Women of Appalachia Challenge Regional Stereotypes Through Art

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This post was curated from an article written by Sarah Diamond Burroway for Women Arts

Appalachia is one of the most beautiful regions of the United States spanning 205,000-square-miles along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi.  Although the mountains are rich in coal and other natural resources, there has been a long history of exploitation which has created some of the worst poverty in the country. The mountains have often kept Appalachia isolated from the rest of the United States, and many outsiders have developed negative stereotypes about the people who live there – often ridiculing them as “redneck,” “hillbilly,” or “inbred.”

In 2009 Kari Gunter-Seymour decided to challenge the negative stereotypes of Appalachian women by creating the Women of Appalachia Project. Her original intention was to create a one-time arts event, but she is now entering her ninth year of producing exhibits and performances that showcase and empower the women artists in this unique region.

Gunter-Seymour is a tiny woman with a big passion for writing and art and an infectious energy. She is a writer, a photographer, an organizer, a leader, a wife, and a military mom. She holds a B.F.A. in graphic design and an M.A. in commercial photography. She is an instructor in the School of Journalism at Ohio University. She has lived in Appalachia her entire life.

“If you are from Appalachia, you grow to realize early on, that many people have an image of an Appalachian woman, and they look down on her,” Gunter-Seymour said.

She wanted to address this discrimination by encouraging women artists of diverse backgrounds, ages and experiences to come together and create work that celebrated the full range of their experiences as Appalachian women. She knew that her community in southeastern Ohio “was a rich basin of extraordinary art,” but many of her fellow artists were submitting their work and not gaining acceptance.  She wanted to create a safe environment that would encourage all kinds of Appalachian women artists, both emerging and established, to express themselves fully.

To read this article in its entirety click here

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