Appalachian Cultural Center battling historic floods

Whitesburg, Q. (AP) — Floodwaters that left dozens dead or missing in eastern Kentucky also washed away some of the region’s irreplaceable history.

Appleshop, a cultural center known for chronicling Appalachian life to the rest of the world, is cleaning up and assessing its damage, like much of the stricken mountain region around it.

Record flooding on the North Fork of the Kentucky River inundated the city of Whitesburg in southeastern Kentucky, causing widespread damage to the famed repository of Appalachian history and culture last week. Some of its damage is likely to be permanent, after being soaked in flood waters or having washed away some of Appleshop’s treasures, including archives documenting the region’s rich, and sometimes painful, past.

Alex Gibson, AppleShop’s executive director, said: “It’s heartbreaking to see our beloved building recover from floodwaters.” “We will be fine, but right now we are certainly grieving what has been lost.”

Launched more than half a century ago as a training ground for aspiring filmmakers, AppleShop has grown into a multi-faceted enterprise with a mission to uplift the sector. In addition to its film institute, it includes a radio station, theatre, art gallery, record label and community development programs.

But now, Appleshop’s attention has turned inward. The center known for training storytellers finds itself part of one of the region’s greatest stories – as flood waters covered large areas of the mountainous region, causing deaths and widespread destruction.

AppleShop is insured and its team is still working to assess what is lost and what can be salvaged, said Meredith Skolos, its communications director.

“It will probably be a week before we know the totality of the damage,” she said. “We’re going to rebuild for years, not days or weeks.”

The first floor of its main building was flooded with rapidly rising water. When the sweepers went inside, they found a thick layer of mud. Scalos said the radio station and theater had suffered major damage. The archives have also been damaged. The top two floors were unpaved. Another Appleshop building also suffered extensive damage.

In the beginning, the top priority has been to clean up and assess the archives, which contain thousands of objects documenting cross-sections of Appalachian life over the decades, Skolos said.

Skolos said he fears losing the unique items that tell the region’s story.

Archival material includes films, photographs, oral histories, musical performances, magazines and more. Fragments were made on topics such as coal mining, labor struggles, politics, religion, folk art and population trends. Some of the material swept through the streets of Whitesburg.

Skolos said AppleShop officials are contacting federal emergency officials to determine the availability of assistance. Appalshop receives funding from many sources, including large foundations and individuals. Its enterprises have evolved over the years, but its mission remains constant – showcasing Appalachian traditions and fostering the creativity of its residents.

De Davies, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, said that for decades, it has been at the forefront of efforts to reshape the region’s image by highlighting the richness of its history and culture and giving the Appalachians a voice to share their stories. Used to be. Office in Whitesburg.

“Over time, AppleShop’s films, plays, and recordings went a long way to highlighting the hollowness of hillbilly stereotypes,” said Davis, who previously worked at AppleShop.

Recalling his time at AppleShop, he said: “Our attitude was, ‘We may be hilly, but you’re no better than us.’ And he came in handy for us.”

Meanwhile, the floods have put a halt to the hectic schedule of the Centre. Skolos said film screenings of its Summer Documentary Institute, showcasing the works of his interns, had been postponed indefinitely.

“This event is the culmination of a summer of work for young apprentices where they show their documentaries to friends, family and the community before presenting the films at film festivals,” Skolos said. “He’s especially petting.”

Appleshop had begun planning its fall film screening schedule, but that too will be postponed.

Even as it deals with its own woes, AppleShop hasn’t lost sight of its mission. Recognizing the historical nature of what happened over the past few days, the center is attempting to chronicle the floods for generations to come.

“We’re documenting as much as we can,” Skolos said. “Of course, some of our equipment was lost and is not recoverable. In the day and age of smartphones, of course this is pretty simple. We’ll definitely be looking at ways to pull the stories together.”

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Snow Reporting from Phoenix.

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