Arts and Culture

Trey Key / WVPB

Many families have turned to video conferencing apps like Zoom and Skype to stay connected during the coronavirus pandemic. Those online conversations can also  serve a larger purpose  —  to capture family oral histories. 

Oral histories are, at their simplest, recordings of memories. They have been around since the earliest days of reel-to-reel tape recorders. Documentarians or researchers would head out into the field to record the memories of people who survived grand events in human history. In the process, they also recorded local music and tall tales. 

Jesse Wright / WVPB

With kids cooped up inside their homes and classroom instruction happening remotely, we thought it would be a great time to take another listen to an episode of Inside Appalachia that originally aired in 2019. We explore the power of getting children outside to learn, a topic that’s perhaps even  more important now than ever. 

Nicole Musgrave

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of our lives, whether you’re working from home, worried for your health or unexpectedly out of a job. PBS’s beloved Mr. Rogers often quoted his mother saying to “look for the helpers” during a crisis. We’ve been looking and have found that there’s no shortage of those in our region.

Courtesy Jessica Salfia

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Jessica Salfia began receiving emails from companies she had interacted with over the years. Most said the similar things, like how they “cared about their customers” and were “looking after their employees.” 

Instead of just deleting those emails, Salfia, who is a creative writing teacher from Martinsburg, W.Va., saw the makings of a poem.

Salfia said she encourages her students to keep a “writer’s notebook,” an informal writing journal to record things for writing about later. 

Amy Knicely

From religious services to a renewed love of gardening, quarantine gives and takes.

 

The global pandemic has taken things from all of us. Some more than others. Thousands have died, many of them alone, and separated from their families. At least 26 million Americans have lost their jobs. 

Most rituals and traditions have also been disrupted, especially those that normally include people gathered in large groups.

On June 25, 1980, Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero were killed in Pocahontas County. They were on the way to the Rainbow Family Gathering, an annual  meeting of hippies and other like-minded people that celebrate peace, harmony and freedom held at different national forests across the country. 

WV State Archives

In the mid-20th century, Charleston, West Virginia, was a major stop for black musicians traveling to Baltimore and D.C. on what was known as the “Chitlin' Circuit.” Improv jazz masters like James Brown, Cab Calloway and others are said to have stopped in Charleston’s historic Triangle neighborhood to play informal gigs late into the night, or have a drink of moonshine in some of the illegal bars and brothels that operated in the neighborhood. 


Courtesy: West Virginia State Archives

Why was the Triangle neighborhood, once steeped in the richness of black music and culture, demolished in 1974 in Charleston, W.Va.? Why were some residents unaware that their neighborhood was being torn down until the bulldozers showed up? And why do some members of Charleston’s African American community today believe that this history could repeat itself in the city’s West Side neighborhood 50 years later, unless this history is reckoned with and remembered?

Caitlin Tan

In March, West Virginia saw 90,000 unemployment claims. In a typical month the state averages 5,000. According to the U.S. Labor Department, one of the industries hit the hardest nationwide is arts and entertainment — a sector that depends heavily on social events, something that is nearly impossible during the coronavirus pandemic.

We recently spoke with West Virginian artists to see how they are coping, and we wanted to check in with the Tamarack Foundation For The Arts, which directly supports nearly 2,000 artists in the state. They have recently promoted their interactive newsletter to help West Virginian artists still feel a sense of community.

Howard Berkes / NPR

Ten years ago, on April 5, 2010, 29 men who worked at an underground coal mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia, lost their lives. The Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group, Inc. has placed wreaths at the monument in Raleigh County on April 5 every year since. But this year, they aren’t encouraging family members to visit, due to the spread of COVID-19.

Caitlin Tan / WVPB

Usually this time of year marks the start of festival season. So many little communities throughout the region celebrate springtime in their own way. But things are basically on pause right now as the country holds its collective breath. 

On this week’s episode of “Inside Appalachia,” we check in with our friends and neighbors across the region, many of whom are hunkering down at home, trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Courtesy Illustration

“The Bitter Southerner Podcast” is an offshoot of an online magazine called The Bitter Southerner.  The podcast, which just completed its second season, is devoted to the culture of the South and produced with the support of Georgia Public Broadcasting. 

Host and editor Chuck Reece doesn’t shy away from topics that can be awkward to discuss. Reece himself grew up in north Georgia, in the foothills of the Appalachians, and has an affinity for the region. He has dedicated shows to controversial topics like the federally-owned power utility the Tennessee Valley Authority and the book “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy.”


BARB SARGENT / COURTESY WV DNR

There is a lot happening in the world that is stressful. But the risk of the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily have to mean you have to barricade yourself indoors. Diseases spread in close quarters, so some researchers advise that you should get outside and exercise with your friends if you can. Go on a walk. You can still avoid sneezing into each other's faces and make sure you wash your hands, but your immune system loves to be outside.


Storyteller Uses Song To Inspire Children To Learn About Nature

Mar 13, 2020
Credit Saro Lynch-Thomason

These days, kids are spending less time exploring the outdoors and more time in front of screens.

A 2019 report by the independent non-profit Common Sense Media found that on average, 8-to-12 year-olds in the United States spend approximately five hours on entertainment screen media every day. But numerous studies show that time outside is great for kids, helping them reduce stress and stay healthy. 


Eric Douglas / WVPB

W.I. “Bill” Hairston is a professional storyteller. He spins tales about a number of different topics  —  some made up and some real. 

During a recent talk at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center on Charleston’s West Side he devoted his entire presentation to the topic “Growing Up Black in Appalachia.”

Hairston was originally born in Phenix City, Alabama in 1949. He describes the area of the town where he lived as being predominantly black. 

J. Tyler Franklin

What is the human impact of a failure to prioritize workplace safety? 

In this episode, which we originally aired in 2019, we’ll hear how weak regulatory laws, and a failure to prioritize worker safety, may be contributing to more deaths, and a higher risk of workplace accidents -- both at the state and national levels. 


Courtesy photo

In February 1968, US Senator Robert Kennedy visited eastern Kentucky to investigate the successes and the failures of the “War on Poverty.” In the new book “All This Marvelous Potential: Robert Kennedy’s 1968 Tour of Appalachia” author Matthew Algeo examined the trip and digs into what Kennedy saw, what has changed since then and what remains the same. 

Algeo said he used small stories to try to tell bigger stories in American history. He focused on Kennedy’s tour to highlight bigger issues he discovered in his research. 

Courtesy Illustration / Weelunk.com

Stories told in serial fashion are stories with chapters released on a regular basis, often weekly. Publishers began releasing serial fiction in the 1800s. The format really took off in the 1920s with cheap publishing options and penny magazines. Authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who penned the “Sherlock Holmes” short stories and novels, published in serial form. 

John Hale/ WVPB

Most people rarely think about where food comes from. We go to the grocery store and have so much to choose from. But global experts say small and medium-sized farms are critical to future food systems. That’s what we’ve got here in Appalachia, but more and more farmers across our region are facing economic challenges.

Courtesy photo

Diane Ravitch is an author and public education historian turned education activist. Recently, she was in Charleston speaking at the Red For Ed Celebration on the second anniversary of the West Virginia teacher’s strike. She spoke with Eric Douglas about the teacher’s movement and her book, “Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools.” The book details the massive private funding in the educational reform movement that began in the George W. Bush era and the teacher’s movements that have spread across the country in its wake. 


Caitlin Tan/ WVPB

One could spend a lifetime learning about Appalachia, and just scratch the surface. 

On this week’s episode, we take a deeper look at traditional cultural practices found throughout these mountains.

We’ll hear stories spanning from fiddle music, to Appalachian style food. We’ll also hear how moonshine getaway cars turned into an Appalachian subculture of families who rebuild and race hot rods.


A Little Daytona In Ona

Feb 21, 2020
Lexi Browning / for WVPB

Ona, West Virginia is a town with two stop lights, but it’s also a place where legends are made. 

Greg Sigler has been racing at Ona Speedway for nearly two decades. But today, he’s coaching his 15-year-old son, Cole, from the sidelines, using a headset that lets them talk back and forth. Cole, who drives a white 2006 Cobalt sporting the number 99, has just embarked on his own racing career. It’s his first time behind the wheel of a car.  


Illustration Courtesy Jesse Wright

This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is all about love. Not the florist and jewelry store version of love, but love for something deeper: love for home, family, for the mountains. 

We also have a variety of personal love letters from listeners, and we'll talk a little bit about being in love, too.


Emily Hilliard / West Virginia Humanities Council

On this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear several stories about people who are working to help address problems within their own communities.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear a sneak peak of this weekend's episode of Inside Appalachia. Guest host Giles Snyder speaks with Eric Eyre, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter whose reporting into the opioid epidemic won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. 


Caitlin Tan / WVPB

Deep within the mountains of central West Virginia, is a tiny village called Helvetia. It was originally founded by Swiss settlers in the mid-1800s, as they felt the steep mountains, thick forests, winding river, all resembled their homeland.


Eric Douglas / WVPB

“Montani Semper Liberi ⁠— Mountaineers Are Always Free” is West Virginia’s state motto, but it is more than that. It is a belief system that is not just true about the Mountain State. It rings true throughout Appalachia and even mountains on other continents.

Glynis Board / WVPB

Here in central Appalachia, we have plenty of high-tech skills, and many of us can connect to orbiting satellites, and therefore people and ideas on the other side of the globe, in milliseconds.

But there are also a lot of isolated pockets throughout Appalachia where a smart phone is rendered pretty dumb.

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia’s Mountaineer Heritage Hunting season began Jan 9, two weeks after most hunting seasons have closed. It is the second year since its conception, and most notably, it is limited to primitive weapons - like flintlock muzzle loader rifles. 


The 66th Mountaineer, Timmy Eads, in the 2019 WVU Homecoming parade.
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia University’s mascot, the Mountaineer, is a big deal in the state. In fact, fans are called ‘Mountaineer Nation.’ West Virginians have long identified with the mascot as it symbolizes independence, strength and curiosity -- a true frontiersman attitude. 


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