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ArtsChat Ohio: OAC/AIR Institute Partnership

ArtsChat Ohio is an audio blog bringing you the latest news and updates from Ohio Arts Council staff members. These conversations are recorded to be enjoyed using the audio player below. A transcript and show notes are also included. 


Audio transcript edited for clarity.

CAT: Hello, and welcome to the Ohio Arts Council’s ArtsChat audio blog! My name is Cat Sheridan. I’m the director of the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery, and I am so pleased to present to you today Beth Flowers and Emily Prince.

EMILY: Hi, Cat! This is Emily!

BETH: And hi, Cat! This is Beth!

CAT: Hey, friends! So, we’re here to talk about AIR Institute. Can you tell me, what is it?

BETH: Well, I’ll tell you. This is Beth. The AIR Institute provides rural and under-resourced communities with programming that’s all about inspiring new connections and igniting the creative economy.

And at the AIR Institute, creative people expand their business skills and businesspeople get more creative. And they learn together how to collaborate, adapt, and thrive.

CAT: So, tell me more about how someone might get involved in this work.

EMILY: I can tell you how I got started through the Ohio Arts Council. Their first cohort, which in 2019 sent 12 Ohioans to West Virginia to be trained as community facilitators. And so that’s how I was introduced to the AIR work, by going through facilitator training.

And then we took what we learned back to our communities and held the workshops that are in the AIR system to help build our creative economy, build our communities, introduce me to people from, at that time, the Appalachian region, primarily, but now expanded.

So, what we do is embed into communities authentically by training people who already live in the places they work.

CAT: That sounds super smart. So, automatic buy-in. Can you tell me a little bit about some of the outcomes?

EMILY: So, some of the outcomes for the projects that we worked on in Ohio were things like we did a Shift Workshop in Nelsonville, which is one of the three workshops that we do throughout the AIR Institute, where we developed a storytelling project, a community dinner was discussed, and also celebrating what culturally makes us Nelsonvillians.

There was a Logan workshop out of which a butterfly garden and a resource center to learn about the native plants. A dance studio …

BETH: Actually, those came out of the Evolve Program that was a cool collaboration between the people who had been through a Shift Workshop in Nelsonville in Athens County and also people who did a Shift Workshop in Logan. And what was amazing about that is there were so many actual businesses and projects that came to life.

And those were done during COVID-19. We actually evolved our program to become online and hybrid. So, we were really able to help people deal with COVID in real-time. We helped work with an actual art gallery/restaurant that needed to change because of COVID. And it has now turned into the New Leaf (Marketplace) that is actually now training—

EMILY: —survivors of sexual abuse and people who need a chance to turn over a ‘new leaf,’ working with the Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program in Athens County, who have adopted the program. And they’re working with Jennifer L’Heureux, who was one of our participants on this project. It was her vision throughout the Evolve Program.

BETH: So, it’s still a café, but now they’re training people to actually have real job skills. And it’s connected to the food-service industry, but also, it’s a ceramics studio as well.

So, there’s all sorts of art connections between the actual making that some of these new clients actually have to learn, but also ‘how do I work in the food industry?’ ‘How do I innovate new food?’ Which is also, by the way, a creative act.

EMILY: It is indeed.

CAT: So, this is wild. You’re telling me that you’re going into communities and leveraging what is already there to build stronger community. Am I getting that right?

BETH: You are absolutely getting that right! Because you know what? The AIR vision is actually really cool. It’s that we’re igniting creative economies worldwide by unlocking what we call ‘community genius.’

We think everybody already has a lot of what they need, and what they really need is learn to collaborate better, to listen to each other, to make sure that everyone is included at the table when they’re making decisions and trying to figure out how to invest and grow their communities.

So, what’s awesome about this opportunity is we train facilitators to help make that happen in their communities. So that every community has the ability to unlock their community genius, discover all the geniuses that they have right there ready to get to work.

EMILY: And our ‘train the trainer’ model keeps it hyper-local. So that you’re working in a community that you live in, with people that you know, and you’re encouraged to stretch yourself. And maybe work with someone you hadn’t worked with before, you hadn’t thought to ask, you didn’t think had something.

We know our community foundations and we know our big businesspeople and the Chamber and the arts people, but what if we were all together in a room working on a project? Just the group of them together, they’ll find that there are more connections.

And businesspeople learn how creative they are and how much value they can add to their business by letting that creative side work more deeply. And arts people learn that they know how to do things, they know how to do a budget and make a business plan, but maybe need some more guidance that they can get from the community members and the people who are already right there.

CAT: That sounds incredibly helpful. Like something that every community might want to have.

So, this is good because the Ohio Arts Council is an official partner with AIR Institute to provide those three distinct programming opportunities across the state.

We’re going to go a lot deeper and delve into exactly what those three opportunities are, how you can get involved, and what that means on October 5, 2021, at 2 p.m. for a webinar that goes deep into AIR Institute programming and how you can become involved.

BETH: Can’t wait to see you all! We’re looking forward to it!

CAT: There’s a link for registration in the Show Notes, as well as helpful links to the initiatives shared during this ArtsChat.

Stay tuned—we’ll have more ArtsChats in the future.

Show Notes

Ohio Arts Council's Riffe Gallery:
AIR Institute Website:
AIR Institute Workshops and Programs:
AIR Institute Evolve Program:
New Leaf Marketplace in Athens, Ohio:
Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program:
OAC/Air Institute "Unlock Your Community Genius" Webinar Registration:

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


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