Mars Hill Co-hosts 42nd Annual Appalachian Studies Conference

Engage, sustain, and innovate. Words that often are associated with Asheville, but which sometimes run counter to stereotypes of the wider Appalachian region. Organizers of the Appalachian Studies Association Conference, happening next weekend in and around Asheville, plan to show how the city’s and surrounding region’s success in pushing back against those stereotypes can be a model to follow. The 42nd annual iteration of the conference is titled “AppalachA’ville: Engage. Sustain. Innovate.”

Mars Hill University and UNC Asheville are hosting the four-day conference March 14-17, 2019, on the UNC Asheville campus. It’s the first time in 27 years the conference has been staged in Asheville. 

“It’s hard to say who is more excited – the people who are coming or all of us who are hosting them,” said Carol Boggess, 2019 conference chair and retired Mars Hill University professor. “The ASA is held in a different location every year but always provides a welcoming forum where people can share experiences, discoveries, ideas, creative expression, and genuine hopes related to the Appalachian region.”

Regional music and dance will take center stage following the association’s awards banquet Friday night at the Crowne Plaza. Mars Hill University’s Bailey Mountain Cloggers, the Warren Wilson College Old-Time Ensemble, traditional musician and storyteller Josh Goforth, and “Southern Gothic Folk Singer/Songwriter” Amythyst Kiah will be featured in the Traditional Music and Dance Showcase.

“Full participation requires paid registration,” said Boggess, “but thanks to generous supporters, some events are open to the public. Throughout the conference, anyone can visit the Silent Auction, the Exhibit Hall, and the special collections exhibit in the library.”

In addition, several events on Saturday, March 16, are free and open to the general public, with no registration required:

  • 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Screening and Discussion of “hillbilly,” at the Reuter Center on the UNC Asheville campus.
  • 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Innovation Expo, Highsmith Student Union at UNC Asheville. The Innovation Expo, supported by the North Carolina Humanities Council, will feature a selection of area organizations and businesses that illustrate how people come together to identify needs, solve problems, build community, and strengthen the local economy. These organizations and businesses have been successful in engaging with communities in an inclusive and supportive way; sustaining our cultural roots, environmental resources, and values; innovating in ways that enhance and improve the life of the region.
  • 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Keynote Address in Lipinsky Hall, with overflow seating in the Reuter Center. Western North Carolina in Fact and Fiction: Words from Lee Smith, Ron Rash and Wiley Cash. Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author and UNC Asheville’s Writer-in-Residence moderates this conversation with award-winning writers of Southern Appalachian fiction, Lee Smith and Ron Rash. The keynote is supported by the North Carolina Humanities Council.
  • 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Poetry Reading at the YMI Cultural Center in downtown Asheville, Affrilachia y el Caribe with three poets: Ricardo Nazario y Colón, Shauna M. Morgan, and Frank X Walker.
  • 9:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. Old-Time Square Dance at the YMI Cultural Center, downtown Asheville. Everyone is welcome. The host caller will be Phil Jamison, director of Warren Wilson College’s Traditional Music Program, and the host band will be the Warren Wilson College Old-Time Ensemble. The evening will also include a guest performance by the Green Grass Cloggers.

Paid registration is available online at

In addition to Boggess as conference chair, MHU English Professor Kim Reigle is this year’s program chair, and several other MHU faculty and staff are serving on planning committees or as presentation reviewers. Among the presenters are MHU student Lindsey McIntosh; alumnus Ian Kirkpatrick; professors Ryan Bell, Brandon Johnson, and Ethan Mannon; Rural Heritage Museum director Les Reker; and retired professor Tom Plaut.

The Appalachian Studies Association was formed in 1977 by a group of scholars, teachers, and regional activists who believed that shared community has been and will continue to be important to those writing, researching, and teaching about Appalachia. The ASA is headquartered at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.