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Appalachian Program at SKCTC involved with Tri-City art project

The Trail of Storytelling Art Project is underway within the Tri-City area of Harlan County with the unveiling recently of the first portion of the program, an art piece that depicts a mailbox and was crafted from colorful tiles to form a mosaic. The three-dimensional mailbox tells the story of early immigrants that came to the area during the early years of the 20th Century seeking a new life.

mosaic art project(photo by Chris Jones)

The specific bits of the story that appears on the artwork were handed down from Dora Bell Keleman whose relatives aided immigrants in their transition to life in the area and helped them send mail back to their homelands. The mosaic mailbox is located next to Blairs Service Station on Main Street in Cumberland. The artwork is situated on a parcel of property owned by Andrew Keleman and features various pieces of tile which spell out excepts from decades-old correspondences that wrap their way around the eight-foot-tall mailbox.

Robert Gipe, a faculty member at Southeast Kentucky Community amp; Technical College who headed the project, was pleased to see the venture reach fruition and was effusive in his thanks for those who played key roles in getting it designed, built and placed at the downtown site. This piece of art celebrates the contribution of immigrant groups to the Tri-City area and is a celebration and recognition to those who brought their families to Harlan County to work in the coal mines, to open businesses, raise their families and who became a fundamental part of the community, he said.

The project is one of several to be constructed in the area and is the result of a collaborative effort between the famed Appalachian Program at Southeast, the Tri-City Heritage Development Corp., and the Cumberland Tourist Commission, among others. Gipe noted the project is funded by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Brushy Fork Institute.

Displays are also planned for Benham and Lynch with each town to have its unique physical mosaic -- a reminder of the areas rich history. For further information about the project, contact Professor Gipe at SKCTC Cumberland, phone 589-3130.