Just 2.5 hours from Asheville, NC and within 1.5 hours from Boone, a day trip to the small Town of Appalachia Virginia is well worth the trip. Located in the center of the Appalachian Mountains in what was once coal country, in today’s time, the Town of Appalachia is now becoming an arts town.
The Appalachian Mural Trail has recently added two of the Town of Appalachia’s murals to its growing trail of cultural mural art. A WPA, New Deal mural painted in 1940 by famed artist Lucile Blanch entitled “Appalachia” is located in the town’s post office. Lucile Blanch painted the art while staying in the busy town of Appalachia, a thriving coal town at that time.
The mural reflects the busy commerce of the day. She was a highly acclaimed artist, one of the few artists to receive a Guggenheim fellowship and also employed to paint a mural. She received the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1933, and from that point on her art was collected and was shown in a number of important galleries, notably the Whitney Museum.
Later on she helped build the Woodstock Art colony in New York. Blanch was “one of the most award-winning artists of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) period” and The Town of Appalachia was fortunate it was chosen as one of the spots where Blanch was dispatched to produce murals.
Lucile Blanch stayed in a hotel in Appalachia (now long gone) while painting the “Appalachia” New Deal mural. The only remaining piece of the hotel is a retaining wall. That wall is in process of becoming a large scale mural that depicts the history of the town, images that include the trains, the coal camps, and the activity of the past hundred years. This new mural is now being painted by Teresa Robinette.
Teresa is an enthusiastic Appalachian artist who has a Master of Fine Arts degree plus a degree in art restoration and has worked on over 74 murals throughout the United States. Teresa Robinette is also a new representative for the Appalachian Mural Trail for Virginia, West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. The Appalachian Mural Trail will be helpful in showcasing these remarkable works of art throughout the Appalachians.
“That makes this piece of art in this post office one of the most precious pieces of art in our entire area,” Robinette says.
She got acquainted with the AMT project when somebody got her riled.
An outfit called Asheville Now, she explains, promotes arts with tourism in mind across a regional swath reaching as far north as Charlottesville. Robinette said she asked, “How is it that our area (Southwest Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and Northeast Tennessee) is considered out of the Appalachia area?”
She didn’t much care for the response.
“I was told it’s because there are no relevant artists in your area. I said, ‘Excuse me?’ And so that led me to find out about the Appalachian Mountain Trail project and (Doreyl and Jerry) were thrilled to take a look at what we offer around here, and expand their network. I want people to see that, yes, we are relevant. I want people to see what we have. And you know, it’s just not nice to be told you’re not relevant.”
She said plenty of other murals abound across this region and the AMT will be a previously untapped tourism wellspring. “That may seem like raindrops in the ocean, but when you collect them all together, they do create an ocean.”
“We are Appalachia” is the town’s slogan. These words truly state who they are as a town, taking claim to the word ‘Appalachia’ combined with a bright future.
Murals of central Appalachia are treasures just waiting to be re-discovered. These cultural murals are relevant to a time period left behind and will find their place in the history of art in our nation. The Appalachian Mural Trail has created a platform to view and visit these works of art at muraltrail.com
The Appalachian Mural Trail is a dream come true for many artists of the Appalachian area. The mural trail goal is to place the, until now, non recognized art of so many talented artists of the Appalachian region and to draw new ‘art lovers’ into our mountain area as tourists on the mural trail.
The mural trail started in Clay County, NC and has now moved all the way up through North Carolina into Virginia with a new representative spreading the trail into West Virginia, east Tennessee and eastern Kentucky. The mural trail is an exciting, rewarding platform that is promoting Appalachian mural art to a world market.
Go to muraltrail.com and see for yourself.