Since 2014 we’ve been building a plan…


Help us make the Appalachian Highlands a better place to live and work through innovation and entrepreneurship centered around the arts.








To integrate arts and business for the benefit of our region.


Create Appalachia’s goal is to make the Appalachian Highlands a better place to live and work through innovation and entrepreneurship centered around the arts.

We are working to support an environment that will generate new businesses that provide jobs in the arts, and encourage graduates from our colleges and universities to stay in our community. We want to help grow a strong, 21st century creative industry in Northeast Tennessee.

Our Story

Since 2014, Create Appalachia has worked hand-in-hand with the East Tennessee State University (ETSU), the cities of Johnson City and Kingsport, TN, Synch Space, and others to promote economic development through the arts by service on committees, delivery of arts entrepreneurship workshops, hosting listening sessions, gathering data for the Americans for the Arts “Arts & Economic Prosperity 5” study, and creating arts programming for local festivals.

In October, 2019, ETSU and Create Appalachia (CA) were awarded an Appalachia Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant of $728,000 and a TN Digital Communities grant of $30,000 to establish the Create Appalachia Arts & Technology Center (the CAAT), a micro-enterprise incubator and professional development center in Johnson City, TN. In 2020, we received an additional $15,000 from South Arts.

We have two centers, one located in the Johnson City downtown redevelopment district within easy reach of the ETSU campus, and one in Kingsport’s Innovation Village, opening in Fall 2021. They are tailored to support the launch and continued success of artists and makers working with digital technologies, particularly in the areas of animation, game design, 3D visualization, visual effects for cinema and video, virtual and augmented reality, web and interactive design, e-commerce and social media marketing. The Johnson City CAAT will provide entrepreneurs, businesses, and nonprofit organizations a state-of-the-art facility that includes professional work spaces, education spaces, and gathering spots supported by professional remote communication technology and hi-speed gigabyte internet. It will also offer access to production studios for podcasting, audio, photography and videography with green screens and motion capture (MoCap), and 3D photogrammetry. 

The Kingsport CAAT will focus on Manufacturing Design and Rapid Prototyping entrepreneurship, and will also have traditional art studios available.

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By providing access to affordable co-working and business incubation space, professional development and entrepreneurship training, mentoring, and technical resources, we hope to mitigate the “brain drain” caused by the large number of skilled graduates that are currently leaving the region upon graduation due to the lack of highly-paid, skilled jobs. We plan to incubate not only businesses but a thriving digital arts industry. 

We have developed programming and experiences to promote and accelerate the arts economy, including:

Arts@Work 10TM Workshops and the  Arts@Work Summit TM

Professional development workshops for arts-based businesses offered throughout our 33-county service area. Workshop topics have included Branding for Success, Pricing Your Creative Work, A Legal & Ethical Primer for Artists, Effective Social Media Promotion for Creatives and others.

Every other year we will host a conference that offers entrepreneurship workshops, notable speaker presentations, and networking.

Create-a-Stir TM

Culinary and food farming workshops and presentations promoting the role of culture, artistry and creativity in the business of the production of food. Each event is unique and features an expert presenter/instructor, or showcases an aspect of our regional food creativity.

ETSU Digital Media Continuing Education Series

Starting in winter 2022, professional short courses in industry-standard and cutting edge digital media software and digital arts creative skills will be offered. Developed and taught by ETSU faculty and expert industry professionals, many of these courses can be taken for credit or certification.

Exhibitions and Community Arts Experiences

The Tiny Art Throwdown TM is a street art competition usually held at the Little Chicago Arts & Music Festival, Johnson City, Tn. This event draws amateur and professional artists from around the region to create temporary works of art in streets and sidewalks of downtown JC.  The Leaf & Root & Berry Botanical Art Competition is in it’s second year and will continue to be an annual event. We will also be featuring regional artists in our galleries.

Board of Directors

Cher Cornett, President

Associate Professor, ETSU Digital Media, Johnson City, TN

Keith Nakoff, Vice President

Kre8, Elizabethton, TN

Jane Hillhouse, Secretary

Principal, Hillhouse Creative, Kingsport, TN


James Livingston, Treasurer

Associate Professor, ETSU Digital Media, Johnson City, TN

Dr. Katie Hoffman, Executive Director

Appalworks, Sulphur Springs, TN

John Wood

Wood Patent Law, Johnson City, TN

Tom Raymond

Owner, FreshAir Photography, Johnson City, TN

Heath Guinn

President, SyncSpace, Kingsport, TN

Events and Programs Advisory Committee

Ren Allen

Faces by Ren, Jonesborough, TN

Lexy Close

Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development, Johnson City, TN

Margie Kendall


Leighton Hart

Market St. Marketing, Johnson City, TN

Jocelyn Matthews

Fine Artist, Johnson City, TN

Patrick Savage

Savage Creative, Bristol, TN

Christy Shivell

Shy Valley Farm, Studio, and Garden

Jason "Jay" Flack

Jason Flack Art

Community Advisors

Sam Taylor

Interior designer, realtor, Johnson City, TN

Our Partners

Grant Funding Provided by:

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