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Humanities Center to present panel discussion, “Listening to and Learning from WV Artists”

The West Virginia University Humanities Center is proud to present a panel discussion, titled “Listening to and Learning from WV Artists: Taking on Community-Engaged, Collaborative Research in The Humanities” on March 28 from 4-6 p.m. in the Milano Room, Downtown Library.

The panelists include Erin Brock Carlson, assistant professor of English; Kandi Workman, programming manager for Tamarack Foundation for the Arts; Olivia Wertz, Ph.D. candidate in Literature, English; Jonna Leavitt, M.A. student in Professional Writing and Editing, English. The team members were 2023-2024 Humanities Center Collaborative Grant awardees.

The arts are an integral aspect of life in Appalachia, as artisans skilled in mediums from quilting to painting have documented the stories of their communities throughout the region’s history; however, artists in rural communities in West Virginia face challenges that affect their capacity to create and share their art. These challenges are felt especially deeply by artists who are members of marginalized communities such as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ+ individuals, disabled residents, and people experiencing poverty, addiction, or recovery. Artists from underrepresented backgrounds are often left out of mainstream narratives about the arts, resulting in a lower likelihood that they would benefit from programming designed to support creative economies. Artists from marginalized backgrounds living in already-underserved areas–including rural towns in West Virginia–are especially prone to their needs being overlooked and their stories being ignored.

The panel shares findings form an ongoing community-engaged research collaboration between Tamarack Foundation for the Arts and researchers in the Department of English. Over the course of two years, the team has held 13 listening sessions and three focus groups incorporating methods including collage making and participatory mapping. Panelists will highlight the important role that artists and creatives play in communities across West Virginia while sharing what they have learned about how artists, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, build coalitions through their art and community making.

Panelists will also reflect on their experiences designing and facilitating a community-engaged research project that spans across institutions, communities, and years, offering insight into the value of collaborative research in the humanities.