If you are counting, this is my third mention in a row about art shows at Radford University. And so, maybe I am bias or perhaps this is where I spend a huge portion of my life. But the exhibitions I write about here are ones that resonate with me and are worth sharing outside my work life.
“Looking At Appalachia: A Fresh Approach” is a project of Appalachian photographer Roger May. He has taken on the personal challenge of curating an ever-evolving body of current photographs about Appalachian life. He encourages photographers to submit their images and from these, he along with a jury, select work for both an online gallery and a traveling exhibit.
The traveling portion is at Radford University until April 24.
What I find poignant about this exhibition at this university is, in many ways, a show about those of us who live in rural Appalachia. I feel that moniker, Appalachia, is something to be proud of and it defines the area. And with Roger’s new look at the topic, it applies.
The university recently went through a branding process to figure out who we are. I suspect various administrations had their own ideas and eventually we lost our identity. There is a subtle shedding of the notion that we are Appalachians (we may be here, but we are something all together different). We look to expand the diversity of our students in race and demographics, and I suspect the hope is that we grow away from our mountain heritage and maybe blend more with more urban ideals.
So whether embracing my pride of living in the Appalachian Mountains is popular or not, I do have one thought. As we bring in diversity, won’t that evolve what Appalachia is instead of stamping it out? There are many fine Appalachian cities.
Shows such as “Looking at Appalachia” are important and play a crucial role in redefining the stereotypes related to our region. It documents our change, our growth, and enlightens. It highlights both the good and bad, creating a truthful balance of what it means to live here in this day and age.
Now I’m stepping off my soapbox.
I rarely say this in my PR work, but if you are nearby, make sure you see this show at the Radford University Art Museum at the Covington Center before April 24.
To read my promotional piece about this show, click here. To hear the interview the amazing Robbie Harris of WVTF did with Roger and our museum director, Dr. Steve Arbury, click here. Or you can skip to the real thing and go the “Looking at Appalachia” website.
Fun side note: if you are in the Shepherdstown, West Virginia area, the show will be at my alma mater, Shepherd University’s Scarborough Library Ready Room in October 2016.