Hello! I am Lori McKinney, an artist and arts organizer based in Princeton, West Virginia- my hometown. As a kid growing up around here, I wanted nothing more than to leave and explore the world; I was looking for something I couldn’t quite define. Through college, I had the opportunity to travel abroad. I discovered vibrant cultural scenes in Europe that blew my mind and showed me how active, colorful and exciting life can be. I loved it so much there, and when I came back, I realized my whole perspective had shifted; I had new eyes to see my hometown and my home state. It is so beautiful here! And, we have resources that I had taken for granted all my life- interstate access, open highways, easy living, gorgeous landscape, vibrant culture and heritage, wonderful, friendly people and so much more. I noticed that the old buildings in my downtown reminded me a lot of those old buildings I was so enchanted by in Europe. It dawned on me during those travels that the vibrant scenes I was experiencing were the result of vibrant people making vibrant things happen. People are always saying “They need to fix this,” and “They need to fix that.” In reality, WE are THEY. We are they who can make things better. We can affect our life and our environment in an unlimited way. It became my vision to help my hometown and home state blossom to meet its potential as an active, dynamic and colorful destination that people want to visit and live.
I now live and work in a creative community called The RiffRaff Arts Collective on a once abandoned thoroughfare in the center of downtown called Mercer Street with my husband and soulmate Robert. We write and record, perform and teach there; we also make art and create events for our community. Our presence has been a part of a dramatic shift in the life of our neighborhood. The work has been incredibly fulfilling and transformative both for the people of our community and for us. I have found my life’s purpose through this work; I love to open the doors of creativity for people and help them find their passion and purpose. I am very thankful to have the opportunity to share what we have learned through this work with you and anyone else who wants to change their town for the better using the amazingly powerful tools of music and the arts. I believe very strongly in the healing and transformative power of creativity; it has been an awesome gift to watch our town blossom from the focused intention of a group of artists. Every day I am inspired as I pass my neighbors on the sidewalk; they take time to tell us how much they appreciate the new murals, or how they picked a strawberry from the community garden and how sweet it was. These positive human interactions, in my opinion, are what the world is starving for right now. We must strive to cultivate meaningful and uplifting experiences for people- especially our youth- to keep moving forward, and to maintain progress as a human race. This work is not just about beautifying space and having fun- it’s about changing lives, and changing the world. So, let’s get to work.
This series of instructional essays is meant to give you guidance in each of the areas that we have worked in and learned from. I am happy to answer questions, expand on any of this content and create custom posts for you if there is a topic you'd like me to explore in depth. Please comment, pose questions, share thoughts, and stay in touch. We are here for you as you Create Your State!
by Lori McKinney
Creator and Community Organizer