Since 1988, the Appalachian Media Institute has provided opportunities for young people from across Central Appalachia to explore their home communities, address local issues, and become thoughtful, engaged citizens through the process of place-based media making.

2017 marks the 30th year of a program that has intensively trained over 1,200 young people and supported the production of over 200 youth-made media pieces, ranging from profiles of Appalachian artisans, to regional identity, to studies of the economic, environmental and societal impacts of coal mining practices in the region.

The work of AMI youth producers has been heard on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Sundance Film Festival, and recognized with the Coming Up Taller award presented by Hillary Clinton.

While documentaries made by AMI youth producers have been seen by audiences from across the United States and across the world, many pieces have had their biggest impacts in local dialogues and debates surrounding issues such as domestic violence, prejudice, drug abuse, and youth activism.

AMI is a project of Appalshop, a multi-media arts and cultural organization located in Whitesburg, Kentucky. Appalshop’s mission is to develop effective ways of using media to address the complex issues facing central Appalachia – a declining coal economy, a legacy of environmental damage, high unemployment rates, and poor educational opportunities and attainment.  In 1988, Appalshop staff members founded the Appalachian Media Institute (AMI) as a media training program for central Appalachian youth.  Using the technological and artistic resources of Appalshop, AMI helps young people explore how media production skills can be used to ask, and begin to answer, critical questions about themselves and their communities.


Our Mission

AMI strives to: 

Build the confidence levels and creative capacity of Central Appalachian youth, and position them as initiators of dialogue and social action around crucial community issues. 

Provide pioneering community-based media arts training opportunities that are college accredited, nationally recognized, and fundamentally transformative.

Provide youth with an avenue to explore the traditions, history, and issues of their communities and develop positive attachments to their communities, cultures, and the region.

Develop the skills and behaviors that prepare young people to be successful in school, higher-education, and the workforce, and overcome the barriers to educational attainment that exist in many struggling communities.

Highlight rural voices to inform national audiences of the unique challenges facing Appalachian communities and youth.

Enable our participants to become informed, tolerant, and engaged citizens and to recognize the interconnections between Central Appalachia and the rest of the world.

I applied to AMI because I knew it was a safe space, as well as a space for creating and learning about art and the power of media and storytelling. My experience at AMI is hands down the best experience I’ve ever had. I’m a completely different person now, for the better.
— Oliver Baker, 2016 Summer Documentary Institute Intern

What We've Achieved

  • Every summer we provide college-accredited, paid training to 10-14 regional youth in place-based documentary media-making, creative professional development and entrepreneurship 
  • Our media training is college accredited and nationally recognized
  • We've helped to incubate regional initiatives such as The Stay Together Appalachian Youth Project (STAY)
  • 80% of our interns move from our program into higher education
  • We connect youth interns with internship, higher education and professional development opportunities