Renée Stewart

Renée Stewart sings “The Sound of Lonely” at The Bowen House (in Logan, Ohio) Women Speak” event.

The Ohio University Multicultural Center is hosting the seventh 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, featuring special guests “Women On the Line,” according to a news release.

The event will be held in the multipurpose rooms behind the art gallery at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 22. The public is invited to participate in this experience. Donations for My Sister’s Place – an organization located in Athens that works to break cycles of domestic violence and support survivors of relationship abuse – will be accepted but not required.

Many people have a specific image of an Appalachian woman, according to the release. “The mission of WOAP,” the release explained, “is to showcase how 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.”

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, on High Street; 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,” founder-curator Kari Gunter-Seymour said in the release. “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.’” 

When asked how living in Appalachia has influenced her life and therefore her art, Kentucky poet Barbara Biggs stated in the release, “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.”  

In the news release, West Virginia writer Jamie Bailey added, “Throughout my childhood, my grandmothers made sure I 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. The Appalachian homes that hosted my childhood became playgrounds for my very colorful imagination.”

There will be a reception immediately following the performance.

For more information, go to www.womenofappalachia.com, or visit WOA on Facebook at facebook.com/WomenofAppalachia. For questions, email womenofappalachia@gmail.com.

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