Dairy Barn Arts Center hosts Women of Appalachia exhibit

Cover of Women Speak, the anthology of the Women of Appalachia Project.
Cover of Women Speak, the anthology of the Women of Appalachia Project.(Kari Gunter-Seymour)
Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 3:23 PM EST
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ATHENS, Ohio (WTAP) - The Dairy Barn Arts Center is hosting an exhibit called Women of Appalachia. The exhibit opened in January and will be on display through March 21.

The exhibit was originally created by the Women of Appalachia Project, whose goal is to promote the literary, visual, and performance art of Appalachian women from diverse backgrounds.

The Women of Appalachia Project has been presenting and exhibiting the work of women throughout the Appalachian region for over a decade, and this is the first year it has had a fine arts exhibit at the Dairy Barn.

According to Holly Ittel, exhibitions director at the Dairy Barn, the exhibit includes work from women in eight states in a range of mediums, including fiber art, ceramics, printmaking, painting, and more.

“Appalachian women and the people of Appalachia are often misunderstood. And people not from here I think assume what they know what life here might be like. So we’re hoping that gathering artwork from different parts of Appalachia and in different age ranges...will be able to piece together what life is like as a modern-day Appalachian woman,” Ittel said.

The Dairy Barn gallery’s hours are Wednesday through Sunday 12 P.M. - 5 P.M. Reservations are required and can be made on its website, where visitors can also find a virtual exhibit, virtual gallery tour and virtual artist talks. Admission is $5 and free for Dairy Barn members.

In addition, the Dairy Barn has a history of promoting the work of women in the region with its Quilt National exhibits. Founded in 1979, Quilt National strives to showcase the creative significance of quiltmaking and the women who are involved in it.

The Women of Appalachia Project was founded by Kari Gunter-Seymour, poet laureate of Ohio. She said that, when she began trying to get her work published, she frequently ran into misconceptions about Appalachian writers, women, and residents, and she founded the Project as an attempt to address those misconceptions.

“People outside the Appalachian region who have no connections to the region oftentimes misunderstand us and our work. I’m a communications and marketing person by employment, so I said to myself, ‘I can do an art show, I can do a poetry reading,” Gunter-Seymour said. “People have an image of an Appalachian woman and they look down on us. But we, through our fine art and spoken word, say ‘Hey, you’re preconceived ideas may not be right,’” she added.

She approached Ohio University’s multicultural center and the school, who agreed to partner with the Project. The first year, a total of nine women from the region participated. The Project has grown consistently and significantly since then, with 41 artists participating in the Dairy Barn exhibit, as well as 61 spoken word and 21 fine art participants having work featured this year in Women Speak, the Project’s annual anthology.

In addition, the Project gives the Appalachian Advocate Award each year to a woman who may not be an artist, but who fosters the wellbeing of the region through work like protecting the local environment, promoting women’s healthcare, local community building, and more.

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