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Bees Buzzing About Coal in Lexington Today

April 9, 2009

Lexington, KY – There's a buzz at the University of Kentucky today, as the Beehive Project showcases its latest work-in-progress: a visual documentation of the history of coal in Appalachia.

Emily "Bee" is one of the artists working on the project; none of them use his or her real last name. She says they have met with Kentuckians in "hollers," those who work in the coal industry, and grassroots groups fighting for a clean environment - all while trying to document the "true cost of coal."

"Coal seems like a very cheap energy source if you look at just the price. But if you look at a lot of the externalities - the environmental and social impacts coal has - it's very expensive."

The artists change their drawings after every visit they have with people affected by the coal industry, whether the effect is positive or negative. The group has identified a common trend throughout Appalachian coal country, according to Emily: Young people are moving away. Part of the story the group is documenting is the area's goal of improving the situation so people will stay.

"It’s looking a lot at cleaning up the toxicity in water. Looking at making our communities a place for all sorts of people to feel welcome, so that folks don’t have to feel like they have to leave."

The Beehive project is a nonprofit that sends "swarms" around the country to visually document issues that affect everyday people. The final coal project will be displayed in museums throughout Appalachia this fall.

More information is available at

Deb Courson, Public News Service - KY