Perseverance Through Music, Stories And Art

May 29, 2020

This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is about perseverance through music, stories and art. We’ll introduce you to some  folks from the other side of the ocean who have deep connections to Appalachia, and discover reflections of our own cultural identity in their stories.

We chat with historian Stan Bumgardner about why so many of us struggle to identify as “Appalachian.” Is it possibly because of negative stereotypes often used to portray our people? 

We also head to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to learn about traditional basketmaking by the Eastern Band of Cherokee. We meet two women who are finding ways to adapt their families’ art of basketmaking. They share why they believe basketmaking is a symbol of resilience for their people, and how it has helped many Cherokee survive. 

We also visit an apple orchard in Altapass, N.C., where string bands regularly perform for dancers of all ages. We’ll hear why one woman feels that the music helped save her life when she was recovering from cancer treatments. 


In This Episode

The Welsh countryside photographed in December, 2019 during a scouting trip for Inside Appalachia's future reporting trip. Peter said he sees many similarities between the Welsh and Appalachian landscape.
Credit Glynis Board / WVPB

Connections to Wales

Appalachia’s ancestors come from different cultures and continents, but many of the first white settlers came from the tiny country of Wales. 

Before the pandemic hit, our Folkways Project  team was planning a reporting trip to Wales. The trip has been postponed, but our curiosity hasn’t abated. We want to learn more about our historical and cultural connections with the Welsh people. 

Peter Steveson tells the story of 'Rhyfel y Sais Bach' using his hand painted crankie, an Appalachian storytelling device. Peter is a professional storyteller living in Wales with connections to Appalachia.
Credit Courtesy Peter Stevenson

Our Folkways reporter Caitlin Tan has a story about artists Peter Stevenson and Ailsa Hughes and their fascination with Appalachia. 

See more images by Peter here. 

Cherokee Basket Making

The Eastern Band of Cherokee has been making baskets for centuries. The art form has undergone some changes in recent years. For one, basketmakers have had to find ways to source hard-to-find materials. These committed artisans are dedicated to keeping their craft alive. 

Rachel Greene spoke with two women in Cherokee, N.C.,  about their stories. Greene is a member of the Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporting Corps.

Can Dancing Keep You Young?

About an hour northeast of Asheville, N.C.,  is the community of Altapass. An orchard there would likely have been turned into a site for condos or vacation homes if not for a couple who bought the land and decided to ask Appalachian string bands to come perform. Before the coronavirus pandemic the farm was the site of regular dances.

Marie Bongiovanni first traveled to The Orchard of Altapass in 2009 to learn more about Appalachian music, arts and culture. At the time she was a professor of English and was living in Pennsylvania. That visit coincided with a crisis in Marie’s life, and she now says the music of the Blue Ridge Mountains is what ultimately saved her.

wvpublicnews · Perseverance Through Music, Stories and Art

What is Appalachia? 

What is Appalachia? Geographically? Many of us don’t really introduce ourselves as being “from Appalachia.” This is something that historian Stan Bumgardner has pondered quite a bit. He’s the editor of Goldenseal Magazine, a heritage and history magazine about West Virginia. He recently wrote an essay titled “What is Appalachia?” for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Below is a recording of Bumgardner reading his full essay. 

wvpublicnews · What is Appalachia, by Stan Bumgardner

We asked him why he wrote this article. In this episode we hear his conversation with Eric Douglas about how he defines Appalachian identity. 

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council. Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by The Little Stoney Nighthawks, Dinosaur Burps and Ailsa Hughes.

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Roxy Todd is our producer. Eric Douglas is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Glynis Board. She also edited our show this week. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.

You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

You can also send us an email to insideappalachia@wvpublic.org.

Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.