Our Breathitt is a community arts and health experience that launched in fall 2017, and brings together multiple programmatic elements and artist-led engagements (poetry and writing, music, dance, visual, ﬁlm, performance, gardening, cooking) at various sites throughout Jackson (Breathitt Co.), Kentucky.
Our Breathitt takes a different approach to acknowledging and celebrating the community’s history, heritage, and future than in NY Times' Best Seller, Hillbilly Elegy, or other writing that exploits the stereotypes and not the beautiful humanity of such an amazing community.
We’re a group of artists coordinating with local businesses, healthcare organizations, municipal government, local school systems and universities through IDEAS xLab’s HEAL Community Approach, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Our Breathitt Poetry, Essays and Plays
Artist-led writing workshops based on Appalachian heritage and traditions took place in 2018 and 2019, and were used as forums for health promotion and education with a focus on Heritage and Hope. Starting in August 2019, five collaborating writers, each with their own perspectives and ties to the county, began offering weekly columns in the Breathitt Advocate and Jackson Times-Voice informed by the workshops.
Call 859-397-1317 and leave us a voicemail to join the conversation with your response to the questions we raise at the end of each Our Breathitt piece! You may hear your responses incorporated into future posts and narratives! You can also email your response to email@example.com
Our Breathitt Collaborators and Partners:
Breathitt County Schools
Jackson City Independent Schools
Breathitt County Academic Boosters
Riverside Christian School
Breathitt County UK Extension Office, Kayla Watts, Reed Graham and their amazing staff
Robinson Experiment Station
Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC), Lees College Campus
Laura Thomas, Mayor
Steven Bowling, Director of Breathitt Co. Public Library
Shaun and Crystal Thatcher
Jenny and Teddy Edmonds
Our Breathitt Artists:
Our Breathitt includes artists living in Breathitt County, artists with roots in Breathitt County and now living in the region, and artists from the region who have all come together to collaborate.
Rae Goodwin - Lead Artist, faculty in the School of Art and Visual Studies at the University of Kentucky
The Handshake Deals
IDEAS xLab was co-founded by Theo ‘Alan’ Edmonds, who has eight generations of family history in Breathitt Co. and is excited to be working with community members in the place he calls home. Theo is now an assistant professor with University of Louisville’s School of Public Health & Information Sciences and the Director of the Center for Creative Placehealing. Co-founder and IDEAS xLab CEO Josh Miller has spent extensive time in Breathitt Co. with the Edmonds family and working with artists and community members through Our Breathitt. The lead artist of Our Breathitt is Rae Goodwin, faculty in the School of Art and Visual Studies at the University of Kentucky. In her travels she has met amazing people from Breathitt Co and is thrilled to be a part of such a great place. She has fallen in love with the community of generosity and kindness there.
Building on the energy and engagement from Spring 2018 with the Breathitt Co. Academic Boosters, and as part of Breathitt County School’s Literacy & Heritage Day on August 31, Our Breathitt brought together five artists to lead writing workshops with k-12 students, who were engaged to write poetry, a short film script, song lyrics and more — all rooted in hope and heritage — taught by artists including Pauletta Hansel, Theo “Alan” Edmonds, Rae Goodwin, Scott Allen, and Jay McCoy.
Engagements included Hansel working with students at Breathitt Co. High School to write their own poems, while Edmonds had students imagine and author movie-scene scenarios at LBJ Elementary School, and Allen incorporated music and singing into his lesson at Marie Roberts-Caney Elementary. You can read more about the day here.