Renée Stewart sings “The Sound of Lonely” at The Bowen House "Women Speak" event. (Kari Gunter-Seymour)
Renée Stewart sings “The Sound of Lonely” at The Bowen House “Women Speak” event. (Kari Gunter-Seymour)

“Women Speak” Show to Raise Funds for My Sister’s Place

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The Ohio University Multicultural Center and Women’s Center will host the 7th Annual Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP) “Women Speak” performance, a juried presentation of poetry, story and song, featuring women artists from throughout Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky and special guests Women On the Line.

The event will be held in the multipurpose rooms behind the art gallery on April 22 at 6 p.m.  Donations for My Sisters Place, an organization located in Southeast Ohio that works to break cycles of domestic violence and support survivors of relationship abuse, will be accepted but not required.

According to a WOAP press release, “Many people have an image of an Appalachian woman, and they look down on her. The mission of WOAP is to showcase the way in which 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.”

Becky Code shares her essay "Pockets" during the Columbus Poetry Forum's "Women Speak" event. (Kari Gunter-Seymour)
Becky Code shares her essay “Pockets” during the Columbus Poetry Forum’s “Women Speak” event. (Kari Gunter-Seymour)

The work of 17 spoken word artists, poets, storytellers and musicians will be presented: a mash-up of seasoned and emerging artists. “Women Speak” performances have been or will be hosted at five other venues throughout Ohio: ARTS/West, Athens; the Columbus Poetry Forum, High Street, Columbus; Sips Coffee House, Mt. Vernon; The Bowen House Cultural Arts Center, Logan; and The Pump House Fine Arts Center, Chillicothe.

“We make it a point to always have a grand time,” said founder curator Kari Gunter-Seymour. “I am so pleased that this eclectic group of locations have offered themselves up to host this season’s “Women Speak” events, allowing this assemblage of spoken art to be heard potentially by hundreds of folks in the respective communities. The work is solid and meaningful. We are excited to share the stage with our sister poets of Women On the Line.

Nena Park reads her poem "First Mowing for a Second Summer," at Sips Coffee House, Mt. Vernon, Ohio. (Kari Gunter-Seymour)
Nena Park reads her poem “First Mowing for a Second Summer,” at Sips Coffee House, Mt. Vernon, Ohio. (Kari Gunter-Seymour)

When asked how living in Appalachia has influenced her life and therefore her art, Kentucky poet Barbara Biggs said, “I spent a lot of time trying to run away from these hills and valleys. I moved places, worked other places, but ultimately, always ended up right back here, within view of the Ohio River and the Indian mounds and persimmon trees. There are so many things I love about Appalachia: the complexity of the people, the feeling that I am never far from a maple tree, and that feeling in spring when the hills are pure green and everything just feels right.”

Throughout her childhood, Jamie Bailey’s grandmothers made sure she had access to stories and books and songs and instruments.

“I spent my days at each of their homes, pulling carrots from the earth, apples from branches, climbing in their trees, and inspecting their rosebushes,” shared the West Virginia writer. “The Appalachian homes that hosted my childhood became playgrounds for my very colorful imagination.”

The presentation is free to the public, though donations in support of My Sister’s Place will be accepted. There will be a reception immediately following the performance.

For more information, visit to or visit WOA on Facebook. For questions, email