader Neo-liberal policies. This research is necessary to create future arts and crafts initiatives that benefit both artists and organizations. Ethnographic interview-based research is a critical part of this project. Archival data will be utilized to further understand the present and past craft industry. The Louie B. Nuim Oral History Center has a significant collection of interviews with folk artists throughout the state of Kentucky. Transcriptions and digital recordings, archived at the Kentucky Oral History Commission will be reviewed. Note: Previous interviews with (IIaiy Barker will be analyzed before creating questions for this interview.
Effective start/end date6/1/095/1/10


  • KY Oral History Commission: $1,400.00


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