By Angelica Ares
Jane Hillhouse attended college to become an art educator, but after moving to the Appalachian Highlands over 30 years ago, soon realized that, at the time, there was not much of a market for her training. (Thank goodness times have changed!) Practical, adaptable, and looking for a way to put her considerable talent to good use, Jane decided to shift gears to the graphic arts. The result is the highly respected and successful Kingsport firm now known as Hillhouse Creative.
Although fine art was her first love, Jane says she considers herself an “arts entrepreneur more than an artist.” he has been at the helm of one of the most successful design advertising companies in the region, which began as Hillhouse Graphic Design. Today, Hillhouse Creative is one of the leading woman-owned advertising and marketing firms in the Southeast. Always staying atop of the new trends, Jane has recently partnered with another strong woman, Jenny Kontos. They have collaborated to rebrand the business to focus on marketing as a whole, as opposed to just the design aspect of advertising. This could not be possible without Jane’s insatiable creativity, entrepreneurship, and her drive to become a staple in the community. Though she recently retired and Jenny now runs the business, Jane still plays an active role, consulting as needed.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Jane has turned to continuing her longstanding personal tradition of giving back and serving others. Along with joining the Create Appalachia board, Jane is a community advocate and works on numerous local committees and boards of directors – including the advisory council for STREAMWORKS Education, DB-Excel Advisory Committee, Kingsport Office of Small Business & Entrepreneurship, and the board of directors for Kingsport Chamber Foundation. To top off her list of accomplishments, Jane is also a talented musician. She has played in local symphonies for three decades and served as a volunteer choir director at Concordia Lutheran Church for more than 35 years. Jane’s passion for teaching, mentoring, and entrepreneurship are evident in everything she does.
Jane believes that the arts are an essential part of any community and are part of everything we do and see. She says, “The arts are all around us. In architecture, graphic arts, clothing, signage – everywhere you look. Good art is what makes a place an aesthetically pleasing place to live.” She believes that all arts-related fields deserve the support and guidance that Create Appalachia can offer. Jane has passed the torch in terms of Hillhouse Creative, but putting to good use in the region all the tools that she has gathered and built along the way. Not only in her own personal business, but with CA she will help to provide “opportunities to help others build their careers as artists and artisans,” she says enthusiastically. “The arts are an essential part of the economic picture in the local community.”
As an arts entrepreneur, Jane understands the challenges artists and artisans face. She has been faced with her own challenges through the COVID19 pandemic. Create Appalachia has not been able to hold the events that have been intended to build awareness and build funds, so it will be an even bigger challenge to come up with alternate ways to educate and help “forge new pathways to get where CA needs to be.” But Jane remains optimistic.
Create Appalachia (CA) is honored to have Jane serving as secretary of the board. Her strong leadership and organizational skills, along with her diplomacy and her artistic talent, are some of the many reasons why she has been so successful. Gracious, honest, and knowledgeable, she is the perfect example of the kinds of arts entrepreneurship that Create Appalachia hopes to encourage in the region.