Photography Exhibit, Lecture Focus on Coal

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

During October, Fairmont State will host a photography exhibit by Kenneth Hassell, Associate Professor of Art and Chair of the Art Department at Elon College in North Carolina. The exhibition of his work focuses on the coal fields of Appalachia. The opening reception will be from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4, in the Brooks Gallery of Wallman Hall. Admission is free and open to the public.

"Hassell's elegant and eloquent images of the coal miners, their families and their environment will resonate with West Virginia viewers especially, although the beauty of the work is universal," said Marian J. Hollinger, Fine Arts Advocate for Fairmont State.

Regular gallery hours are Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For special viewing arrangements, call or e-mail Hollinger at (304) 367-4300 or

During his visit to Fairmont State, Hassell will also present a lecture on "A Life of Coal." The documentary photography presentation will take place on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 12:30 p.m. in Multi-media Room A of the Ruth Ann Musick Library.

The lecture is being funded by a National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education curriculum development grant, Coal in the Heart of Appalachia: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Science and Culture of Coal #0310653 and the West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State.

"A Life of Coal" is a long-term project that researches and explores the many facets of Appalachian coal mining culture as expressed in the coal camp of Dante, Va. Hassell is using traditional research of contemporary and historical documents and text, film and photographic archives, recorded oral histories, documentary photography and residence in Dante in conducting the project. The result will be a narrated presentation using digital media, an exhibition of photographs with recordings and text, publication of a monograph with text, images, oral histories and a documentary film in collaboration with writer Lee Smith.

Hassell teaches fine art photography and is chair of the Art Department at Elon University in the Piedmont region of North Carolina where he has an Associate Professor. He has given presentations on "A Life of Coal" at Elon and at conferences sponsored by the Society for Photographic Education and the Appalachian Studies Association. He founded the digital art program at Elon, and his scholarship has included a two-decade long photography project, "The Working Spirit," which celebrates the dignity and complexity of the common worker. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the North Carolina Arts Council, the Southern Arts Federation and Elon.

He received his M.F.A. degree in photography from the University of Wisconsin and subsequently taught at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Drexel University and Delaware County Community College.