Art in the exhibit has been created by a number of women across the region in a variety of methods.

Photographer: Kevin Riddell

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Appalachia Rising: Drawing inspiration from the Appalachian woman

Women of Appalachia art exhibit and “Women Speak” event give visions and voices to hidden artistic gems

This special Compass series features the programs and initiatives through which Ohio University students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends are realizing their promise as they elevate lives across the region. These people-focused success stories take you behind the scenes and highlight the many meaningful ways OHIO serves society by supporting educational, economic, creative and wellness endeavors, as well as other humanitarian efforts.

In Athens, Allison Batchelor is best known as a physician. Her patient care is a talent on its own, but like so many women in Appalachia, there is more to her than meets the eye.

Lesser known is Batchelor's knack for photography – inspired by the Appalachian region where she finds scenes to photograph around every turn -- from the Athens Farmer’s Market to the garden.

Her powerful imagery is not by chance. Batchelor has a trained eye, and thanks to the Women of Appalachia's current art exhibit, she is able to showcase her talents.

The annual Women of Appalachia art exhibit is on display in the Multicultural Art Gallery in Baker University Center through June 14. "Women Speak," its verbal and performance art sister program, will be presented May 12. In its third year, the project celebrates all artistic expression of Appalachia women, with many pieces of art available for purchase.

Kari Gunter-Seymour, communication designer at the College of Osteopathic Medicine, created Women of Appalachia as a means to encourage women of all backgrounds to counter preconceived notions about Appalachian women.

"There is a stereotype for women in the Appalachian region, and many people look down on the Appalachian woman," said Gunter-Seymour. "This event helps women to come together and create a positive, creative energy. There are so many talented women that live in Appalachia."

The reception was held April 8 in the Multicultural Center. Twenty-one visual artists and nine written and performance artists were a part of the Women of Appalachia art exhibit and “Women Speak” this year.

Surveying the crowded, yet quiet room, there was a sense of excitement and inspiration. Many of the women said they felt inspired by living in the Appalachian region and do not believe that it has hindered them in any way.

"I am greatly influenced by living here," said Batchelor. "Nature is a part of my life, and there is so much of it here."

Writer and poet Joyce Richardson is taking part in “Women Speak” and has lived in Athens since 1956 when she attended Ohio University. Many of the stories she has written are based on her teaching experiences at Trimble Elementary.

"As an Appalachian school teacher, I was able to draw my inspiration from the area," said Richardson. "The beauty, the hills and the warmth all inspire me. My teaching years were vibrant and exciting, and people were genuinely interested in my years as a teacher in Appalachia."

Another unique display was a collection of T-shirts created by members of the Sisters in Recovery Collective from the Rural Women’s Health Recovery Program. The collection, called "The Clothesline Project," aims to inform the public about the healing process of victims of rape and abuse.

"The messages (on the T-shirts) are incredibly revealing; what has happened to them is horrible, but sharing their experiences is so moving," said Gunter-Seymour. "Some of these women come from second and third generations of domestic abuse, and this is just the beginning of their healing process. I hope it creates awareness for the public."

Jessica Klumpp Held, a painter, uses poured paints to create her unique masterpieces.

"I pour all the paint; I never touch the surface of it," said Klumpp Held. "I focus on the material and what I can control."

She has displayed her artwork in many places, as far as Prague; however, she believes that Athens' audiences are unique.

"This area is so appreciative of the arts, and I feel as though there are so many opportunities here in Athens, versus somewhere like Indiana," Klumpp Held said.

Photography, sculpture, jewelry, textile work and paintings are all included in the exhibit, which brings together women from many different backgrounds. For more information, visit the Women of Appalachia website.

"Coming together with visual and spoken pieces is moving and inspiring. There is a sense of empowerment," said Gunter-Seymour.