Photos by Alexia Ault, Robert Gipe, Chris Jones, Carlton Hughes, and others.
Our fourth play, Foglights, is about Harlan County’s foggy future. It is our “air play,” and completed our series of plays based on the four classical elements. It was also our best funded project and had more side projects and spinoff activity than any of our other plays, so we will revisit Foglights' history over the next three chapters. Chapter 6 looks at a play we wrote in collaboration with Wendy Clem and students at Harlan County High School called Solving For X. Chapter 7 looks at summer of 2013 work that contributed to the Foglights production and Chapter 8 looks at the production itself in the Fall of 2013. The grant that provided the primary funding for Foglights came from ArtPlace America and was our first experience with “creative placemaking.”
Roughly put, creative placemaking is a type of artmaking and funding that recognizes that cultural activity has an impact on the quality of life and economic viability of communities where that cultural activity takes place. Restaurants, retail activity, places where people want to live, for example, often occur in and around hubs of cultural activity. So by supporting development of hubs of cultural activity in places that don’t have such hubs, creative placemakers hope to facilitate economic development in communities that need it. In the course of writing our ArtPlace proposal, we did a survey of downtown buildings that needed renovating throughout Harlan County, and entered into many conversations about how Higher Ground’s work might contribute to the development of the community.
The upshot was we received a $273,000 ArtPlace grant for the creation of Foglights. Our production partners for Foglightswere Community Performance International. In addition to choreographer Kevin Iega Jeff (who has worked on all Higher Ground’s productions), we worked with director Richard Geer, playwright Jules Corriere, stage manager Maranda Debusk, lighting designer Brackley Freyer, set designer Joseph Varga, and project manager Melissa Grogan Gore.
We created a “portable” nine-stage, one hundred and fifty seat theater out of local lumber, built by local students and out-of-work coal miners who then moved the stage to four non-traditional theater venues across Harlan County—outdoors at Pine Mountain Settlement School, and indoors at gyms at the East Kentucky Social Club, the old Evarts High School, and Harlan Elementary School. We used funding from the Robert E. Frazier Foundation to fund community college courses focusing on the writing of the plays and the building of the set, and undertook a series of visual arts projects that helped create richer visual environments in and around the Foglightsset.
The Foglights period also saw Higher Ground more deeply engaged with Harlan County High School. During the Spring of 2013, Higher Ground interns Nick Cornett and Devyn Creech worked with theater teacher and Higher Ground cast member Wendy Clem and her students to create an original one-act play called Solving for X.
Because of everything that went on during the production of Foglights, we are breaking it up into multiple chapters. Chapter 7 looks at our work with Harlan County High and the creation of a play called Solving For X. Chapter 8 looks at the expanded production role for students during the summer of 2013. Chapter 9 looks at the actual Foglightsperformances during the fall of 2013.
Chapter 1: 2001-2005. A Lot of Listening & A Grant Proposal.
Chapter 2: 2005-2008. Higher Ground Is Born.
Chapter 3: 2008-2009. Playing With Fire
Chapter 4: 2010-2011. Talking Dirt
Chapter 5: 2012-2013. Introduction to the Foglights years
Chapter 6: Spring 2013. Solving For X
Chapter 7: Summer 2013. Summer of Fog
Chapter 8: Fall 2013. Foglights Performed
Chapter 9: 2014 -2015. Find A Way
Chapter 10: 2015 & 2017. It's Good 2 Be Young In The Mountains 1 & 2
Chapter 11: 2016-2017. Hurricane Gap, Shew Buddy!, & Life Is Like A Vapor.
Chapter 12: 2017 -2018. Needle Work & the Southeast Kentucky Revitalization Project
Chapter 13: 2019. Perfect Buckets
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