A ‘rabble-rouser’ in the best damn sense of the term, Ali Blair has a heart for community revitalization, born from her rebel roots. Raised Jehovah’s Witness, now an atheist who wears the label of ‘small town witch’ proudly, she came to deeply value unity and inclusivity as a young adult, and is now using that passion to question the status quo in little ol’ Berea, Ky, where some folks in charge would rather everyone look and believe just like they do.
Ali’s efforts to awaken Old Town, the teeny downtown area that was falling into disrepair and disuse, have generated new businesses in the area amid a 10-12 week summer concert series. Families and folks of all backgrounds convene weekly around a cabin stage, vendors come to sell their wares, and free music is enjoyed by all. The spirit of pride and sense of community this builds is immeasurably precious, and locals are noticing a change in the trajectory of Berea because of it.
An East Tennessee native and proud hillbilly, Ali Blair is an entrepreneur and ‘Instigator of Community Celebrations’ at First Friday Berea and Levitt AMP Berea Music Series, founded in 2014.
In partnership with the Berea Arts Council and Berea Tourism, Blair produces the Levitt AMP Berea Music Series, spearheading and securing a $25,000 matching grant for a ten week music series from the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
By the end of the 2019 season Blair will have produced 47 free outdoor live music events in the Old Town Artisan Village, valued at approximately $375,000. In partnership with BAC and photographer, Erica Chambers, Blair launched “The Tate Sessions” an intimate listening room series in Berea’s Historic Tate Building, featuring regional singer/songwriters.
Committed to creating a nightlife in a sleepy little town, in 2015 Blair worked alongside city administration and managed the social media campaign to pass a local option vote for alcohol sales in qualified restaurants. Blair has focused all her downtown revitalization and creative-place-making efforts in the Old Town Artisan Village, where she is single-handedly spearheading the rebirth of community.
*Correction: I stated in the beginning of this episode that Ali’s 3rd annual concert series alone was created via a grant which brings in “$50,000 altogether.” The actual number for the 2019 season alone is closer to $90,000, including inkind goods and services.
* “Witches, Sluts, Feminists,” by Kristen Sollee, a book about sex positivity in yet another era where negative labels attempt to define women into manageable boxes
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