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The city of Huntington — seeking to bring together the creative mojo of local businesses, artists and musicians, celebrated the city’s culture with Localization, a pop-up show.
The event was started by Lilly Dyer and Heath Holley when they were art students at Marshall University.
Dyer said Localization began as a way to create opportunities for local artists. “It’s really hard to be an artist and a creative person in Appalachia,” Dyer said. “Being able to create Localization was a way to bring creatives together just to give people more opportunities to make work.”
Localization took place at CoalField Development’s West Edge Factory. The West Edge Factory is an old repurposed ceramic factory. CoalField Development is a non-profit with the goal of revitalizing Appalachia, largely by providing job training.
To Dyer, CoalField Development’s focus on community revitalization makes the West Edge the perfect place for Localization. “They’re doing great work there with the community and with Appalachia in general,” she said, “I think with their mission and our mission, being able to just ask them if we can have the pop-up show there has just been like a perfect fit.”
The Localization film festival showcased an hour’s worth of films. Four judges were present: filmmaker Tijah Bumgarner who teaches at Marshall; WSAZ Anchor Tim Irr; Director of the Alchemy Theatre Troupe Mike Murdock; and Huntington Mayor Steve Williams. Michael Valentine won first place for his film “Hive Mentality.”
This is the first Localization since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dyer says this Localization gives a glimpse into what artists in the Huntington area have worked on over the past two years. She said it was exciting to “give that space for people to showcase what they’ve been working on while in isolation, and being able to bring everyone together in a safe space to just connect again.”
Along with the vendors, around 20 artists showed their work as part of a curated show. Leah Gore, the curator, said the theme of Rebirth was chosen to evoke a Huntington renaissance. “We wanted to highlight Appalachian grit and our resilience,” she said.
“A room full of creation, art and music. It’s super special walking through that big space,” Holley said, noting the impact of “visual noise.”
“Everywhere you look is somebody just surrounded by what they spent so much time on making. They’re makin’ money doin’ what they doin.”
Gore called the event “a beautiful visual representation of our community and our individuals that are really focusing on their craft.”
She added: “I think it’s important to, as the audience, take a look around and appreciate others’ perspectives of life, how they’re living, and new ideas. It’s a visual representation of the times we live in, whether it be abstract, or physical, or subjective. It can be telling a story.”
As a means of guaranteeing access, Localization has no cover-charge. Dyer said the freedom and fluidity of Localization is key to its success. “They’re using that money towards other artists and being able to fund their work as well. Even if you are kinda broke at the moment, you’re welcome to come in as well. That connection itself of having people in person and having that experience is very exciting to me.”
More than 400 people attended this year’s Localization, and organizers said they expect growth next year.