Thousand Kites is a community-based performance, web and radio project centered on the United States prison system and created with inmates, employees and their families. Material is developed with inmates at two Appalachian super-maximum security prisons, which are then turned into scripts, installations and broadcasts in the communities most affected by these facilities. These events take place at churches and community centers and on small radio stations near prisons from Sing-Sing in New York to Angola in Louisiana. Through the group’s website, scripts and other items are available for free to the general public. Thousand Kites draws on projects by the groundbreaking collective Appalshop and by Nick Szuberla’s own group, Holler to the Hood.
Drawing on her upbringing in a family of traditional Appalachian musicians, Amelia Kirby creates sound and documentary projects with the collectives Appalshop and Holler to the Hood. She is the producer of Holler to the Hood’s weekly live hip-hop and public affairs radio and web broadcast, which brings Appalachian and prisoner voices to the airwaves through poetry slams and spoken word performances. In 2004, Kirby also produced Front Porch, an installation that features large-scale color portraits and interactive animation of urban and rural traditional musicians.
Donna Porterfield, managing director of Roadside Theater since 1978, is also a playwright, producer and creator of Roadside’s community cultural development model and methodologies. She wrote and produced the play Thousand Kites addressing the burgeoning rural prison industry. Porterfield is the producer of Roadside’s ongoing 28-year collaboration with traditional Native American artists in Zuni, New Mexico, and co-edited the book Journeys Home: Revealing a Zuni-Appalachia Collaboration. She has served as consultant to the NEA and various state arts councils and national arts organizations.
As a media artist Nick has helped design and lead national public information campaigns on issues ranging from sentencing reform to U.S. energy policy. He began his work at the Highlander Research and Education Center in 1996, and then joined Appalshop, an arts and cultural center in Whitesburg, Kentucky. Not long after, Nick founded Holler to the Hood (a multimedia project exploring urban/rural relationships), Thousand Kites (a national dialogue project addressing the U.S. criminal justice system) and Calls from Home (an interactive radio and organizing project). He has produced award winning documentary films, radio series, and multimedia productions. He has also trained hundreds of youth and adults in how to use low-cost media as an organizing tool, and has done artist residencies in 38 states. He is a graduate of Antioch