Tanya Shook Wilder

WOAP Enamel/Mixed Media artist, Jessica Held

Photo courtesy of: WOAP


West Virginia poet Odana Chaney reads “Green is a Natural Color," a piece protesting water pollution in her home state.

Photo courtesy of: WOAP


Poet Susan Truxell Sauter reads her work during a "Women Speak" event at the Ohio University Southern campus.

Photo courtesy of: WOAP

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Women Speak Gala to raise funds for Women’s Health Recovery Housing April 21

The Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP), Ohio University Multicultural Center and Women’s Center will host the ninth annual Women of Appalachia Project “Women Speak Gala,” a fine art exhibition and juried presentation of poetry, story and song.

The event will take place in the Baker University Center Theatre at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 21. A reception will follow immediately after the event. Refreshments will be served.

The event showcases women artists from eight Appalachian states and features special guest musicians Colleen Carow, Caitlin Kraus, Julia Marie Martin and Liz Pahl.

Honey for the Heart and Passion Works Puppeteers will also perform throughout the evening.

Donations for Women in Recovery Housing will be collected throughout the evening in Baker Theatre as well at the Multicultural Center Art Gallery directly across from the theater where the WOAP fine art exhibition is currently on display.

Women in Recovery Housing is an organization located in southeast Ohio that works to provide a safe and supportive home environment for women who have the earnest desire and willingness to become accountable for their future, without dependence on drugs and alcohol.

Another highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the 2018 WOAP Appalachian Advocate Award, which is presented yearly to an outstanding Appalachian woman who has dedicated herself to enhancing the wellbeing of Appalachian culture, Appalachian women’s health, Appalachian families or Appalachian land issues.

This year’s recipient is author and archivist, Phyllis Wilson Moore. The Greene County Pennsylvania, native’s connection to Appalachia runs deep. She has spent the past 40 years researching, disseminating and celebrating the multicultural literary history of Appalachia, in particular, her adopted home, West Virginia.

She has passionately sustained an effort to rectify the image people outside of Appalachia have of the region, to refute the stereotype of the PIWASH, her invented acronym for “poor, illiterate, white, anglo-shoeless, hillbillies,” an image still too prevalent among those who know little about Appalachia.

The mission of WOAP is to showcase the way female artists respond to the Appalachian region as a source of inspiration, bringing together women from diverse backgrounds, ages and experiences to embrace the stereotype – to show the whole woman; beyond the superficial factors that people use to judge her.

When asked how living in Appalachia has influenced her life and therefore her art, Kentucky poet Tina Parker says, “I grew up in the Appalachian South (Bristol, Virginia) and in the Southern Baptist church. The places I have lived, with all their richness and complexity, are ingrained in my identity and in my work. When I write narrative poems about my childhood, I am asserting myself and forcing my story to be heard. I consider it my act of feminism to write poems based on the stories of women who have been hesitant to—or unable to—speak for themselves.”

“It wasn't until I was an adult at a diversity training seminar that I learned I was part of a community of Urban Appalachians,” storyteller Tonja Reynolds shares. “Without asking one question of me, the facilitator wrote ‘Urban Appalachian’ on a Hello My Name Is sticker and made me wear it. I argued with him, insisting that where my parents came from had absolutely nothing to do with me. It turns out he was right; it had everything to do with who I was and how I related to the world. Now, two decades later, I spend much of my time writing historical fiction set in 1930s Appalachian coal towns as a way to connect with my Appalachian heritage.”

The presentation and fine art events are free to the public, though donations in support of Women in Health Recovery Housing will be gratefully accepted. WOAP artists will be available for comment and discussion after the performance.

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