Interview with Mike Mullins, August 8, 2011

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: The interviewer is Amanda Fickey, and the interviewee is Mike Mullins, the executive director at the Hindman Settlement School.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer introduces herself and the interviewee, Mike Mullins.

Keywords: Berea College; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Michael Mullins; Mike Mullins

Subjects: Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.)

00:00:12 - His life history

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Partial Transcript: Uh, so let me start by saying thank you for sitting down to talk with me today, Mike.

Segment Synopsis: Mullins tells his life story of growing up in nearby Floyd County and how he decided in sixth grade to go to Berea College and study American history. And that's exactly what he did, becoming the first person on his father's side of the family to go to college. He went on to earn a master's degree, getting married in graduate school, and going to teach at Alice Lloyd College.

Keywords: Alice Lloyd College; Berea College; Floyd County (Ky.); High Hat (Ky.); Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Michael Mullins; Mike Mullins; Morehead State University; University of Pikeville

Subjects: Alice Lloyd College; Berea College; Floyd County (Ky.); Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Morehead State University; University of Pikeville

00:06:02 - Interest in history

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Partial Transcript: Well, let me step back for just a second, Mike, and ask you, I'm just curious, why history?

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer asks what brought Mullins to history, to which he answers that it was always living to him, contrasting with how many people view it as the past. He also talks about the value of a liberal arts education in preparing one for any future career.

Keywords: Appalachia; Appalachian Mountains; Education; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; History; Knott County (Ky.); Mike Mullins

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains.; Education; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; History.; Knott County (Ky.)

00:10:59 - Teaching at Alice Lloyd College / Appalachian heritage

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Partial Transcript: Well, let me ask you a bit more about the time you spent at Alice Lloyd.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer asks what classes Mullins taught at Alice Lloyd College, which turns out to have been a wide variety of Appalachian history and culture classes. He insists on the importance of people understanding their own history, because otherwise they'll leave and forget who they are.

Keywords: Alice Lloyd College; Appalachia; Appalachian Mountains; Education; History; Mike Mullins

Subjects: Alice Lloyd College; Appalachian Mountains.; Education; History.

00:14:49 - Sharing appreciation for Appalachia with others

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Partial Transcript: I wonder if, um, when you've been teaching--the students at Alice Lloyd, are most of them from the region?

Segment Synopsis: Mullins talks about his time teaching as a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, and how he was very much himself, including very Appalachian, and still got along very well with the students there. He and the interviewer talk further about their experiences teaching at Alice Lloyd College and the fact that there are now more students from outside the area than there were when Mullins taught.

Keywords: Alice Lloyd College; Appalachia; Appalachian Mountains; Mike Mullins; University of Cincinnati

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains.; Education; History.; University of Cincinnati

00:17:38 - Arrival at Hindman Settlement School / Running "immersion experiences"

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Partial Transcript: Okay, well so you, you started working here at the Hindman Settlement School.

Segment Synopsis: Mullins explains how he went from teaching at Alice Lloyd to administrative work at Hindman, that he'd done administrative work at Alice Lloyd, including taking groups to Hindman for "immersion experiences" to understand Appalachian culture, eventually mentioning to them his interest in working there, leading to his employment as the director.

Keywords: Alice Lloyd College; Appalachia; Berea (Ky.); Berea College; Hindman Settlement School; Mike Mullins

Subjects: Alice Lloyd College; Appalachian Mountains.; Berea (Ky.); Berea College; Education; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; History.

00:20:49 - Immersion experiences at Hindman Settlement School

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Partial Transcript: Well, let me ask you, I'd like to hear just a little bit more about the immersion experiences and how you organized those, and why, why did you include the Settlement School?

Segment Synopsis: Mullins explains the purpose of the immersion experiences open to outsiders and how they originated during what he calls the "Renaissance" of Appalachian Studies. These immersion experiences educated visitors on music, culture, and the coal industry, among other aspects of Appalachian life.

Keywords: Appalachia; Appalachian Mountains; Hindman Settlement School; Mike Mullins

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains.; Education; History.

00:24:01 - Time at Hindman Settlement School

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Partial Transcript: So, when I came here, uh, y'know, I was lookin' for a--and I just kinda wanted to be in charge of my own ship.

Segment Synopsis: Mullins talks about the reasons he wound up at Hindman Settlement School and what he's learned as a result of working there, even if he doesn't consider himself very good at his job, albeit hardworking and functional. He states that they picked him, aged 27 or 28, because they knew he was wanting the job for the "right reasons", and that he may be 63, but has no plans of retiring soon.

Keywords: Appalachia; Appalachian Mountains; Education; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Mike Mullins

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains; Education; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.)

00:27:24 - History of Hindman Settlement School

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Partial Transcript: Well, tell me about some of the activities that were going on here at the Settlement School when you first started.

Segment Synopsis: Mullins gives the history of the school. It was founded in 1902, offering "a very classic education," with teachers from private women's colleges in the Northeast. As it helped build up public schools in the area, it came to board students who couldn't otherwise make it those public schools, supplementing their education with art and music. However, they gradually offered fewer and fewer things. By the time of his arrival, they had a daycare, art and music teachers that went out into the public schools, and some boarding space for students from out in the county, in addition to assisting the public library. The facilities were very run down and the school had very little money.

Keywords: Education; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Mike Mullins

Subjects: Education; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.)

00:30:23 - His implementations at the Hindman Settlement School

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Partial Transcript: When I came, uh, uh, it was obvious that we had to do something with this physical plant.

Segment Synopsis: Mullins further discusses the state of the school upon his arrival--their lack of funding and the resulting poor treatment of their employees. His implementations came to include dyslexia programs, promotion of Appalachian culture through folk arts in the public schools, writers' workshops, and offering conference space; programs he describes as borne out of necessity.

Keywords: Appalachia; Appalachian Mountains.; Education; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Mike Mullins

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains.; Education; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.)

00:34:33 - Issues with funding, Congress, and Tea Partiers

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Partial Transcript: Uh, I've tried to do that, and, uh, been successful on a, on a certain level.

Segment Synopsis: Mullins talks about the struggles of running a non-profit, especially during a recession, and dealing with massive budget cuts. He also has some choice words about Congress, the Tea Party, and the military-industrial complex and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Keywords: Appalachia; Appalachian Mountains; Education; Fundraising; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Mike Mullins; Non-profit organizations; Non-profits; Partisanship

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains.; Education; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Partisanship.

00:40:02 - The craft industry, economics, and the Hindman Settlement School

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Partial Transcript: I, I agree with you.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer talks about her project on the craft industry and alternative economic practices through methods like bartering and cooperatives, leading to Mullins discussing the role of crafts in the history of the Settlement School. He was pro-craft industry (unlike others), but initially had to end their crafts program. He has now restarted it as the crafts consignment store at the Appalachian Artisan Center.

Keywords: Appalachia; Appalachian Mountains; Artisans; Arts and crafts; Center for Rural Development; Crafts; Craftsmanship; Hindman Settlement School; Mike Mullins

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains.; Artisans; Arts and crafts.; Center for Rural Development; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School

00:46:06 - Success and struggles of Appalachian Artisan Center

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Partial Transcript: Now, that's one of the--the Appalachian Artisan Center, you're a board member?

Segment Synopsis: Mullins talks about the initial vision for the Appalachian Artisan Center as a private group to encourage regional economic development while supporting artists. He describes the varying struggles and successes of the organization, but says even if it fails, he will have been glad to have tried.

Keywords: Appalachia; Appalachian Artisan Center; Appalachian Mountains; Artisans; Arts and crafts; Crafts; Craftsmanship; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Mike Mullins; Tourism

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains.; Artisans; Arts and crafts.; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Tourism.

00:50:59 - Placement of Appalachian Artisan Center

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Partial Transcript: And so let me ask another question.

Segment Synopsis: Mullins explains the history of the Appalachian Artisan Center and how it came to be in Hindman. Former governor Patton had offered continuous funding to create an organization in a small community in Kentucky, and so Mullins and people he knew wrote a proposal and got Hindman chosen as the location. After being chosen, they had to expand on the grant and go to the government and to the Appalachian Regional Commission to actually get the funding. He also talks about the connections between the Settlement School and the Artisan Center and has some choice words against people who were just trying to get money.

Keywords: Appalachia; Appalachian Artisan Center; Appalachian Mountains; Appalachian Regional Commission; Artisans; Arts and crafts; Crafts; Craftsmanship; Governor Paul Patton; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Mike Mullins

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains.; Appalachian Regional Commission.; Artisans; Arts and crafts.; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.)

00:56:19 - Tourism, the coal industry, and the Appalachian Artisan Center

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you, the target audience for the Appalachian Artisan Center, wa, was that meant to primarily bring in tourists?

Segment Synopsis: Mullins talks about the in-practice purpose of the Artisan Center, which was to create an "alternative kind of economy" in the region. It was also to serve, to an extent, as a tourist destination. Here, he also talks about his thoughts on coal, which are fairly neutral--pro-coal, but against mountaintop removal mining, unless plans were made for the land destroyed. These views have attracted criticism from both sides, but he states the Artisan Center and Settlement School are apolitical--hosting both coal mining groups and the progressive organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.

Keywords: Appalachia; Appalachian Artisan Center; Appalachian Mountains; Artisans; Arts and crafts; Crafts; Craftsmanship; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Kentuckians for the Commonwealth; Knott County (Ky.); Mike Mullins; Mountaintop removal mining; Tourism

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains.; Artisans; Arts and crafts.; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Kentuckians for the Commonwealth; Knott County (Ky.); Mountaintop removal mining; Tourism.

01:01:12 - Pricing of the crafts

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Partial Transcript: Okay, well, then we'll shift to something I wanna make sure we touch on.

Segment Synopsis: Mullins describes the issues regarding pricing of the items at the Appalachian Artisan Center. As he explains, the crafters state what they want for the item, and the Artisan Center, which works by consignment, adds a mark up to the public price to cover their own costs. He and the interviewer agree that the crafters charge lower prices than they could, but according to Mullins, locals think they should get discounts. As a result, Mullins states he doesn't care if locals buy anything from the shop at all--he wants to support the artists, the School, and the Center, something he, like many who run non-profits, struggles to do.

Keywords: Appalachia; Appalachian Artisan Center; Appalachian Mountains; Artisans; Arts and crafts; Crafts; Craftsmanship; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Mike Mullins; Tourism

Subjects: Appalachian Mountains.; Artisans; Arts and crafts.; Hindman (Ky.); Hindman Settlement School; Knott County (Ky.); Tourism.