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Voices and visions from Appalachia

Women of Appalachia exhibition showcases the artistic wealth of southeast Ohio
Jan 19, 2010
By Colleen Kiphart

"Many people have an image of a stereotypical Appalachian woman, and they look down on her," said Winsome Chunnu, assistant director for the Multicultural Center and a juror for the Women of Appalachia exhibit.

"We aren?t here to debunk stereotypes," she continued. "We?re here to show the whole woman; beyond the superficial factors that people use to judge her."

The second annual Women of Appalachia* exhibit is currently on display in the Multicultural Center Art Gallery in Baker University Center. Last year?s event highlighted five local artists, but this year all women in southeast Ohio were invited to submit work for judging. Chunnu and Kari Gunter-Seymour, show curator and communication designer at the College of Medicine, reached out to Meigs, Morgan, Hocking and Athens counties to solicit submissions.

"I told my friends and asked them to tell their friends," said Gunter-Seymour. "I went on WOUB, on the radio. And this tremendous community support came, and people started talking and getting interested."

That high level of interest elicited works with varied artistic mediums and from a variety of perspectives. A diversity of painting techniques are represented along with textile art, photography, sculpture, jewelry making and pressed flower art.

"The collection is very eclectic, and all of the artists have different stories to tell," Chunnu said. "But their work isn?t clashing at all. They are all still, essentially, telling the same story of being a creative woman in Appalachia."

The work is not only diverse in style, but in the ages and experiences of the artists. The women represented in the exhibit vary in age from their 20s to their 70s.

"Many of these women have never shown their art before," Gunter-Seymour said. "They are in the process of establishing themselves as artists and are excited about this opportunity to exhibit their work in a gallery setting."

That commitment toward community development has made this exhibition an incubator for previously unheard-from talent. Among the novices are a 72-year old painter and members of the Sisters in Recovery Collective from the Rural Women?s Health Recovery Program.

"When I was approached by the Sisters in Recovery Collective about making art, I had not seen their work," said Gunter-Seymour. "But something in my heart said, 'This is right.'"

The result of this collaboration, according to Gunter-Seymour, has been a series of quilts that convey the pain, strength, isolation and courage of women in recovery.

"They are just devastating and beautiful," Gunter-Seymour said.

Chunnu and Gunter-Seymour hope that visitors to the exhibit leave with an awareness of the female Appalachian culture in the southeast Ohio communities.

"All women are capable and courageous," said Gunter-Seymour. "Whether a stereotype is true or not, it doesn't mean that we aren't creative and inspired people."


* Following these links takes you outside of Ohio University's Web site.


Published: Jan 19, 2010 8:00 AM


"Gatewood Reflection," a photograph by Betty Ranck, is on display as part of the Women of Appalachia art exhibit.

Women of Appalachia exhibit

Senior Janelle Huelsman examines a quilt that is featured in the exhibit, which is on display in the Multicultural Center Art Gallery on the second floor of Baker University Center through March 19.

Photographer: Kevin Riddell

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