Featured Stories: Creativity in the Appalachian Highlands
These are the people, the organizations, and the projects that make the Appalachian Highlands so unique.
Featured Profile: Jocelyn Mathewes
By Angelica Ares
It is clear that Jocelyn Mathewes is as passionate about art as she is about her family. By trade, Jocelyn is a graphic designer, writer, and photographer, but the upheaval of a drastic move from Boston to East Tennessee eight years ago due to her husband’s job—not to mention other uncontrollable life events—changed her perspective about her career and her family. She became a “stay-at-home mom/fine artist.” The house they moved into didn’t have enough space for a darkroom, so being the resourceful and adaptable entrepreneurial artist that she is, Jocelyn decided to use what she had on hand and marry it with a traditional form of photography, using the sun as her main source of power. Light over dark, you might say. Which pretty much sums up Jocelyn’s whole personality.
Jocelyn’s mixed-media photography reflects and explores her experience, her interests, and her personal life. With a landscape as rich as the Appalachian Mountains, there is an abundance of natural influence surrounding Jocelyn every day. She has also used her motherhood for inspiration. Jocelyn’s work has been featured in museums, galleries, and community spaces across the United States and continues to make an impact with her vision of nontraditional art spaces to help further expose the community to the arts.
Jocelyn admits that growing up in Boston she came from a geographic and social place of privilege. The resources to create art and to view art were always in abundance. Her mother was also an artist, so her first exposure to the arts came at an early age and has been passed through generations. She participated in the Artist Residency in Motherhood (ARiM) from 2016 – 2019 and is a member of Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA). A map of her artistic journey to Appalachia includes the opportunities that were afforded to her through her earlier relationships with the arts community. Jocelyn believes that, although Appalachia is rich in tradition, heritage, and cultural arts, there aren’t enough “spaces” to view and sell the art that is created withing this abundant community. That is why she says that “there is a lot of opportunity to build from the ground up here.
For the past few years, Jocelyn has been instrumental in coordinating artist meetups to garner a sense of fellowship, growth, and collaboration within the art community. These meetups and her vision to create an alternative space for local artists has been temporarily sidetracked by the global pandemic, but she pivoted ably, using her resourcefulness and adaptability to create a space in her own dining room for local artists to show and sell their own work. She calls this venture EAT/ART Space and every session features not only an artist, but a local food purveyor of some sort. Jocelyn has been able to use social media and other digital channels to promote and further her vision for EAT/ART Space. She uses the physical space in her dining room along with the digital space as an additional resource for artists to share and talk about their work. She is a strong believer in artists advocating for each other, and she continues to share news and events that are vital to the arts community through her free newsletter, even though art events are mostly non-existent due to the pandemic.
“I am here to help because I like seeing what happens when you make the connections,” Jocelyn admits.
Jocelyn is also on the Events and Programs Advisory Board of Create Appalachia and continues her work to connect local artists with resources to help them advance their art endeavors. She has recently become the Social Media and Newsletter Assistant for Create Appalachia, and she approaches her work with organization, creativity, and a lot of joy. Her can-do attitude certainly serve Create Appalachia well during a time when COVID-19 has interfered with plans for starting up.
Jocelyn says, “Appalachian culture intersects with artist culture in that there is a scruffiness and resilience required for both and what makes them powerful. This region has lots of existing talent and potential for making an impact to an even broader geographic region.”
Jocelyn will soon be featured as one of the instructors in Create Appalachia’s Arts@Work Series, leading the session called “Using Social Media to Promote Your Creative Business.” It’s scheduled for Thursday, April 8th at 6 PM. To read more and register, click here
Is there an Appalachian arts story you’d like to see featured?
Tell us all about it!
We are always excited to find a new story to share.