Folklife Center Launches Italian Folk Cultural Series

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center on the shared main campus of Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College will launch the new “Appalachian Italian Folk Cultural Series” with a special event on Sunday, Nov. 11.

The Cultural Series will feature a presentation and display by Dr. Joan L. Saverino titled “Embroidery as Inscription in the Life of a Calabrian Immigrant Woman.” The event, which will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Folklife Center, also will include exhibit samplings of the Fiber Arts, an awards presentation and a savory and sweets reception. Admission to the event is free and open to the public. For more information, call (304) 367-4403.

The mission of the new “Appalachian Italian Folk Cultural Series” is to preserve the characteristics of Italian and Appalachian Folklife in West Virginia, to instill the importance of knowing about the region’s rich and diverse cultural heritage and to recruit students and the community at large to pursue cultural studies and issues in order to perpetuate society’s future.  Yearly presentations, authors’ chats and films in the series are being sponsored in part from the book royalties of “Italians in West Virginia” (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Press, 2011) by Victor A. Basile and Dr. Judy Prozzillo Byers.

Joan L. Saverino, Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife from The University of Pennsylvania and a native of Fairmont, will discuss and display the intersection of needlework, personal narrative, gender and artistic creativity in one woman’s extraordinary life in two unique yet similar regions (Calabria, Italy, and Central Appalachia, West Virginia). Anna Guarascio Peluso, Saverino’s great-grandmother, emigrated from San Giovanni in Fiore, Italy, to join her husband in the coal fields of Marion County. A lively close reading of this Italian woman’s lived experience and self-representation through her folk art provides the perfect context to discuss change over time in the social and economic lives of Italian women and the communities in which they lived on both sides of the Atlantic. A book-length manuscript of her work is being published by The University of Mississippi Press. Saverino resides with her family in Philadelphia and teaches at Arcadia University and The University of Pennsylvania.

Byers said that Saverino hopes, through her presentation, to encourage people to keep their family heirlooms and artifacts and to collect and preserve the oral history of their family.

Also during the event will be an awards presentation. Dr. Beth A. Newcome, historic textiles and costume preservationist, will be presented with the 2012 B. B. Maurer West Virginia Folklife Scholar Award. This award which annually honors a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the preservation and perpetuation of our Appalachian cultural heritage is named for Dr. B. B. Maurer (1920 – 2003), considered the “Father of Cultural Studies in West Virginia.” Newcome will exhibit examples of historic costumes and textiles throughout the Folklife Center as part of the event.

Newcome, who received her Ph.D. in Human Ecology with emphases in higher education administration and historic textiles research from The Ohio State University, is a native of Morgantown where she resides with her family. She has maintained a long professional relationship with Pierpont Community & Technical College where she is distinguished as Senior Level Professor of Textiles and Clothing plus Applied Design. Formerly Dean of Pierpont’s School of Human Services, currently Newcome is Program Coordinator for Applied Design and Director of Special Programs, which includes Museum Studies that she helped to develop. She serves as curator and researcher for both the Masquers Historical Costume Collection (1850-1990) and the Commodity Cotton Bag and Feed Sacks Collection (1920-1970).

About the photo: Dr. Joan Saverino will speak on campus on Nov. 11.