Current Exhibition

Ode to a Forgotten People and Place, Faces and Families of Ohio's Appalachia 1971-1974
The imagery of photographer Vern McClish

Vern McClish's lens captures the essence of Appalachia, presenting a visual narrative of the individuals and families who worked tirelessly in the coal mines, contributing significantly to America's insatiable need for energy. Beyond the physical toll, the region has grappled with the ravages of poverty, family strife, and the devastating impact of the opioid crisis. Many images are accompanied with written descriptions of the moment that the image was captured. The exhibition serves as a testament to the unwavering determination and commitment of those who have called Appalachia home.

Through this exhibitions, the hope is to inspire a collective desire to support and assist the people of Appalachia. The goal is to create a platform for dialogue and engagement, encouraging positive action for the betterment of this resilient community, one that has never recovered from its difficult past.

Exhibition Opening: Saturday, February 10, 2024 from 4-6 pm

In the Artist's Words: Vern McClish

Appalachia is a region encompassing a large part of the central United States, including Southeastern Ohio. I had the great fortune of spending a few years in and around Athens, Ohio, where I attended college. I stayed after graduation to live and photograph these wonderful, generous and tough people.

Our industrial revolution was partially made possible because of the pain and sacrifices of these folks. Coal and the people that extracted it from the ground fed the steel mills and the power plants that helped to make us the wonder of the modern industrial world. And long before coal became a symbol for the contamination of our environment, these people were continually victimized by the coal industry's ruthless scramble for the almighty dollar, the perils of working under ground in abysmal conditions, and the neglect for the region regarding quality health care and education. Fifty years of alcohol and poor diets were a scourge, ultimately accompanied by the closing of the mines or downsizing of personnel. Moving from labor intensive deep mine extraction to even worse mining techniques for the environment like strip mining and mountain top removal, the Appalachian coal industry changed its people forever. Why didn't they leave or gain new skills? It's not that easy! Fifty years ago, I witnessed a depressed region and neglected people. When I travel back today, little has changed. And more recently, the horrible plague of the opioid epidemic ravished the area. Is Appalachia the "Canary in the coal mine of America"?

I was fortunate to get to know many of these people. They became my family. After gaining their trust, they gave me access to recording their very souls, through those eyes and faces in these photographs. Each photograph reminds me of a personal encounter with each of them. I hope you enjoy.