Eastern Kentucky Transition stories in statewide media


Kentucky for Kentucky photo by Coleman Larkin

At least two examples of economic transition in eastern Kentucky were in the media recently.

Roundabout Music Company in Whitesburg was featured on Kentucky for Kentucky’s blog last week. Co-owners Matt Carter, Josh May, Jonathan Hootman and Ben Spangler spoke with KFK about what it means to own a cooperative record store in the heart of the mountains and about what it means to the community, which has been built on media arts for the last 40 years.

“Appalshop’s obviously made a huge contribution to the economy here,” says Spangler. But it’s deeper than that: “15 years ago they get this building and they basically let young people do what they want there. And what we did was have shows. It created a pretty strong music scene here. Particularly punk music. That’s how most of us met. That’s how I met my wife. That’s how Josh met his girlfriend. Fast forward to now when these people are adults and you’re starting to see a huge influx of these people who were involved in that time and moment who were impacted so deeply by it that they now want to come back to this area and they want to contribute. You definitely can’t ignore Appalshop’s place in all this. They gave young people like us a space. And in rural areas like this space is like gold.”

Roundabout Music Company is building on that tradition. In addition to selling tons of hard-to-find new and used vinyl, instruments and supplies, they’re starting a series of monthly in-store performances. Now, travelling musicians can come to town, do an interview and get some airplay on WMMT, hit the stage that night at Summit City Lounge and do an in-store performance at Roundabout the following afternoon to sell some albums.

Read all about Roundabout on Kentucky for Kentucky’s blog.

Hazard is the focus of one segment on the Valentine’s Day episode of KET’s Kentucky Life. The history of Hazard is discussed, as well as some of the plans for downtown revitalization, and the show makes a visit to Treehouse Cafe and Bakery, which had quickly become an arts center on Main Street, and a key player in the economic transition of Hazard. Noble spoke with the show about what it meant for her to move back to her hometown as an artist after college:

Hazard is very important to me. After high school, I moved away and went to college. I wanted to be an artist – that’s what I thought I was going to be. So, I went away and I painted for five years in college, and I just decided I wanted to come back home. Even though there was nothing here, it seemed, for an artist, I thought, ‘Well, it has to begin with somebody doing something different.’

We love seeing these stories in other places outside of this blog. It just further proves to a wider audience that exciting things are happening in the mountains, and more often than not, young professionals are leading the way. For sac of these types of stories we see on other media, there are at least three more, and that, maybe more than anything, gives us hope for Appalachia’s Bright Future.