By Abby Studebaker
As April approaches, it brings with it a break from subzero temperatures and the start of yet another exciting National Poetry Month. OPA will kick off this yearly celebration of poetry with a reading, coordinated by our very own Kari Gunter-Seymour, in partnership with the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio on Sunday, April 8.
Located in Lancaster, the Decorative Arts Center puts on exhibitions every year with the goal of engaging and inspiring through the arts. Beginning January 21 and running through April 15, the exhibition Artists of the Winding Road A-Z will feature the work of 12 artists living and working in Appalachian Ohio.
From asphalt to repurposed materials, the art in this exhibition reflects the region and its diverse inhabitants, and it has inspired OPA to co-sponsor a collaborative poetry reading in Lancaster.
The reading, titled “Rise Up Appalachia: Voices From Southeastern Ohio,” will take place from
2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 8 and will feature poems inspired by the art in the exhibition. Twelve southeastern-Ohio poets, each inspired by one of the 12 artists, has crafted an ekphrastic poem in conversation with that artist’s work.
Poets are free to interpret the art and the theme however they wish. Just as there is no single Appalachian experience, there is also no single artistic experience.
“This project is about observation and reaction,” said Gunter-Seymour. “Is it political, generational – complex or simple? Is it angry, sad, happy? Is there pride or sympathy involved? Are some of us outlanders who have made a home here or have we been here all our lives? Are we teachers, church goers, waiters, mechanics, as well as poets? How has living in Appalachia impacted us, or does it?”
OPA is no stranger to collaboration and working across media. Visual art has the power to spark a poetic response and vice versa. Crossing boundaries, genres, and disciplines is one of the things art of any kind does so well. Gunter-Seymour, who is the founder and director of the Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP), an arts organization, says that this commitment to lifting up the arts and artists as awhole is what drew her to OPA.
“The moment I learned of OPA, I wanted to become a member,” said Gunter-Seymour. “I continue to be impressed with the ongoing commitment of OPA’s leadership and the variety of opportunities they provide to members.”
Because of her ties to southeastern-Ohio poets and her experience organizing arts events, Seymour was the natural choice to curate this reading.
Poets who will be reading include Cathy Cultice Lentes of Rutland, Eli Redfern of Athens, and Jane Ann Fuller of Logan, among many others.
Everyone is welcome to attend the reading and view the artwork that spurred it, and Gunter-Seymour especially hopes to see OPA members in the audience as we “brush off winter’s cobwebs and celebrate renewal.”
Entrance costs $10 at the door, or $8/$5 for Decorative Arts Center members who pre-register. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to view the exhibit before the reading begins. And a special printed program that features the poems will be available to attendees (quantities are limited).