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The Dairy Barn Arts Center. (FILE)

Dairy Barn to host the 12th annual 'Women of Appalachia' fine art exhibit

The “Women of Appalachia” fine art exhibit, going on display for its 12th year, is being hosted at the Dairy Barn Arts Center. The opening of the exhibit will take place Friday, Jan. 29. 

After the weekend of Jan. 29, the exhibit will remain open Wednesday through Sunday until Sunday, March 13.

The Dairy Barn Arts Center, a local art center in Athens, is thrilled to be hosting the “Women of Appalachia” fine art exhibit this year. While promoting Appalachian voices and creativity, the Dairy Barn is awaiting opening the gallery for everyone to see. 

The gallery, though in person, will hopefully be available for viewing online in coming weeks. Dairy Barn is taking proper measures to ensure a clean and safe space for families.

“I think right now people are really looking forward or looking for safe activities to do with their families or their household,” Holly Ittel, the Dairy Barn’s exhibition director, said.  “Coming to see this exhibition, where we hope that people feel safe, that we can keep them safe with social distance practicing and keep the barn clean. So I do feel like it's a safe thing to come do out in public, and the exhibition is going to be wonderful.”

This exhibit is targeted to empower the people of Appalachia while enlightening those not familiar with the origin of the art and what the art means to Appalachian culture. 

“It's like divisions, a new partnership between the Dairy Barn and the ‘Women of Appalachia’ project,” Ittel said. “And both of our missions align and that we emphasize promoting and supporting and uplifting artists in our region: artists in Appalachia. People in Appalachia are often characters, misunderstood or misrepresented. Through the arts, I think it's possible to show the truth of what it means to be an Appalachian person today.” 

At the art exhibit, a plethora of art is to be expected. Paintings, drawings, sculptural artwork, quilts, poems and more will fill the Dairy Barn, bringing life and culture into the atmosphere.

The exhibit does not only represent those in Ohio, but also represents artists from eight different states. However, along with the artists from out of state, some are from right down the road. 

“There will be a lot of artists who have learned their craft, probably from their parents and grandparents, with who it was a survival mode that you sold your clothing — also that you made all your furniture, so there's woodworkers, you build implements to work the fields,” Peggy Black, Quilt National Best Show winner in 2017, said. “You probably have welders and wire makers that are doing art now that we've taken the utilitarian part of everyday life and have upgraded it to an art form. So I hope people do come.” 

Due to the individuality and impact this event has made in past years, the involvement in the exhibit has increased over the years. Starting with nine people in the first year, 41 artists are now participating in the “Women of Appalachia” fine art exhibit. By raising awareness and allowing Appalachians to have a place to showcase their work, the exhibit has become a creative outlet for anyone seeking that freedom.

“It's 13 years ago, now actually like 14 ‚ I had just begun submitting artwork,” Kari Gunter-Seymour, founder of “Women of Appalachia,“ said. “I was having some trouble placing my work, and there's no doubt that it was raw and new. I would get strange comments like ‘You’re trying to be too ethnic,’ or just kind of strange comments — and I thought, ‘What do you mean trying to be too ethnic?’ This is who I am, and people forget that.” 

With nearly a third of Ohio being located in Appalachia, the need for Appalachian representation is prominent and pining. The goal of this event is to not only showcase artwork, but to use non-confrontational activism to show off the talent of the Appalachian people and show that they are just as important and educated as anyone else.

“Every year, I think it can't get better, and then it does,” Gunter-Seymour said. “The women who are producing it are proud of their work, and they're proud of where they're from. They're happy to say, ‘I'm an Appalachian woman.’”

Ittel, Black and Gunter-Seymour encourage the people of Athens and anyone surrounding to come out and experience the art first-hand — to feel the stories being told all around through art.

“It'll be a nice, safe experience to get out of the house and go see some really cool art,” Black said.


Kayla Bennett

Managing Editor

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