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Inside Appalachia Road Trip: Art and Murals Across Appalachia's Backroads

This week for Inside Appalachia, we wanted to go on a kind of road trip and meet people who are making community art across Appalachia. 

We were especially curious to talk with some of the folks that help make outdoor murals. But along the way, we found a few surprises. We won’t give it all away just yet, but this was a really fun trip through the back roads of Appalachia.


Credit Jeff Pierson
Art by Jeff Pierson

On this week's show we talk with:

  • Jeff Pierson, an artist who made courtroom sketches while Don Blankenship was on trial. Pierson isn’t a seasoned courtroom artist. He earns his living as an art teacher. He's also illustrated children’s books and painted outdoor murals, like the painting of musician Blind Alfred Reed. That mural is part of a community art collective called the Princeton Renaissance Project. Click here to read Jeff Pierson's interview.
    Credit Jeff Pierson
    Mural in Princeton, W.Va. of legendary musician Blind Alfred Reed. Mural by artist Jeff Pierson.
  • Patch Whiskey, whose work often features colorful cartoon like creatures in trippy abstract scenes. He climbed down from a bucket truck to take a break from painting, set down his rattle cans and chat with our host Jessica Lilly.
  • Stuart Bloch, the former president of the Mail Pouch Tobacco Company in Wheeling.  It was in the early 1900s when Stuart Bloch’s great-grandfather Jess Bloch came up with the idea to advertise on barns along highways. Click here for more of this story.
    Credit Charlie Kleine

    Mail Pouch Tobacco barn murals can still be seen today in 39 states.

  • Greg Puckett, with a non-profit called Community Connections, which partnered with the West Virginia Division of Tobacco Prevention and the Susan G. Koman Foundation to create the prevention barn project. It was inspired by the original Mail Pouch Tobacco signs. The new signs play on the old language. Instead of "treat yourself to the best" many of the prevention barns read, "treat yourself to health." 

Know of some great art in Appalachia? How about a ghost sign? We'd love to see it. You can share it with us on Twitter@InAppalachia. Just use the #MyAppalachia and be sure to tell us where the photo was taken.

Music in today’s show was provided byBen Townsend,Little Sparrowwith “In the Wilderness” and “In West Virginia”,Jake Schepps,  Glennville State Bluegrass Band, Blind Alfred Reed and  Andy Agnew Jr. Our What’s in a Name theme music is byMarteka and William with “Johnson Ridge Special” from their Album Songs of a Tradition.

Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd. This show was edited by Catherine Winter.

Jessica can be heard on Inside Appalachia and West Virginia Morning the station’s daily radio news program. You can reach her at jlilly@wvpublic.org
Roxy Todd is a reporter and producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.