Skip to main content

Arts, Music and Community Change in Appalachia

The CRC invites you to join us Friday March 1st for two events welcoming the RiffRaff Arts Collective and artists Lori McKinney and Je'dah Madison. In addition to studying the approach to community building led by RiffRaff Arts Collective we will be celebrating and learning more about the launch of their new project "We Need to Talk" a movement for community healing through music videos and conversations. Watch the trailer here.

we need to talk flyer

Friday March 1 - 2:30pm-3:30pm - Brooks Hall 325 - "Creative Solidarities: Arts-Based Development in Appalachia" - Dr. Bradley Wilson and the Community Economies Lab in the CRC will present on three years of action research with the RiffRaff Arts Collective focused on their unique approach to arts and community building in WV. 

Friday, March 1 @ 7:00pm-8:30pm in Brooks Hall 202, Eberly College, Downtown Campus an evening with artists Lori McKinney and Je'dah Madison of Princeton, WV to learn about We Need to Talk a movement using music videos and docushorts to build bridges and catalyze community healing. We will be screening two of their music videos, have conversation with them about their work and see a live performance!

Learn more about RiffRaff Arts Collective and We Need to Talk

RiffRaff Arts Collective inspires and empowers the arts and creativity in downtown Princeton, West Virginia, Southern WV and the Appalachian region. Established in 2006 in a historic building on Mercer Street, we are located in a dynamic arts complex which features two performance venues, a recording studio, a fine art boutique, artist studios and a music school.  We believe in the power of music and the arts to promote healing, growth and transformation. By providing venues for expression and producing events and experiences that inspire and uplift, the RRAC is helping to reestablish the social and economic vitality of our neighborhood, The Mercer Street Grassroots District.

We need to Talk is a movement using music videos and docushorts to build bridges and catalyze community healing. RiffRaff Arts Collective (RRAC) is creating sweeping, cinematic music videos featuring original songs by regional artists. The music videos stoke community dialogue, build relationships, and cultivate a culture of listening. The project, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, aims to empower community members to tell their stories and raise their voices.  

We Need to Talk builds on established cultural infrastructure and a community of gifted artists who have been working for nearly 20 years in downtown Princeton to bring about change through music and the arts. Formerly a thriving town center, Princeton’s Mercer Street had become a microcosm of WV’s woes, suffering from decades of decay. RRAC planted roots in a historic structure when downtown was at 80% vacancy and, fueled by relentless optimism, pumped life into the neighborhood. The collective began its creative placemaking mission with Culturefest World Music & Arts Festival in 2004, promoting unity and respect for diversity and, since then, has brought people together through weekly open stage nights, concerts and several annual traditions like All Together Arts Week--a county-wide celebration designed to inspire collaboration. 

In 2013, RRAC teamed with local nonprofit Community Connections and The City on Princeton Renaissance Project, which yielded over 40 public works of art, a community garden, dozens of creative businesses, remarkable youth engagement and several colorful traditions like The Downtown Countdown, a multi-stage music & arts festival on NYE. “Mercer Street Grassroots District” is now flourishing with life and nearing maximum capacity. This arts-driven transformation has become a model, and RRAC developed the Create Your State program to share this knowledge and empower other communities. The musical, multi-media program has traveled to 25 WV towns and a dozen events around Appalachia, offering ongoing mentorship to participants. 

After nearly 20 years of collaboration with artists, city government and community partners, RRAC has demonstrated the arts as a force for economic transition. Now, they are ready to deepen their practice, and use the power of the arts to create a culture of listening, broaden civic engagement, and make their town a more inclusive place. 

Key partners of  We Need to Talk are Stages Music School, WVU Center for Resilient Communities, The City of Princeton, Community Connections, WVVA and others.