Women of Appalachia Project marks anniversary

Photo courtesy of WOAP The Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP) published Women Speak, a collection of literature and artwork celebrating the tenth anniversary of the organization. The WOAP Gala took place at Ohio University last weekend. From left: 2018-2019 Fine Arts juror and poet Randi Ward, poet Sherrell R. Wigal, WOAP founder and executive director Kari Gunter-Seymour, and artist Chiara Scuro.

ATHENS — The Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP) celebrated its 10th anniversary at Ohio University’s Multicultural Center on Saturday, March 23.

The WOAP Gala featured a fine art exhibition as well as a juried presentation of poetry, story and song showcasing women artists from throughout the region. Over 250 guests were in attendance, and the WOAP also launched a 10th anniversary collection of literature and artwork titled Women Speak.

Kari Gunter-Seymour, founder and executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project, began the WOAP in partnership with Ohio University’s Multicultural Center in 2009. The arts organization was modeled as a cooperative that invited women of diverse backgrounds, ages and experiences to come together and share their stories.

Emerging to established writers and fine artists have wielded their words and images to challenge the stereotypes that are often used as the gauge by which Appalachian women are judged, Gunter-Seymour said. The new Women Speak collection features 90 WOAP artists from nine states.

“This collection of spoken word and fine art is not only a celebration of work by this season’s WOAP artists, it also includes a sampling of work by women who have participated over the course of the past decade,” said Gunter-Seymour. “The work is powerful, rowdy, raw and honest. It makes no apologies.”

Local writers and artists such as Susan Sheppard, Sherrell R. Wigal, Lisa M. Pursley, Wendy McVicker, Barbara J. McCullough and Randi Ward are included in the 10th anniversary collection.

Poet and editor Marianne Worthington, who also served as a 2018-19 WOAP Spoken Word juror, said the Women Speak collection helps combat the tired misconceptions that continue to plague Appalachia. “In this big-hearted collection of words and art, women are battling contradictions, resisting stereotypes, and forging the way to a more equitable, benevolent, and diverse Appalachia,” Worthington wrote. “We are the only ones who can tell our own stories.”

Women Speak is available online at Amazon and in select bookstores. Readings from the collection will take place in Berea, Ky., on April 13 and Logan, Ohio, on May 11.

For more information about the Women of Appalachia Project and upcoming events, visit womenofappalachia.com.


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