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Staff Bios

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Patsy Adams (top)

Patsy Adams is Appalshop’s Financial Administrator. Born and raised in Letcher County, KY, she joined Appalshop’s Marketing & Sales division in the late 1980s. She later served as Receptionist for Appalshop and was in charge of scheduling building events, conducting tours and a variety of other activities. She became Bookkeeper for the organization in 2004. Her previous experience includes helping to operate a day care center and bookkeeping for a coal trucking firm.

Elizabeth Barret (top)

A native Kentuckian, Elizabeth Barret is Director of the Appalshop Archive and a veteran documentary filmmaker whose work pursues an abiding interest in the history, culture and people of Appalachia. She is the producer and director of STRANGER WITH A CAMERA (2000) and works as a community-based artist. In her documentaries QUILTING WOMEN (1976), HAND-CARVED (1980), COALMINING WOMEN (1982), and LONG JOURNEY HOME (1987), Appalachians tell their own stories. These films have been screened at film festivals and venues worldwide. Barret is a recipient of a Kentucky Arts Council Fellowship in Media Arts, NEA Southeast Media Fellowship and Rockefeller Foundation Film/Video/Multimedia Fellowship. She is involved in outreach using her documentary STRANGER WITH A CAMERA, which premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast nationally on the PBS series P.O.V.

Dudley Cocke (top)

Dudley Cocke, Director of Roadside Theater, is a stage director, teacher, writer, and media producer. He co-directed Betsy, theater collaboration with Pregones Theater, Bronx, NY, which premiered in New York City in 2008. International work includes directing the company’s performances in the Czech Republic, directing Junebug/Jack for England’s Festival of the American South at London’s South Bank Centre, and conducting dance/story workshops for the Baltic Dance Festival in Poland. He has taught theater at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Cornell University, and the College of William and Mary, and often speaks and writes as an advocate for democratic cultural values. His policy remarks and essays have been published by the Urban Institute, Yale University, American Theatre magazine, Americans for the Arts, Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, the Community Arts Network/Art in the Public Interest, The Arts Politic, among others. He co-edited, From the Ground Up, Grassroots Theater in Historical and Contemporary Perspective (Cornell University, 1993), Journeys Home: Revealing a Zuni—Appalachia Collaboration (A:shiwi Press, 2002), and several of his speeches are collected in Voices From the Battlefront: Achieving Cultural Equity (Africa World Press, 1993). Red Fox /Second Hangin’, which he co-authored, is one of seven plays in Alternate Roots: New Plays from the Southern Theatre (Heinemann, 1994). Cocke is a board member of the Bush Foundation, St. Paul, MN; Imagining America, Syracuse University; RUPRI, Washington, D.C., and Appalshop. He is a founding member of Alternate ROOTS and the Global Network for Cultural Rights, and is the recipient of the 2002 Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities.

Evelyn Cosgriff (top)

A native of Letcher County, KY, Cosgriff brought a wealth of experience with her when she returned to the mountains in 2004. She studied at the University of Kentucky School of Social Work in Lexington, KY and Paralegal Studies at Sullivan School of Business in Louisville, KY.  She has lived in central Kentucky, Keokuk, IA, and Biloxi, MS, and has worked as a real estate paralegal and as a restaurant manager.  She joined the Appalshop staff in 2005 and works in grants administration and Appalshop's Marketing & Sales Department.

Tom Hansell (top)

Hansell is a documentary filmmaker and installation artist who lives and works in the Appalachian Mountains.  Hansell currently teaches Appalachian Studies and Documentary Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and has twenty years experience at the Appalshop media arts center working with students and adults to create media about their communities.  Hansell has taught community video workshops throughout the U.S as well as in China and Indonesia.   Hansell’s documentary work has been broadcast nationally on public television and screened at international film festivals.  He is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.  His documentary Coal Bucket Outlaw was broadcast on public television in 30 states.  His most recently completed documentary, The Electricity Fairy, premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2010.

Parker Hobson (top)

WMMT's Americorps-VISTA staff person for this year, Parker Hobson grew up in Louisville and holds a degree in Music from Davidson College.  He is also a songwriter and producer who self-recorded and self-released an album, "flat-footed ghost," in 2009 that some people thought was all right and other people probably didn't.  The lead singer from Concrete Blonde called an Italian restaurant in New Orleans where he once worked to say she liked it, though, which was "pretty cool."  He has toured nationwide in support of said music, won an award for music writing at Davidson, can generally fit through narrow spaces, is trying to pick up the fiddle, and won the Gene Kelly Award in Little League for Dancing in the Batter's Box.  He's also super excited and incredibly honored to be at both WMMT and Appalshop.

Zhivko Illeieff (top)

Zhivko Illeieff, who also goes by "Z", is Roadside Theater's Web Community Coordinator. He supports the company's web community through multiple platforms and plays a creative role in transitioning four decades of Roadside's experiments in theater and  social justice to the web. Zhivko joined Roadside in the summer of 2013. In 2010, he authored and co-produced a documentary about Bulgaria's democratic transition, social policy, and economic development before and after 1989. Originally from Bulgaria, Zhivko moved to the U.S. when he was 11 years old. Feel free to view his portfolio and contact him at zhivko@roadside.org.

Mark W. Kidd (top)

Mark W. Kidd, Ensemble Member of Roadside Theater, collaborates with Roadside staff on project legacy, including documentation, artistic initiatives, and project administration. He regularly conducts community radio and low-cost media workshops and produced a community cultural development residency with the tri-county Virginia nonprofit, Mountain Empire Older Citizens. He represents Appalshop in the Central Appalachian Regional Network, a group of diverse organizations working to identify and advance policy important to its six-state region. Mark serves on the boards of Appalshop and the Letcher County Community Foundation.

Rich Kirby (top)

Kirby is a long time WMMT staff member and producer. He had performed traditional Appalachian music and stories for 20 years before coming to WMMT in 1990. He has been involved in extensive documentation and recording of older musicians and done considerable work with traditional music in schools, both in Appalachia and in other parts of the country. In addition to his radio duties, he was music director of Appalshop’s Seedtime on the Cumberland Festival for three years. In 1989, he produced Lakutshon’ Ilanga: Mucis is a Healer, a 13-hour radio series on music in South Africa distributed nationally, and in 1997, he produced Seedtime on the Cumberland, a 13-part series of music from the annual festival, redistributed nationally in 2001. He has produced recordings for Appalshop’s June Appal record label, including recordings of National Heritage Award winners Lily May Ledford and Wade Mainer. For 10 years, he served as station manager for WMMT. His latest production work is A Fiddle Runs Through It, a radio series profiling the young musicians carrying on Appalachia’s music traditions and the older musicians they learned from. The series aired on more than 130 public radio stations. He has also produced Live at Appalshop, featuring music and short profiles of artists who have appeared live on the Appalshop Theater stage.

Anne Lewis (top)

Lewis's filmmaking work reveals working class people fighting for social change. She was associate director/assistant camera for Harlan County, USA, the Academy Award-winning documentary, which focused on the Brookside, KY strike of 1975. After the strike, Lewis moved to the coalfields where she lived for 25 years. Among documentaries she has produced, directed and edited are To Save the Land and People (SXSW, Texas Documentary Tour), a history of a militant grassroots environmental movement; Justice in the Coalfields (INTERCOM gold plaque) about the community impact of the Pittston strike in southwest Virginia; On Our Own Land (duPont-Columbia award for independent broadcast journalism) about the citizens’ movement to stop broad form deed strip-mining; and Chemical Valley EY, co-directed with Mimi Pickering, (P.O.V., American Film and Video Blue Ribbon) about environmental racism. Her documentary Fast Food Women, about women struggling to raise families in minimum wage jobs with no benefits, received national airing on P.O.V. and was part of a Learning Channel series of films about women by women. Other recognized work includes Evelyn Williams, about an African-American activist, coal miner’s wife and mother of nine (Juror’s Choice, Black Maria Film Festival, Margaret Meade Festival); and Belinda, about AIDS-activist Belinda Mason who spoke of the need for a collective response not crippled by homophobia, racism, fear or ignorance (CINE Golden Eagle). Her most recent Appalshop film is Morristown, a working class look at globalization from both sides of the US-Mexico border. In spring 2012, Lewis and Mimi Pickering will release their latest documentary, Anne Braden: Southern Patriot, an exploration of the life and legacy of this renowned racial justice activist. Lewis lives in Austin, TX, and is a Senior Lecturer teaching media editing at the University of Texas.

Shawn Lind (top)

Shawn Lind, a graduate of Ohio University, started working with Appalshop during the summer of 2005. Lind's first major production, "From Wood to Singing Guitar," had its world premier at Appalshop’s annual Seedtime on the Cumberland Festival.  Since then,  "From Wood to Singing Guitar" has had a strong national broadcast on PBS stations all across the country and several film festival awards.  Lind's current productions include a portrait style documentary about blacksmith's in the region ("Sharper Than Fire") and a character/personality driven documentary with innovative use of multiple art forms and artists.  In recognition of artistic excellence, Shawn Lind is the 2012 recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from the Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, which is supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Sam Neace (top)

A lifelong resident of Perry County, KY, Neace joined WMMT as Director of Community Engagement in 2012. As a boy, he tagged along with his father to the radio station where he worked, and the very first time he entered the broadcast studio, it was love at first sound. He has worked at college and commercial stations as a program engineer and on-air personality. In 2008, Neace battled testicular cancer. The cancer is in remission, and as a result of his fight, a great deal of his efforts are devoted to raising awareness and money for cancer research. Neace is also a published author of short stories and novels.

Mimi Pickering (top)

Mimi Pickering is an award-winning filmmaker and director of Appalshop’s Community Media Initiative (CMI). Her documentaries often feature women as principle storytellers, focus on injustice and inequity, and explore the efforts of grassroots people to address community problems that frequently reflect global issues. Pickering is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and two Kentucky Arts Council Artist Fellowships. Her film, The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man, was selected by the Librarian of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry in 2005. Other documentaries include Chemical Valley, an examination of environmental racism in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley after the Bhopal disaster in India in 1983, which aired on the PBS series P.O.V., and Dreadful Memories, an exploration of the life and times of traditional singer and radical songwriter Sarah Ogan Gunning. The Oral History Review described Pickering’s film Hazel Dickens: It's Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song as “a powerful tale told by one of Appalachia’s most reverent filmmakers working today…” As CMI Director, Pickering is coordinating the East KY Reproductive Health Project, a collaboration with AMI and young women from the region to create and distribute media telling their stories about reproductive health issues, and producing stories for Making Connections News, a joint effort with WMMT-FM to explore sustainable economic options for the coalfields.

Donna Porterfield (top)

Donna Porterfield, Managing Director of Roadside Theater for the past 32 years, also serves the ensemble as a playwright, dramaturge, and producer. She has been instrumental in the creation and documentation of Roadside’s highly successful community residency model and the model’s methodologies. In 2006-‘07, she worked with prisoners and corrections officers and their respective families, and with people living in communities where prisons are sited to write a play, Thousand Kites, from their stories, which premiered in Lebanon and Richmond, VA, Philadelphia, PA, and Jackson, MS. In 1998-2000, she led a residency with a women’s shelter in central Appalachia, in which she worked with staff and survivors of physical and sexual abuse to write and direct a play, Voices from the Battlefront, addressing domestic violence. Porterfield is producer of Roadside’s ongoing, 28-year collaboration with traditional Native American artists in the Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico; she co-authored the Roadside/Idiwanan An Chawe play, Corn Mountain/Pine Mountain: Following the Seasons, which toured nationally; and she co-edited Journeys Home: Revealing a Zuni— Appalachia Collaboration, a 112 page bilingual book with accompanying compact disc that probes and documents the collaboration. Porterfield’s articles have been published in High Performance Magazine, on the National Endowment for the Arts website, and in the book, The Citizen Artist: 20 Years of Art in the Public Arena. She has served as consultant to the National Endowment for the Arts, Kentucky Arts Council, Arkansas Arts Commission, Virginia Commission for the Arts, Urban Bushwomen, Alternate ROOTS, Southern Arts Federation, and Mid-Atlantic Arts Consortium, among others. In 2005 Porterfield was awarded an individual artist grant from Creative Capital Foundation.

Caroline Rubens (top)

Rubens joined Appalshop's Archive staff in 2007 to help safeguard and improve access to the organization's collections.  Her work at Appalshop has focused on cataloging, preserving, and securing safe storage for Appalshop's thousands of hours of moving image and audio material, as well as its photographs and institutional paper records. She is a graduate of New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program where she studied film, video, audio, and digital media archiving.   She is interested in the long-term preservation of community and independent media. Rubens is a New Jersey native, and is a member of the Kentucky Council on Archives and the Association of Moving Image Archivists.

Sylvia Ryerson (top)

Ryerson joined Appalshop full-time in 2010, as director of the Community Correspondents Corps, WMMT’s citizen journalism project. She currently works as a producer/reporter for the station, co-producing the bi-weekly news and public affairs show Mountain News and World Report. Two of her current radio projects include Making Connections News, a multi-media series highlighting the possibilities and obstacles for a healthy economic transition in the Appalachian region, and Prison Progress…? Mass Incarceration in the Coalfields, a seven-part radio documentary that investigates the impacts of prison growth in the mountains of Central Appalachia. Ryerson also teaches fiddle in the Letcher County elementary schools as a part of Appalshop’s traditional music program, and is has served as a media trainer for Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute. Ryerson is a graduate of Wesleyan University with degrees in American Studies and Music.

Robert Salyer (top)

Born and raised in the coalfields of southwest Virginia, Salyer was trained as a filmmaker at the Appalshop and joined the staff in 1998. He is producer, director and editor of SLUDGE, a documentary that examines a major Kentucky coal waste spill and its effects on the environment and community. He is currently producing BAD OLD DAYS, a documentary about Kentucky county politics.

Anthony Slone (top)

Born and raised in Hollybush in Knott County, KY, Anthony Slone’s family has made their home in rural eastern Kentucky for the last six generations.  Slone joined Appalshop as a film student in 1973 and in 1976 he received his first Finalist award in the American Film Festival for the documentary Nimrod Workman: To Fit My Own Category, a portrait of a coal miner, union organizer, and National Heritage Award Winner noted for his original songs and ancient ballads. In 1985, Slone received another Finalist award in the American Film Festival for Sunny Side of Life, a documentary profiling The Carter Fold, a musical venue created by Joe and Jeanette Carter at Hiltons, VA to carry on the music tradition of their parents A.P. and Sara Carter, of the singing Carter Family.  In 1993, Slone finished Homemade Tales: Songs and Sayings of Florida Slone, a portrait of Slone’s mother, an incredible singer and storyteller. In 1997, Slone filmed APPLEWISE, a video about a family's struggle to raise apples in a changing environment and economy. Funded in part by ITVS, this film was shown on most PBS stations in the country. Slone has filmed and edited a number of films currently in production.  His latest release is Whippin’ the Devil, a profile of a former Prohibition-era moonshiner in southwest Virginia.

Ada Smith (top)

Ada Smith is from Whitesburg, Kentucky and currently serves as the Institutional Development Director of Appalshop. She has previously served as Program Coordinator and Co-Director for Appalshop's Appalachian Media Institute (AMI.) Ada serves on the board of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) and is a founding member of the Stay Together Appalachian Youth (STAY) Project, a youth-led multi issue regional network. Ada was selected as a 2013 Arts & Culture Fellow by the Rockwood Leadership Institute. She can be reached at ada@appalshop.org.

Josh May (top)

Josh is a writer, producer, picker and grinner from Magoffin County, Kentucky, now serving as Appalshop's Communications & Marketing Director. Before joining the staff team, Josh served as communications consultant for Appalshop's Appalachian Media Institute as well as producer for June Appal Recordings. Send your genius marketing ideas to joshmay@appalshop.org.

Herb E. Smith (top)

Since 1969 when he was a high school student, Herb Smith has played an active role in Appalshop. Smith continues to make films in the area where he was raised. His films explore cultural, social and economic issues of the Appalachian region. His latest film, The Ralph Stanley Story, is a portrait of the mountain musician who had been performing for more than 55 years. Smith has also completed a film based on an essay by Kentucky writer Wendell Berry, Thoughts in the Presence of Fear. His films and videotapes have been shown throughout the country in venues from community centers and union halls to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. International screenings of his work include Paris, Berlin, Rome, Calcutta, Bombay and Chengdu.

Ben Spangler (top)

Spangler serves as the lead educator with the Appalachian Media Institute and is a recently returning native of Whitesburg, KY. He is an alumnus of Whitesburg High School and Morehead State University. His history with Appalshop ranges from being a volunteer programmer at WMMT, assisting with a variety of youth arts programs, and serving as an intern during the 2002 AMI Summer Documentary Institute. He is a fan of long sleeves and over-dressing for the occasion.

Jim Webb (top)

Jim Webb’s affiliation with WMMT goes back to December 1985, a month after the station went on the air. He joined the staff in June 1986 and has held a variety of positions. A native of Letcher County, Webb holds a Bachelor of Arts from Berea College and an MA from Eastern Kentucky University. He is a widely published poet and playwright whose work experiences include hospital purchasing, teaching, printing and publishing, managing a canoe livery, and operating a primitive resort. He is a founding member of the Southern Appalachian Writers Co-Op and the Tug Valley Recovery Center. He is involved with the Letcher County Chamber of Commerce, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Letcher County Tourism Commission.


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