A Princeton art gallery is creating a more accurate, stereotype-free view of Appalachia.
By the end of chase bowman’s decade of living all over the country—which took him from Cleveland, Ohio, to San Francisco, California—he discovered his calling, and it took him right back to his southern West Virginia roots. Bowman had endured his fair share of jokes based on stereotypes associated with his home state. “Everyone thought they were the first ones to say these jokes, and they thought they were hilarious,” he says. “The older I got, the more it started bothering me.”
But Bowman didn’t know how he, as one person in a small town in a small state, could make a difference in how West Virginians are perceived by outsiders. That is, until he connected his passions for art and collecting with his desire to change people’s perspectives. And so, in August 2017, his Holler: Contemporary Appalachian Art Gallery was born.
Holler is Bowman’s art gallery, located in his hometown of Princeton. It showcases an eclectic and thought-provoking collection of multimedia art submitted by artists who are either from or have been to West Virginia. The result is a conglomeration of paintings and textiles hung on the walls, sculptures arranged throughout the rooms, and experimental work of all types that displays a refreshing and sometimes challenging new idea of how people perceive West Virginia and Appalachia.
Bowman looks for art from groups that have generally been left out of the Appalachian conversation—women, people of color, and the LGBT community, to name a few. But he’s not trying to portray West Virginia as perfect. “Not everything is positive everywhere you go. But you have a more complete view of history with the more perspectives you can get,” he says. “As an Appalachian, your culture is complex and beautiful and worth noting, and worth owning.”
Holler is open Friday and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and the rest of the week by appointment. @hollergallery on Facebook
written by Jennifer Skinner