Arts & Culture

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we explore how our cultural traditions change over time and evolve as they get passed from person to person.

 

How does foklife fit into our already busy, and frankly, quite stressful lives?

“Henry Glassie, another folklorist, says that folklore is the creation of the future out of the past. So in order to know where we're headed, we have to know about these traditions in the past,” explained West Virginia state folklorist Emily Hilliard.


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Greensboro is a small town in southern Pennsylvania, just across the West Virginia border. It sits on the banks of the Monongahela river, surrounded by small hills and patches of trees.

Over the years the town has weathered boom and busts of a pottery industry, river trade, and coal.  Lately, it’s been more bust than boom.

But now, some artists are trying to stimulate the local economy using what they know best: creativity. Our folklife reporter Caitlin Tan visited the Greensboro Art Cooperative to find out more.

Caitlin Tan

Walking down the streets of Greensboro, Pennsylvania, it feels a bit like a ghost town. There are houses, business signs, a post office, but only two cars drive by in 10 minutes and no one is walking the streets.

The small town in southern Pennsylvania is just across the West Virginia border. It sits on the banks of the Monongahela River, surrounded by small hills and patches of trees. In years past, the town has weathered the boom and bust of a pottery industry, river trade and coal. Lately, it has been more bust than boom.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, There’s a strong historical connection between Appalachia and Wales.

Many of our ancestors migrated from Wales to Appalachia, both regions once heavily depended on the coal industry and both have a strong mountain culture -- a culture that includes music, art and storytelling.

This month at the Monongalia Arts Center in Morgantown, you can see an expansive art exhibit dedicated to the Welsh-Appalachian connection. Our folklife reporter, Caitlin Tan, has more.

Jesse Wright

Across the Atlantic Ocean -- 3,586 miles away from West Virginia -- you will find Wales, which is part of the United Kingdom. The western side of Wales is lined by two channels from the Celtic Sea. And inland is quite mountainous. Within those mountain towns, you will find similar folk culture to Appalachia.

“The nature of the people and the landscape is very similar. Plus, many people from West Wales came over here. So we’ve got those really strong connections,” said Peter Stevenson, a Welsh artist, writer and storyteller.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Capitol in Charleston at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 20, to reconvene a special session on education betterment that was called months ago. But Republican leaders have yet to agree on exactly what kinds of reforms will be considered. So, as Dave Mistich reports, instead of focusing on education, the special session will likely address bills Governor Jim Justice vetoed on technical grounds.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, following an investigation started five years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice determined West Virginia is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. That’s because it has too many children with serious emotional or behavioral disorders in out-of-state residential facilities. As Kara Lofton reports, the Justice Department and the state have agreed to a plan to bring West Virginia into compliance with that law within five years.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the department of education released a 33-page report titled West Virginia’s Voice last week. It presents education reform ideas collected from a series of forums held around the state.

The department concludes that “West Virginia’s education system is not broken,” but identifies four priorities for improving public education: increasing pay for all school employees, increasing funding for mental health professionals, incentivizing high-performing schools by providing local flexibility to explore educational innovations, and funding supplemental pay for shortage areas, especially math instruction.

In this Jan. 28, 1989 file photo, actress and animal rights activist Doris Day poses for photos after receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award she was presented with at the annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.
AP file photo

Doris Day, the honey-voiced singer and actress whose film dramas, musicals and innocent sex comedies made her a top star in the 1950s and ‘60s and among the most popular screen actresses in history, has died. She was 97.

Wheeling Country Day School

Kids, parents, grandparents, and educators are getting together around West Virginia this week to celebrate non-traditional learning. It’s part of a growing initiative to demonstrate and practice innovative education models.


The 1981 Northfork Blue Demons after winning their 8th state championship title.
Courtesy of Patricia Boyd

Coal was king in McDowell County in the 1960s and 70s. At one point, it was one of the richest counties in the country due to coal production. There were more than 53 communities that either had their own mines or housed miners who worked in the area. Because the coal mines attracted workers from all over the country, even the world, there was a pretty diverse group of people in McDowell.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, there’s only one high school in Preston County. But there used to be many, and the sports rivalry and team spirit at each school were strong.

Former students from the original schools banded together to create the Preston County Sports Museum, to help memorialize the sports league of years past. It’s the only one of its kind in the state.

Inside Appalachia folklife reporter Caitlin Tan visited the museum and spoke with a brother and sister who graduated from one of the schools in the 1950s.

Jesse Wright

The tall, red brick building that was once home to Rowlesburg High School still stands after surviving the historic 1985 flood.

After the flood it was no longer used as a school, but today it remains the heart of the community of Rowlesburg – it's where people meet, festivities are held, weekly dinners are made, etc.

VIDEO: A W.Va. Community Responds to Religious Violence of Past and Present

May 7, 2019
Bobby Lee Messer

One Appalachian community is responding to violence of the past and present targeted at religious groups.

At their annual reading of the names ceremony, the B’Nai Shalom Synagogue in Huntington, West Virginia, brought together community members in a ceremony to remember victims of the Holocaust.

Just a few blocks away, community activists gathered to also honor the victims of the Easter suicide bombings in Sri Lanka.

The remembrances came the same day as the latest attack on the Jewish community in America– a shooting at a California synagogue.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, science can be a hard subject to understand, especially upper-level higher-ed science courses. A professor in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle is creatively cracking the code to help his students understand tricky topics. Corey Knollinger has more.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Thinking back on a tradition that’s been carried on in your family probably isn’t too hard. The Thanksgiving Turkey, or celebrating Christmas morning, or even just watching cartoons with your siblings on Saturday morning.

For one family in Lincoln County, West Virginia, the tradition is building furniture. Inside Appalachia folklife reporter, Caitlin Tan, visited the shop and brings us their story.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, in June, 2017, West Virginia University Medicine was studying a little-known approach to cancer treatment called narrative medicine. The aim was to improve the treatment experience for doctors and patients alike.

The idea with narrative medicine is that if doctors get to know patients through their life stories, the physicians will be able to improve their ability to care for their patients, beyond simply managing symptoms. It takes time to sit down and record stories with cancer patients like Lacie Wallace, but the art of storytelling had lasting effects, especially for a patient’s family. Kara Lofton reports.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, reporters with Marketplace spent more than a year in central Appalachia. They were investigating how the opioid epidemic has changed as law enforcement began cracking down on prescription drugs. The series is part of a podcast called “The Uncertain Hour”. West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Trey Kay, host of Us and Them, recently spoke with producer Caitlin Esch. They talked about how it’s difficult to fight a drug epidemic through law enforcement alone.

Thomas, W.Va.: The Town the Arts (Re) Built

Apr 25, 2019
Purple Fiddle Facebook page

The downtown of this town of 600 sat nearly vacant until a music venue and artists began to create a new economic future for the former coal town. A new guide from the National Association of Governors says arts and culture can be part of rebuilding economies in rural communities.

The city of Thomas, West Virginia, like a lot of municipalities in the Mountain State, owes its initial development to coal.

Today, however, the downtown of the small town in eastern West Virginia has redeveloped in response to another economic sector – arts and culture.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A Glenville State College professor set out to turn his experiences working in a mental asylum into a novel.

Colonel Sanders, his wife Claudia, Winston and Dolly Shelton, Norman Rockwell, daughter Laura Shelton, Dick Miller (Colonel Sanders' driver) and son David Shelton at Rockwell's studio in Rockwell, Massachusetts.
Courtesy of Winston Industries

Winston Shelton passed away last week. Born in Nicholas County, he grew up in Clay and Greenbrier counties, and became an electrical engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur who was awarded 76 U.S. patents.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia looks at a disease that at least 2,000 former miners struggle with -- black lung. An NPR investigation found that miners are finding it tough to get help from doctors, lawyers, coal companies, and many lawmakers.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, West Virginians will soon be allowed to give more money to political groups in the state. Political donors will be allowed to give $2,800 to candidate committees, $5,000 to political action committees and $10,000 to state party executive committees.

Jim Antonini, an occupational health science researcher, fields a ball at shortstop for Chico's Bail Bonds. As team captain, Antonini is in charge of the always-entertaining game write-ups that recap the misery suffered by the Morgantown softball team.
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Spring is here and that means baseball season. This week on Inside Appalachia we’re taking another look at baseball throughout the region. We’ll learn about the history of early baseball in the coal camp towns of southern West Virginia and go inside the legendary baseball bat factory — the Louisville Sluggers. And we’ll meet a man who went from living in an isolated timber town in Pocahontas County, West Virginia to being a professional umpire for the Cincinnati Reds.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, a fire at a US Steel plant crippled its ability to control its air pollution in December. For three months, the Pittsburgh area was blanketed with releases of sulfur dioxide much higher than usual, and thousands reported suffering from poor air quality. Last week, the steelmaker finished repairing its pollution control equipment. For State Impact Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier reports that the worries about air pollution and its health impacts, remain.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This West Virginia Morning, Ken Burns joins us to talk about making the film, “Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns,” the impact it had on him, and what he has come to understand about the power of country music.

 


Courtesy of Evan Barlow

Ken Burns spoke to West Virginia Public Broadcasting about making the film, “Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns,” the impact it had on him, and what he has come to understand about the power of country music.


Jesse Wright / WVPB

“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”, a personal memoir by JD Vance, was on the New York Times Bestseller list for 24 weeks. After the 2016 presidential election, some people read the book, hoping to gain insights into the region. The book sold more than a million copies, and a Ron Howard film is now in the works.

In movies, the people and places of Appalachia are often made into an “other”. That makes it easy to both romanticize and look down upon the region. One example is the common joke many Appalachians are all too familiar with, when someone who isn’t from here pretends to play the banjo riff from “Deliverance”. In Meredith McCarroll’s book “UnWhite: Appalachia, Race and Film”, she examines the way the people of Appalachia are portrayed in films.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, 800 elementary school students gathered at Marshall University on Thursday for the 11th annual Brain Expo. Kara Lofton reports the expo is designed as an opportunity to bring science out of the classroom and give third-sixth graders hands-on learning.

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