Partners in craft: WVU Libraries exhibit explores what it means to be Appalachian

In our third installment of this series, we hear from Sally Brown Deskins, the exhibits and programs coordinator for WVU Libraries. Sally is an artist, writer, and curator whose work focuses on women and feminist artists.

Cryptids of West Virginia by Liz Pavlovic

WVU Libraries is thrilled to have WVU Press included in the Appalachian Futures exhibit, which opened on September 3, 2019 at the Downtown Campus Library. The exhibit addresses the current dominant narratives about Appalachia in a new way, by looking at how the people of Appalachia have worked and will work to rewrite their own story—which is much of what WVU Press does every day through their publications.

Synthesizing humanities research, art and civic action, Appalachian Futures explores four themes from the region. Contributors include WVU and regional scholars, community groups, and artists.

Theme one focuses on the growth of diverse perspectives and showcases four of the many vibrant but underrepresented communities who enrich the Appalachian culture and imagine new futures for our region. A few of the contributions include: WVU Associate Professor Rosemary Hathaway’s look at the future of the Mountaineer; Morgantown High School student Amber Li’s examination of the Asian populations in Appalachia; artist Alyssa Hinton’s Native American artwork; photographer Kiana Crosby’s documentation of LGBTQ Appalachia, and more.

Science, Education and Industries is the second theme that looks at ways Appalachians take their strong sense of culture, linguistic distinctiveness and relationship to the natural world to imagine new futures in diverse industries, sustainable practices, and stronger education systems. Contributions to this section are vast, including a case study from DeWayne Barton, founding CEO of Hood Huggers International and developer of the Community Accountability Plan, a guidebook focusing on community framework and accountability to rebuild Affrilachian communities in Asheville, North Carolina. Photographer Paul Corbit Brown’s images depict Appalachian landscapes after energy explosions and WVU Teaching Assistant Professor William Hal Gorby looks at Appalachia’s Post Industrial Future. Theme three includes many more contributions that look at the environment, education, health, language and education of the region.

In Speculative Futures, the fourth section, artists and scholars explore what a future of Appalachia utopia (or dystopia) might feel like. Communications scholars Jaime Banks, Nicholas David Bowman and Christine Rittenour followed 500 people who played Fallout 76 (Bethesda Studios, 2018) a video game that depicts West Virginia in 2102, examining both West Virginians and non-natives’ perception of the area after experiencing the game. Media scholars David Smith and Baaria Chaudhary use augmented reality and digital art to take viewers on a trip through virtual Appalachia. Other contributions include graphic art and novels, and the art of Mothman.

WVU Press bookends each section with selections from their catalog which provide an excellent context for the rest of the exhibition.

In conjunction with the main exhibit at Downtown Campus Library are installations by artists Liz Pavlovic (Cryptids of West Virginia) and Gina Mamone (#whichsideareyouon) in the Atrium. A section dedicated to WVU scholars doing class projects around Appalachian Futures is also included in the WVU exhibit. A complementary exhibit titled Appalachian Futures: Regional Artists Respond, with artwork from a dozen Appalachian artists in various media, is on view through October 15 in Room 1020 of DCL.

Appalachian Futures is WVU Libraries’ second annual collaborative, multidisciplinary project advancing important conversations in the region. The exhibit runs through June 1, 2020, after which it will travel throughout the region. For more information visit exhibits.lib.wvu.edu/gallery_futures.

WVU Libraries is currently calling for work for the 2020 main exhibit: Undefeated: Canvas(s)ing the Politics of Voter Suppression. For details visit https://exhibits.lib.wvu.edu/gallery_undefeated or contact Sally Brown Deskins, exhibits coordinator, sbdeskins@mail.wvu.edu.

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