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Ohio University kicks off Women of Appalachia Project with fine art exhibition

Photo Provided A fine art exhibition in celebration of women in Appalachia has been set up at the Ohio University Multicultural Center in Athens.

ATHENS, Ohio — The Ohio University Multicultural Center announces the first event of two in celebration of its 10-year partnership with the Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP).

The annual fine art exhibition, featuring 35 female artists living in or with strong ties to Appalachia, is free and open to the public through March 23. The exhibition was juried by Randi Ward, a poet and artist from Wood County, and Roger May, a writer and photographer currently based in Charleston.

According to founder Kari Gunter-Seymour, WOAP is an arts organization focused on addressing discrimination directed at Appalachians. Modeled as a cooperative, the organization has become an ever-expanding mix of socio-political perspectives.

“Providing opportunities for females from the Appalachian region to exhibit their art and words–raw and unfiltered–allows us to openly celebrate our heritage and culture, throw open the doors, share our experiences and ideals, challenge the stereotype,” said Gunter-Seymour. “We not only begin to build much needed self-esteem and empowerment within our female population, but also invite viewers and our communities to celebrate as well.”

In addition to Ohio University’s Multicultural Center Art Gallery, the work of WOAP’s 70 spoken word and fine artists has been or will be exhibited and performed at five other venues throughout West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio: Northern Kentucky University, Fort Thomas, Ky.; West Virginia University, Morgantown; Berea College, Berea, Ky.; Ohio University Southern, Ironton, Ohio; Monongalia Art Center, Morgantown, and a final performance at The Historic Bowen House, Logan, Ohio.

Photo Provided According to founder Kari Gunter-Seymour, above, WOAP is an arts organization focused on addressing discrimination directed at Appalachians.

The annual Women of Appalachia Project gala is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. March 23 in the Multicultural Center Art Gallery and Baker Theater. The event will feature spoken word and fine art as well as special guests Ohio University President Duane Nellis, old-time string band The Trophy Wives and gala decor created by Passion Works Studio.

A special 10th Anniversary Anthology of spoken word and fine art is near completion and will celebrate its launch at the gala event. The Spoken Word jurors for this year’s Women of Appalachia Project were poet and editor Marianne Worthington and English professor and writer Hayley Mitchell Haugen.

When asked how living in Appalachia has influenced her life and art, Parkersburg poet Sherrell Wigal said it taught her to be a self-sufficient, self-reliant person. “I watched the women and men of my family, as well as my neighbors, as they just did what needed to be done, sometimes against great obstacles. It also gave me a connection to land, earth, and the flora and fauna of the area that resonates throughout most of my poetry. Everyone has a need to belong to something, to have some roots, to make a connection. Appalachia gave that to me,” Wigal said.

Poet Susan Sheppard, also living in Parkersburg, said that growing up in West Virginia taught her about perspective. “The hills are high and the hollers are deep, so it’s difficult to view oneself as an Appalachian without leaving the area then coming back home. Moving to other areas then returning let me see what a unique upbringing I had as an Appalachian. Appalachians live close to the bone. Sometimes we have to scrape and gnaw that bone just to get by. But we do,” Sheppard said.

This year WOAP is raising funds for Southeastern Ohio Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program to provide unrestricted funds for immediate needs support. To contribute in support of women survivors of sexual violence go to gofundme.com/survivor-advocacy-outreach-program.

The exhibit and gala are free and open to the public, though donations will be accepted at the door in support of Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program. Refreshments will be served.

For more information go to womenofappalachia.com or visit WomenofAppalachiaProject on Facebook. For questions, email womenofappalachia@gmail.com.

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