KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Kingsport’s former city hall has a new purpose – retaining and attracting local creatives and helping them develop creative businesses.

Create Appalachia is a non-profit organization with interest in the business of creativity.

“That can be anything from fine art to game design and animation illustration. We’ve set up the center to be a resource for people,” Create Appalachia Executive Director told News Channel 11 Thursday.

Opportunities for many people working in a creative field in the region are limited, with many having to move to other parts of the country or jump ship completely because the industry is lacking.

Hoffman is an avid scholar of Appalachian Studies and hopes to eliminate stereotypes linked to the people of the region.

“What I noticed was that there is a deep and broad vein of innovation and creativity in Appalachian culture. So I suggested that maybe we say let’s retain and attract. So we want to retain the talent we’ve already got here and there’s so much of it,” she said.

The nonprofit’s founder, Cher Cornett, has been on East Tennessee State University’s digital media faulty for 20 years. She hoped to keep local artists local and offer business and networking opportunities for them.

“She got really tired of seeing her really talented students go off to work somewhere else because they felt like there wasn’t a way for them to be here, especially people who wanted to stay here. And sometimes those are people who grow up hear the people who graduate and want to stay here. Sometimes. There are people who came here to go to college, and then fell in love with the place and decide they’d like to stay,” Hoffman explained.

Old city hall looks completely different with splashes of color and modern design elements adorning the walls. Along with the update in aesthetics, the former government offices now offer the ability for small local businesses to grow.

Some tools necessary to do work can be expensive, so Create Appalachia offers pay-to-use access to computer labs, specialized printers, media streaming studios, conference rooms, office spaces, and much more.

“They can come in and have access to things like Adobe and Photoshop and Maya and blender and some of these other things that people use when they’re combining art and technology to make a living right. But that they can’t afford just as an individual entrepreneur right out of school, or right [at the] beginning of a business. So we’re excited that we’re going to be able to offer them the opportunity to come here and use those kinds of resources,” Hoffman said.

She explained that some of the offices or workspaces will be available to rent by the hour or just for a day or two a week for those who don’t need office space or don’t want to pay for full-time office space.

For remote workers who hope to get out of the cluttered home office, Hoffman said the space can be used to mingle with others and create a sense of community after two years of social isolation created by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Create Appalachia also aims to host a series of classes, one of them is called “Arts at Work.”

“These are sort of basic skills that creative entrepreneurs need to get themselves set up in a business, how to price your work, how to keep your financial record straight, how to create your branding, how to write an artist statement or an about statement for your business, those kinds of things. So just things that if you’re thinking about making your creativity, your business, this is just a little bit of information on how to get started doing that,” Hoffman said.

She added that it would be free, but that other class series’ would be paid classes and would yield professional or continuing education certifications or opportunities.

The nonprofit has locations in Kingsport and Johnson City but serves East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, a small portion of Eastern Kentucky, and a small portion of western North Carolina.

“It’s not just supposed to be an economic driver. It’s supposed to be a creative community, where people can come together and find out about each other and collaborate because one of the things that we found out is that there are so many people out there in the region with their heads down doing awesome things, but they don’t always know about each other. And so if we can get them connected, it’s just gonna be amazing,” Hoffman said.

The Kingsport location is currently hosting the Leaf & Root & Berry Botanical Art Exhibit 2022 until June 3, and a panel to promote the understanding of murals on June 13 called Making Murals: The Why and How of Large Art and Design.

Fiber internet cables have been the only setback the nonprofit has experienced at the old city hall facility and the hiccup has created a delay in offering all of the planned resources, but Hoffman said the entire project will be up and running within a few weeks.

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