Seasonal changes transform the weather, colors, and skyline yet again, and we share our ongoing gratitude for ASPI’s 45th year serving the local community and Appalachian region. We continued operating without paid leadership but had help from valuable volunteers and contract labor. ASPI also provided housing, networking opportunities, and educational programming in addition to in-kind contributions and fiscal sponsorship this year.
ASPI sadly lost another former staff person and important contributor to its history, The Reverend Dr. Robyn Arnold (bit.ly/Robyn-Arnold-Obit). Robyn was the backbone of ASPI Publications from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, including the primary designer and editor of the Technical Paper Series before the digital age made DIY publishing widely accessible. Honoring her request to rest her ashes at the Rockcastle River site where she worked for many years, ASPI hosted a small memorial ceremony organized by her family and friends. We share the sorrow of Robyn’s loved ones and the communities she selflessly served.
This year’s improvements to the main ASPI office in Mt. Vernon include a new ceiling, fresh coat of indoor paint, and more open layout. Thanks to a small grant from the Blue Grass Community Foundation, plumbing repairs moved ASPI closer to completing requirements for a certified kitchen for public use by the local community. We started using the Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) charging station installed last year, which banked a substantial amount of solar power since then. In August, ASPI purchased a donor-funded EV that already serves as a positive example of alternative energy and an educational tool for engaging visitors and the local community. ASPI installed a new 4.4 kW net-metered solar photovoltaic system at the Rockcastle River site and hosted open houses at both sites as part of the National Solar Tour for the first time in several years.
ASPI received a “Creative Aging” Grant from the Kentucky Arts Council/NEA and completed interviews with five creative elders in Kentucky who exemplify a commitment to and practice of lifelong learning. This support enabled ASPI to renew its oral history programming by providing fair compensation for the interview team as well as participants. This summer, ASPI collaborated with the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History to host regional meet-ups of oral historians from Kentucky and Central Appalachia with support from the national Oral History Association. Timi Reedy and Mark Spencer began conducting a series of “life history” interviews with founder Father Al Fritsch to document his long career in service to the region. ASPI is working with the Kentucky Arts Council and Kentucky Folklife Program to offer the acclaimed Community Scholars program at ASPI in the spring.
ASPI received grant support from the Epiphany Catholic Church 10 Percent Commitment Fund again this year. ASPI was honored to be nominated to the new Waymakers Collective: Appalachian Arts and Culture Assembly. A Technical Assistance Grant from the Appalachian Community Fund enabled a small ASPI team to attend the inaugural Waymakers Gathering in Knoxville, Tennessee and make meaningful connections with other individuals and regional organizations. Waymakers membership makes ASPI eligible for invitation-only funding opportunities. We are honored to join this inspiring network of fellow Appalachian futurists working for regional sustainability and justice.
In October, we hosted a dozen service-learning students from University of Notre Dame, including two returning students from 2021 who led the group. The group spent the first couple of days helping with local clean-up projects at ASPI’s office and Rockcastle River Site and with Rockcastle Solid Waste. They spent the second half of their visit supporting relief and recovery efforts in the small community of Buckhorn hosted by local non-profit organization Buckhorn Children and Family Services. The students were moved and inspired by the people and stories they encountered. On their last night, everyone enjoyed Indian food, "Yard Party Games,” and live performances by local songwriters and musicians Robert Rorrer and Mitch Barrett. We are always grateful for and inspired by the generous energy and compassionate concern of the Notre Dame service-learning students.
Thanks to all the above individuals and organizations for making all this possible. Special thanks this year to: LeAnn Arnold, The Rev. Kay Williams, Father Al Fritsch, Mark Spencer, Judy Sizemore, Brenda Richardson, Jocelyn Lee, Darrell Wooton, Brooke Lee, James “Oja” Vincent, Warren Brunner, Ron Owens, Yolantha Harrison-Pace, Gretchen Collins, Martin Mudd, Nancy Seaberg, Bugz Fraugg, Josh Bills, Jerrie Bogie, Ben Tatum, James Renner, Holly Robinson, Wayne Riley, Mark Brown, Patty Wilder, Ketaki Bhattacharyya, Dominique Watts, and Talleri McRae. ASPI’s upcoming plans include maintaining gardens and landscaping in Mt. Vernon and Livingston; implementing accessibility improvements at the main office and on the ASPI website; expanded arts and culture programming, including oral histories and Community Scholars training; and continuing community partnerships.
We are amazed by the continued generosity and engagement of ASPI’s volunteers, community partners, project contractors, donors, and calendar enthusiasts. Thanks to everyone whose contributions help sustain ASPI’s mission and practice of working for healthy land and sustainable communities in Kentucky & Central Appalachia for 45 years. We are grateful for this fruitful year and look forward to future collaborations in 2023!
Timi Reedy (ASPI Board President) and Tammy Clemons (Board Secretary)