There’s a better way to explore West Virginia’s mountainous beauty and hear about the people living in Appalachia than you have been presented with recently. We are telling our story with art exhibits, serial podcasts and several books.
Fine art and Spoken word collections coordinated by Women of Appalachia Project have opened in Morgantown, WV. (Check the WOAP blue link for schedule of other venues).
As a textile artist I was happy to see several works incorporating fiber were selected along with photography, printmaking, oils, watercolors, ceramics and jewelry. Up through October 29 at the Monongalia Art Center, 107 High Street, Morgantown the project is celebrating 10 years. All women living in or with strong ties to any of the the 420 counties in Appalachia can enter. Their motto reads “ We believe that all women are capable, courageous, creative and inspired. We tell our stories through our art.”
Two of the artists I met told me a bit of their stories. Nancy L Abrams documents life through photographs. Her journalism career lead to The Climb from Salt Lick, a memoir of Appalachia, published this past spring by WVU Press.
Cheryl Ryan Harshman works in clay monoprints, fabric collage, and is an author. An award winning artist she is listed in Tamarack Foundation’s Creative Network. . Our discussion included the process of making clay prints, a medium with wonderful unexpected results.
Marc Harshman is West Virginia’s poet laureate and married to Cheryl. I have heard his voice on WVPublic Radio reading work and now enjoyed his warm smile and artistic interests in person.
For those of you who can not visit the state soon, tune in and read reports from 100 Days in Appalachia which was born the day after the 2016 election. “Weary of the influx of bus tours and parachuting journalists seeking insights into rural America, we launched 100 Days to push back on the national narratives that had reduced our region to a handful of narrow stories.”
I have promoted the podcast series Inside Appalachia to studio artists in Alaska and Maine because the interviews by host Jessica Lilly bring the neighbors right into your home. On October 20 there will be a live taping of Inside Appalachia at the Raleigh Playhouse and Tavern, Beckley, WV. Two videos featuring broom maker James Shaffer and millman Larry Mustain will be shown and the gentlemen interviewed. I was invited to open an exhibit at the Raleigh through November 12, I have themed “Glimpses Inside Appalachia“. Two dozen of my pieces ranging from views around our home to environmental and social issues will be hung. Looking forward to meeting Jessica and the team and talking about art.
WVPublic Broadcasting has a lineup of podcasts from decades of Mountain Stage to the new Us and Them. Check them out and subscribe.
To finish out our stories here are some more books. Real page turners that you sit with and meet people while exploring the mountains. Hippie Homesteaders, Carter Taylor Seaton introduces us to the influx of youth in the 60’s and 70’s who came to drop out and learned hand-crafts and life skills. “Forget what you know about West Virginia. Hippie Homesteaders isn’t about coal or hillbillies or moonshine or poverty. It is the story of why West Virginia was—and still is—a kind of heaven to so many.”
The Mountain Artisans Quilting Book, Alfred Allan Lewis is out of print but worth searching for the stories of how a cooperative of marketing women and traditional sewers created contemporary fashion.
The soothing voice of All Things Considered’s, Noah Adams traces the New River from its origins to joining with the Gauley as the Kanawha River heading to Ohio in Far Appalachia. Legends and locals fill the pages as he travels slowly along and often on the river.
I expect you will think of the people and places of West Virginia, and Appalachia with a deeper appreciation after listening and reading. Remember we are “Almost Heaven”. Check out WVTourism.