by Melissa R. Meade
New York Times reporter Michael Cooper linked to our Anthracite Coal Region webpage on which we reported about the work of local Anthracite Coal Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania artist Bob McCormick. The article is in the Arts section of the April 5 New York Times.
Bob grew up in the same coal patch town as my grandmother in Schuylkill County called Big Mine Run. We spoke about this connection when we had a chance meeting at composer Julia Wolfe’s performance of Anthracite Fields at the Weis Center at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA on Saturday, April 1. Mr. McCormick, the grandson of a coal miner and a railway man, said Ms. Wolfe’s compositions “elevated our ancestors travails to a universal height.” Mr. McCormick also exhibited seven pieces of his art at Ms. Wolfe’s more recent Rider University, Trenton, NJ performances of Anthracite Fields on April 21 and 22.
Julia Wolfe’s haunting and masterful contemporary piece indeed honors our anthracite coal-mining ancestors including those who were child laborers called “breaker boys.” Ms. Wolfe won the Pulitzer Prize for this piece and has since won a MacArthur Genius Grant. I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Wolfe that day in Lewisburg. The composer told me that she is particularly touched to bring the work back to Pennsylvania amongst the people to whom it means the most because at each performance she meets people with connections to the mines.
We continue to collect and add voices to the Anthracite Coal Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania project to help shape understanding of the history, culture, and media representations of the Greater Anthracite Region. Please make sure your town/area is represented. We invite you to share a picture/pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr. You may post them directly to our page at https://www.facebook.com/AnthraciteCoalRegion/ or use the hashtag #MyCoalRegion and your materials will be reposted to our blog and to our Facebook page.
What kind of picture(s) should you post? Well that’s up to you: We want to build a collection of images that tell residents’ stories—past and present of the Anthracite Region. Photos of family, streets, mining, factories, both past and present-day streetscapes, buildings, coal-operations (past and present), churches and synagogues, religious activity, mining equipment, co-generation zones and culm, everyday life, ethnic activities, industry, deindustrialization, and anything else that tells YOUR story of the region.
Our current post is from local artist Robert McCormick. He writes to us the following:
“Hello, out there! I am an artist living and working in the Anthracite Coal Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The first piece shown here – ‘Almost Touching’ – drew inspiration from Girardville-born poet, Harry Humes’ beautiful tribute, ‘My Mother at Evening.’ The second piece, ‘Rust,’ pays homage to the harsh beauty that once characterized our ‘hard-coal’ heritage. I’m currently working on a monograph of my paintings that depict growing up in the region during the 1950’s – 60’s. Look for a release date in the spring of 2017.” #MyCoalRegion
Robert shared the following images of his work: