Women of Appalachia event aims to change stereotypes

This picture shows a piece of artwork made using jeans that is part of the Women of Appalachia art exhibit currently being shown at the Ohio University Multicultural Center Art Gallery on the second floor of the Baker Center.

There are a number of stereotypes that exist about women within Appalachia; however, a small group is working to change those views.

For the seventh straight year the Women of Appalachia Project has events on the campus of Ohio University that focus on the work of female artists from the region.

There are three components to the Women of Appalachia Project, said Kari Gunter-Seymour, founder and curator of the project.

One part of the project currently occupies a quiet spot on the second floor of Baker Center. The Women of Appalachia Exhibit continues through April 30 at Ohio University’s Multicultural Center Art Gallery.

The goal is to showcase the art of women from the Appalachian region. This year’s exhibit includes the work of 20 artists from Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.

The art show has developed a reputation as being a place artists can submit their work without getting a response that is overly critical, Gunter-Seymour said.

Each of the women is able to represent the women of Appalachia in her own way, she said.

The art show has already been displayed in Parkersburg and after finishing its run in Athens will then be displayed in Chillicothe in May.

This piece is part of the Women of Appalachia exhibit currently being shown at the Multicultural Center Art Gallery in Baker Center at Ohio University.
This piece is part of the Women of Appalachia exhibit currently being shown at the Multicultural Center Art Gallery in Baker Center at Ohio University.

“Each year I say I can’t believe the quality of the artists,” Gunter-Seymour said. “But each year it keeps getting better.”

The idea for the project came when Gunter-Seymour became frustrated with having to look all over for places to display her artwork, she said.

“I had always heard it’s easier to create a job than to find a job. I thought it might be the same way with events,” she said. “I thought it might be easier to create an event than to find one.”

The project started seven years ago. Since then the effort has gotten bigger and bigger each year, Gunter-Seymour said.

Each of the seven years has been based in Athens and at Ohio University. Gunter-Seymour said when she was putting together the show she contacted Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, strategic director for diversity and inclusion and multicultural programs and initiatives, to ask about space and has worked with Chunnu-Brayda ever since.

“The Muticultural Center is proud to have hosted the Women of Appalachia Project every year since its inception in 2009,” said Chunnu-Brayda in a statement. “This project is distinctive in that it brings together a combination of seasoned and emerging artists that never fails to please. Ohio University is unique in that it serves a very large population — students, faculty and staff as well as Athens and contiguous county communities. This event serves as one of Ohio University’s outstanding town/gown events. Approximately 3,000 guests visit the WOAP exhibit in our gallery each year.”

In addition to the exhibit, there are other events that surround the Women of Appalachia Project. Friday (Feb. 10) is the opening reception for the exhibit from 5 to 8 p.m.

At the event local activist Sandra Sleight-Brennan will be presented the inaugural WOAP “Appalachian Advocate Award.”

“There are so many women who want to help, but aren’t artists,” Gunter-Seymour said.

This award helps to recognize all the other women who help with the events and make things better for women in Appalachia.

The other portion of the project is the Women Speak events, which include poetry, songs and stories. These events take place all over the area, Gunter-Seymour said. However, they have an event planned on April 22 at 6 p.m. at the Multicultural Center Art Gallery in Baker Center.

For more information about the Women of Appalachia Project or to see a full schedule of the events you can visit their website or Facebook page.

Author: Burton Speakman

Burton Speakman is a doctoral candidate in Journalism at Ohio University. He worked for more than a decade in the newspaper industry in Ohio, Texas and Kentucky.

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