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Exhibition - Looking at Appalachia

Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 9:30am

Massillon Museum
121 Lincoln Way East
Massillon, OH 44646

The Massillon Museum will exhibit Looking at Appalachia curated by Roger May in its main gallery. The exhibition will complement the Museum’s 2019 NEA Big Read program and its sister exhibition, Looking at Massillon. Both reflect the theme of this year’s book selection, Burning Bright by Ron Rash.

In 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson declared unconditional war on poverty in the United States no area of the nation was more frequently photographed to illustrate that poverty than Appalachia. To explore the diversity of Appalachia and establish a visual counterpoint, the Looking at Appalachia project views the region fifty years after the declaration of the War on Poverty. Drawing from a diverse population of photographers within the region encompassing all of West Virginia, southern and eastern Ohio, and parts of 11 other states, as identified by the Appalachian Regional Commission’s map, along the spine and foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this crowd-sourced image archive serves as a reference defined by its people rather than political legislation. Designed and directed by Roger May, the five-year-old project welcomes new submissions each calendar year.

May is an Appalachian American photographer and writer based in Charleston, West Virginia. He was born in the Tug River Valley, located on the West Virginia and Kentucky state line, in the heart of Hatfield and McCoy country. His photographs, essays, and interviews have been published by the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera America, National Geographic, The Intercept, Southern Cultures, Huffington Post, Quartz, the Oxford American, Le Monde diplomatique, and others. In February 2014, he initiated the crowd-sourced Looking at Appalachia project.

Along with May, a seven-member photo editorial team reviews submissions for the project. Given the diversity of the region, broad range of images submitted, and the inevitable subjectivity present with one person curating such a project, they work as a team to curate work submitted. A five-person advisory team assists with strategic planning, navigating opportunities and challenges as they arise, and identifying ways for the project to live beyond pixels.

This second iteration of the project’s print exhibit includes 68 photographs. The first exhibit traveled to six states and thirteen locations over the course of four years and was seen by thousands of visitors. A second set of exhibition prints will be housed at the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University, which serves as the project’s repository.

The Looking at Appalachia exhibition opening coincides with the 2019 NEA Big Read kick-off at the Massillon Museum and the opening of the Looking at Massillon exhibition. In addition to the exhibitions, guests on March 23 can enjoy hands-on craft activities such as yarn-spinning, loom-weaving, and a community paper patchwork quilt project. The Northwest Territory Bluegrass Band will perform traditional music. Representatives from NEA Big Read partners—Massillon Public Library, Massillon/North Canton Elks Lodge #2029, Artful Living and Learning, Walsh University Museum Studies Club, Ohio Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, and StarkFresh—will host information stations at the kick-off event.

Guests at the Big Read kick-off will receive a free copy of Burning Bright by Ron Rash along with a bookmark listing all 39 official events related to the book and its themes. The Museum will distribute a total of 1,400 copies of Burning Bright at the events and throughout the community between March 23 and May 4, 2019. That will bring the total number of free Big Read books given to area residents to 23,500 since 2007.

The NEA Big Read, the largest federal literature program since the WPA, is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with Arts Midwest, designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment. Individual communities may choose from among a list of book selections from American and world literature. The NEA inaugurated the Big Read as a pilot project in 2006. The Massillon Museum first applied to be part of the Big Read for 2007 and has been selected to participate for twelve consecutive years.

The Massillon Museum receives operating support fro the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsinStark.

Exhibition Dates: March 23 through June 2, 2019

Images provided by AmericanTowns.com, Ticketmaster

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