by Mike Templeton
We get pretty used to having the arts of Appalachia all around us in Cincinnati. You can go to the Comet in Northside on any Sunday night and likely hear the Comet Bluegrass Allstars kick it out. Pauletta Hansel regularly reads her poetry at Cincinnati Word of Mouth. Stroll through Second Sunday on Main and you will likely find traditional Appalachian craftwork mixed in with the minimalist sculpture and contemporary art. I just got back from the Kentucky Wool Festival just down the road in Falmouth where I got ahold of some homemade root beer (a sugar bomb intended for people who work harder than I do). The art and culture of Appalachia are part of the brick and mortar of everyday life in this region.
Often it seems the only real difficulty in taking in the artists who give us the urban Appalachian experience is deciding which show, reading, performance, etc. to take in. We have an embarrassment of riches in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky with talent that we can see perform in venues all over the region. That is why we are all thrilled about The Urban Express Appalachia Showcase happening on October 24 at the Aronoff Center.
The Express Urban Appalachian Showcase will bring under one roof some of the finest artists working within the Appalachian tradition. This is going to be a rare treat featuring the most dynamic Appalachian musicians, singers, storytellers, poets, spoken word artists, and dancers who will express the diversity of Cincinnati’s Appalachian cultural heritage.
Sherry Cook Stanforth, Urban Appalachian Community Coalition steward and a team member for the Urban Appalachian Leadership Project, will be performing at the showcase. She will appear with her parents and children in the show, along with some “adopted” young people of Appalachian heritage. Sherry began performing with her family band, “Tellico,” which is named after her father’s East Tennessee Cherokee ties. With this line of family and cultural traditions, Sherry told me that “we hope to share the Showcase’s unique value for linking generations together.” Establishing the ties that cross generations and cultures is central to the Showcase and to the Appalachian experience more generally.
The Showcase features artists and performers as diverse as Ma Crow & Company, Rabbit Hash String Band, Riley School Irish musicians, and Dee Marie from The Soul Pocket Band. There will also be readings and performances by poets Pauletta Hansel, Richard Hague, and Michael Henson — and spoken word artist Desirae ‘The Silent Poet’ Hosley (Cincy WordPlay). The Urban Express Appalachia Showcase will encompass the broad spectrum of culture, history, and contemporary life that encompasses the Appalachian experience.
The diversity of performers and artists is designed to celebrate and inspire. As Sherry Stanforth explains: “We want this production to inspire curiosity about Appalachia, including its urban geographies and people. Our tapestry of songs, stories, poetry and dance captures themes of migration and home identity.” The Urban Express Appalachia Showcase will offer all these themes and more in the form of song, poetry, and spoken word.
The Express Urban Appalachian Showcase is October 24 at the Aronoff Center from 7:00- 9:00 PM. Expect music the moment you enter the door as Hills of Kentucky Dulcimers will be jamming in the lobby before the show. If you are new to the arts and culture of Appalachia, this will be your chance for a total immersion. If you are accustomed to the Appalachian art, culture, and music of the region, this will offer you the rare opportunity to take in an enormous selection of what Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky can offer.
Tickets may be purchased online at the Aronoff event page: https://www.cincinnatiarts.org/events/detail/euas, or at the Aronoff Center Ticket Office · (513) 621-ARTS (2787).
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.