In mid-February I was notified that my "Opera Houses of Appalachian Ohio Heritage Trail" project proposal was awarded development funds by Ohio's Winding Road, an initiative of Ohio's Hill Country Heritage Area! This is a special honor for me as the award will support my development of a strategy in thematized heritage tourism to cultivate public awareness and advocacy for opera houses in Appalachian Ohio - my first professional opportunity to serve the history, heritage and citizens of my home community.
Congratulations to all Ohio's Winding Road 2020 Seed Grant Winners!
I was born in Athens, Ohio, and grew up in a small village in Athens County among the rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, hidden away in the National Register of Historic Places "Little Cities of Black Diamonds" micro-region of boom-to-bust coal-mining towns. As post-extraction communities, rural and isolated, the area and its people are very despairing economically, socially and culturally. I'm really looking forward to the experience of connecting with my roots as an historic preservation professional and, discovering through the people and places I'll meet, a way that I greatly desire will lift up my neighbors with pride and hopefulness as well as introduce countless others to the singular natural and cultural landscapes of Appalachian Ohio, dotted with these architectural gems and cultural embassies of bygone coal-mining days!
In September 2019, I reached out to William Condee, professor of theater at Ohio University's School of Interdisciplinary Arts, about this 2005 book, "Coal and Culture: Opera Houses in Appalachia." Bill's research was a first effort in charting the geographical and contextual parameters of Appalachia's opera houses and will play a central role in determining the subject buildings and sites to be included on the heritage trail. He has generously offered his feedback along the way (and an interview for my blog)! I look forward to learning from the insights of his own journey through Ohio as well as the neighboring states of Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Thank you Ohio University Press & Swallow Press for my review copy pictured below!
Thank you to the review committee of Ohio's Winding Road Experience Product Seed Funds Program for making possible this first exciting step in concept development!
Concept Development - Opera Houses of Appalachian Ohio Heritage Trail
This project entails the concept development of the Opera Houses of Appalachian Ohio Heritage Trail (working title), a multi-phase tourism initiative showcasing historic opera houses of Ohio's Winding Road with potential to expand into other states as an inclusive network of opera houses in Appalachia’s coal-mining region. By design, the heritage trail concept seeks to connect and collaboratively activate (or, if activated, further bolster) these cultural embassies of coal boom days (recognizing opera houses both extant and non-extant) through community partnerships with local music and other cultural ecologies, historians, interpretive guides (including historically informed performance), historic preservationists, small businesses, local governments (music/cultural policy), etc. The addition of these cultural assembly spaces collectively presented as an authentic sensory experience and storytelling medium, thematized in their shared history, will contribute to and further enrich programmatic offerings of Ohio's Winding Road existing tourism infrastructure.