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Eastern Kentucky people work to preserve arts and culture after floods

Eastern Kentucky is known for its rich arts and culture. However, recent floods have damaged important local archives, devastated the art business, and left some artists uneasy about making a living.

Stormwater hit the first floor of the Appalachian Artisan Center in Hindman, destroying classroom fixtures, kilns, administrative offices, and artist studios. As of Monday, much of the level had been removed and mud-covered debris had piled up outside, thanks to a restoration company that specializes in repairing water damage.

Artistic Director Lenny Anderson mourns the loss of a newly painted mural and carefully curated artist studio. ”

“As artists, we put a lot of thought into what we use every day. It’s really heartbreaking to see it completely washed out overnight,” she said, adding that their artist’s At least one person was left homeless and injured in the storm.

Anderson also coordinates the Center’s cultural restoration program. This program teaches art skills to those addicted to opioids to help them recover.

Floods have disrupted that program, and Anderson feels an urgency to get it up and running again.

“Right now, the whole region is being hit by this terrible disaster and ‘culture of recovery’ has a different meaning. We are trying to recover from this terrible thing that happened to us.”

A flood-damaged mountain dulcimer lies on the floor of the upper floor of the Appalachian Artisan Center on August 8, 2022.

The center houses the Mountain Dulcimer Museum. The flood was so violent that he one of the museum’s doors fell off its hinges and crashed through the front window, carrying away much of the collection.

Douglas Nasserrode said it was “too heartbreaking” to visit the museum and assess the damage.

Naselroad co-curated the collection. He also founded the Center’s Appalachian School of Music and directs the Troublesome Creek Stringed Instrument Company.

“There was an example of the first dulcimer made in the shape of an hourglass.

Some of the instruments have been recovered, but it is unknown if they are salvageable.

Naselroad has also worked to clean up a luthier school where people learn how to build and repair stringed instruments.


Naselroad and colleagues spray-painted “We’ll be back” and “God will make a way” on the exterior of the Appalachian School of Lucy.

An off-promise sign that says “we’ll be back”. Mr Naselroad said he was determined to continue paying his employees to clean up salvageable tools and equipment.

“So my men are devastated by this, but they won’t be devastated by job worries. It might be spring before I pretend to be making instruments,” he said. “I don’t know. I’ve never experienced anything like this before… but in the meantime, it makes them feel better to see a little bit of normalcy returning to this mud pit.

Some cultural institutions, such as Whitesburg’s Appalshop and the Hindman Settlement School, which has collections dating back more than a century, have hit the archives.

“Of course, the human loss is the worst part. It’s also a tremendous loss.”

House grew up in eastern Kentucky and credits colonial school as an important pathway to becoming a published author. The school’s annual Appalachian Writers Workshop aims to help Appalachian writers tell their own stories and the stories of their hometowns, making significant contributions not only to Kentucky’s literary arts legacy, but to American literature as a whole. After the flood, the school has provided shelter, food and supplies to those in need.

These collections, artists and arts groups also highlight the more nuanced representations of the region.

“We are often under-represented in complex ways,” House continued. “We have been denied or erased in every conceivable form of visual media – television, movies, cartoons, commercials. What is happening is truly devastating.”


The Hindman Settlement School archives were protected from a possible fire, but floodwaters flooded them. The school is working to restore and preserve as much as possible.

The Kentucky Arts Council works with cultural groups in affected areas to help assess damage and connect artists and organizations with local and national resources.

Emily Moses, Executive Staff Advisor, said it was a quick turnaround.

“Unfortunately, we learned a lot of response techniques and methods from responding to the tornado disaster in Western Kentucky, which included a significant impact on the arts and culture sector. So do organizations: “So we were able to create a process in the meantime and implement it right away.”

The Arts Council has coordinated telephone communications between affected artists and the National Arts Responders and Emergency Preparedness Association. KAC has also compiled a list of grants and resources for artists on its website.

Meeting the needs of those affected by the floods is a priority, Moses said. But she hopes people will also understand the value of preserving the region’s cultural heritage.

“When we talk about Kentucky, we’re talking about art and culture, and a place where artistic practice is integral to our daily lives. [culture] If it’s too far down the list, what you’re looking at is a total, total loss.