By Gina Malone
The 42nd annual Appalachian Studies Conference returns to Asheville for the first time in 27 years Thursday, March 14, through Sunday, March 17. Conference events include talks by award-winning Appalachian writers, a screening and discussion of the film hillbilly, an exhibition of area organizations and businesses, and an old-time square dance. This year’s theme—AppalachA’ville: Engage. Sustain. Innovate.—looks at the larger region of Appalachia by focusing on its cities and financial centers.
“We’re excited to be hosting the largest and oldest annual gathering of scholars and activists studying and working in the Appalachian region,” says Dan Pierce, professor of history at University of North Carolina Asheville. “Asheville is the perfect place for this conference as the Appalachian Studies Association looks to the future of the region.” This will be the first time UNCA has hosted the event.
The Appalachian Studies Association encourages explorations, discussions, critiques and appreciations of “everything Appalachian, the region’s people, places, problems and possibilities,” says conference chair and Mars Hill University professor of English Carol Boggess.
The keynote address, Western North Carolina in Fact and Fiction: Words from Lee Smith, Ron Rash and Wiley Cash, is among the events that are free and open to the public on Saturday, March 16. It will be held at 4 p.m. in UNCA’s Lipinsky Hall, with overflow seating in the Reuter Center. Other free events that do not require registration include the screening and an ensuing discussion led by author Silas House of the award-winning documentary hillbilly at 11:30 a.m. at the Reuter Center; Innovation Expo at 12:30 p.m. at Highsmith Student Union; and a poetry reading, Affrilachia y el Caribe at 8 p.m. at the YMI Cultural Center in downtown Asheville, featuring poets Ricardo Nazario y Colón, Shauna M. Morgan and Frank X Walker. An old-time square dance will follow at 9:30 p.m. at YMI Cultural Center with host caller Phil Jamison, director of Warren Wilson College’s Traditional Music program. Warren Wilson’s Old-Time Ensemble will provide music and the Green Grass Cloggers will be guest performers.
“It’s hard to say who is more excited—the people who are coming or all of us who are hosting them,” says Boggess. The conference is sponsored by UNCA and Mars Hill University, with support from the North Carolina Humanities Council making it possible for some events to be free and open to the public. Full participation in the conference requires registration and a fee.
“The Appalachian Studies Association is especially valued for its conference which is held in a different location every year, but always provides a welcoming forum where people can share experiences, discoveries, ideas, creative expression and genuine hopes related to the Appalachian region,” says Boggess.
To find out more about registering for the conference, visit AppalachianStudies. org/AnnualConference. Registration onsite for all events throughout the fourday conference is $185 ($135 for students).