A collage of the many women who participate in the Women of Appalachia Project. (Photos by Kari Gunter-Seymour)

WOAP’s 10th Anniversary Gala March 23

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The Ohio University Multicultural Center is pleased to announce the Women of Appalachia Project’s (WOAP) 10th Anniversary Gala, a fine art exhibition and juried presentation of poetry, story and song, showcasing women artists from throughout seven Appalachian states, and featuring special guests Ohio University President Duane Nellis and oldtime string band The Trophy Wives. Passion Works Studio will be creating décor for the event.

The spoken word performance will be held in Ohio University’s Baker Theater on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at 6 p.m. Donations for Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, an organization dedicated to the healing and prevention of sexual violence in Southeast Ohio, will be collected throughout the evening in the theater as well at the Multicultural Center Art Gallery directly across the foyer where the WOAP fine art exhibition is currently on display and a reception will be held immediately after the spoken word event. Wine and hor d’oeuvres will be served.

“For well over a century, Appalachians have been marginalized and stereotyped,” says WOAP founder and executive director Kari Gunter-Seymour. “This deliberate ploy has affected multiple generations and was intended to dehumanize and belittle so that major U.S. coal companies could gain access to Appalachia’s immense coal reserves. Appalachians began to be characterized as barefoot, overfed, undereducated and undergroomed, and the land was consumed by coal removal. When Appalachians are portrayed as white trash, it is easier to pull off the ruse that coal companies were/are in the business to save Appalachia, rather than plunder. It is a myth that conceals the realities of race and racism in Appalachia.”

In 2009, partnering with Ohio University’s Multicultural Center, the Women of Appalachia Project was created, inviting participation from women of diverse backgrounds, ages, and experiences to come together at a variety of locations to share their art. Over the years WOAP has become a sisterhood, a mix of socio-political perspectives, emerging to established writers and fine artists who wield their words and images to challenge ill-conceived prejudices used as the gauge by which Appalachian women are judged.

An additional highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the 2019 WOAP Appalachian Advocate Award which is presented yearly to an outstanding woman who has dedicated herself to enhancing the wellbeing of Appalachian culture, Appalachian women’s health, Appalachian families or Appalachian land issues. This year’s recipient is co-founder and executive director of Athens Food Rescue (AFR), Tereasa Curtis. AFR is a group of volunteers who pick up excess food from area restaurants and other sources and redistributes it to feed hundreds of people in need, including residents of Athens’ homeless and domestic-violence shelters. AFR promotes environmental health by reducing solid waste transported to landfills and decreases food insecurity in the region.

When asked how living in Appalachia has influenced her life and therefore her art, Tennessee short story author and songwriter Tiffany Williams says: “I’ve lived most of my days in McRoberts, Kentucky, where my family has resided for nearly two centuries; the creek that runs across from the coal camp house I grew up in is named Wright’s Fork, after my fifth great-grandfather who moved there around 1824, eighty-eight years before the coal company arrived. I don’t know who I am and can’t imagine who I would be without Appalachia. I live in Nashville now, but the region is still on my tongue and in the words, places, and people of the short stories and the songs I write.”

“In my twenties, after college and grad school, I chose to spend my life in Appalachia, says West Virginia writer and fine artist Cheryl Harshman, “along the Ohio River and on the West Virginia side. I have lived deep in the country, on our small farm where we began an apple orchard and grew 40 different bean varieties. I put up hay and butchered with the old farmers, a generation or two older than I, on our ridge. I drove the back roads in three counties delivering new books and offering story time to all the small libraries. I leaned into Appalachian life and was given the gift of deep friendships and ancient country wisdom. The tragic beauty of this place I call home haunts my personal vision and must necessarily come through the words and the paint I use to speak.”

The performance and fine art events are free to the public, though donations in support of Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program will be gratefully accepted. During the time of reception immediately following the performance in the Multicultural Center Art Gallery, oldtime string band The Trophy Wives will perform and WOAP artists will be available for comment and conversation.

For more information go to or visit WOAP on Facebook at @WomenofAppalachiaProject. For questions, email