Earlier this month Urban Appalachian Leadership Project youth leaders and their mentor presented their project at this year’s Appalachian Studies Association Conference 2019 at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, NC. They had the opportunity to interact with major authors from the region and one woman who attended the presentation said that they “changed [her] life for the better.”
With the mentorship of Sherry Cook Stanforth, Creative Writing Vision Director at Thomas More University, students Brook, Michael, Erin and Jeni represented the UACC in AppalachA‘ville. Sherry shared these great photos, information about the performers, and a conference performance overview. Sherry says of her students, “I was very impressed and so were people who met them.”
Express Appalachia Wide Open Mic | Appalachian Studies Association Conference 2019
University of North Carolina, Asheville, NC
Friday, March 15, 2019
Developed as part of an Urban Appalachian Leadership Project grant, this interactive literary/musical/dramatic performance features the cross-generational migration and “home” perspectives of young (student) adults, community advocates and teaching artists who wish to inspire empathic communication and identification among diverse groups of people. Group performers will briefly share how various Express Appalachia program designs have worked to creatively engage local youth in Urban Appalachian cultural themes and to provide innovative scenes for storytelling across generational lines and role definitions. Younger members of this performance group will reflect on their evolving sense of Appalachian identity and their personal connections to coal country, Asian- and African-American cultures, the natural world, family music and rural/urban tensions. How might the roots of Appalachia grow adaptively—rupturing binaries and expanding in directions that sustain new voices and perspectives? How might the Urban Appalachian migration experience come to represent matters of value to non-Appalachian groups? One simple response to these questions is to cultivate a space where people feel invited express their unique translations of home, listening to one another with care and curiosity. This collage-style performance will incorporate singing, strumming, poetry, personal testimony, visual and performance arts in the spirit of including audience members directly in the Express Appalachia experience.
Members of Performance:
Jeni Hall is a senior at Thomas More University where she is earning a bachelor’s in political science and Associate’s degrees in International Studies, English, and Non-Profit & Public Administration. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Geography. She is originally from Floyd County, Kentucky and enjoys focusing her writing on ideas of her home in the mountains and research regarding the economic development of the region.
Erin Carrus is a junior, English and Mathematics double major with a minor in Environmental Science at Thomas More University planning to pursue a career in environmental consulting, concentrating in water sustainability. Originally from Winchester, Kentucky, she enjoys exploring abstract concepts about identity and the natural world through her writing
Michael Thompson is a Fine Arts and English double major, with a Spanish Minor in his second year of study at Thomas More University. He grew up in Richmond, Kentucky where he spent the majority of his time reading, creating, and exploring the outdoors. He now occupies his spare moments finding ways to synthesize his multiple creative interests and enjoys examining the unique juxtaposition of the metaphysical and the natural world in his writing.
Brook Batch studies English with a concentration in creative writing at Thomas More University. She plans on graduating in the spring of 2019. Her poetry revolves around themes of home place, relationships, and the natural world. In her free time, she reads, writes, hunts for snails, and dreams of becoming a cranberry farmer.
Sherry Cook Stanforth is founder and director of Thomas More University’s Creative Writing Vision Program where she designs interactive educational and public arts programs for diverse (and underserved) populations in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky community. Sherry serves as co-editor for Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary journal of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative, and as faculty advisor for Words, the campus literary magazine. Her poetry collection Drone String (Bottom Dog Press, 2015) reflects the storytelling traditions, music and migration experiences of her Appalachian heritage. She is the managing editor of Riparian, a river-inspired collection forthcoming from Dos Madres Press (2019). She performs in a 3-generation family band, Tellico, and enjoys hiking, beekeeping and studying native plants.
Nan Cook, grandmother of 12, plays a mountain dulcimer and performs in Tellico family band. Her life has included nursing practice, raising children and promoting the Appalachian culture through the Cincinnati Dulcimer Society. She was raised in Clermont County farm culture.
Jim Cook grew up in East Tennessee and North Georgia, traveling back and forth to Ohio when the family sought work. A retired mechanical engineer, he plays guitar and reads over 300 books a year. He is also a member of Tellico family band and a long-standing member of the Cincinnati Dulcimer Society.