The aim of the first Appalachian Arts & Entertainment Awards, which will air in March, is to highlight the diverse talent of the Appalachian region.

However, the public may have the choice of determining the winners of the competition by getting involved macarts.com on February 2nd to have a say in the selection of top performers and artists in eight categories.

Jill Hamlin, assistant director of fine arts at Mountain Arts Center, was in London last week to promote the talent competition and encourage local residents to vote for the winners in each category. It was featured in Forcht Broadcasting (SAM 103.9 FM and WNAV 96.7 FM) to explain the award program and encourage other artisans in the Appalachian region to make their selections for the event next year.

“The awards program is like the Grammys – we have musicians, dancers, singers and great hosts,” said Hamlin. “We picked the top 5 in each category and these range from the best radio DJ to the best tattoo artist.”

The top 5 finalists in each category will be announced on February 2nd and those who tune in can vote for their favorite entrant for the People’s Choice Award.

These finalists submitted their entries, with the winners being selected by popular vote. They are then put before a jury who are experts in their various fields. Judges are selected from Boston, Los Angeles, Florida, and other areas. The fields were narrowed down from 1,200 submissions. Other categories include photography, painting, sculpture, dance education, music educator, singers, authors, original songwriters, short films, radio and television personalities, high school bands and college bands. The musical selection varies from bluegrass to punk, from Americana to country and rock, gospel and reggae.

“We have categories for all types of music, art, writing, photography, music educators, and video production,” she added. “We just really want to shed light on ourselves and our heritage.”

Hamlin said the awards are a partnership between the Mountain Arts Center and the Big Sandy Community and Technical College. Tickets for the award program could be bought when visiting the Mountainartscenter or macarts.com.

“We have so much talent here and so often do we have that stigma of being uneducated and unrefined,” said Hamlin. “We want to show the talent of the people in this area – Appalachia is so often associated with Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, but the Appalachian Mountains actually stretch from New York to Mississippi and Alabama.”

The Appalachian Mountains actually extend into 13 states, from southern New York to Pennsylvania, to western and south Ohio, eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, eastern Virginia, central Tennessee, eastern North Carolina, and northeast South Carolina , Northern Georgia and Central Alabama and Northwest Mississippi.

“Appalachia is just one of many cultures, but the purpose of the awards – called APPYs – is to make us proud of who we are and proud of our art,” continued Hamlin. “Often times we feel we have no voice and we hope this inspires artists in the region to be proud of their legacy.”

Hamlin said the stereotype that is often imposed on people in the area is negative.

“Movies like ‘Liberation’ and ‘O brother, where are you?’ Don’t do us a favor, “she said. “The documentaries from a few years ago, where people in the area were labeled ‘Mountain Dew Mouth’, didn’t help either. We want to highlight our heritage. We have so many resources here – we make our own clothes, we do pull on our own food. If the technology were turned off, we would survive. “

This strength, she said, makes the people of this region resilient and resourceful.

“We have always taken care of each other, including our worst enemy. We would help them if they were hurt,” she added. “Appalachia nourishes the heart and soul. We are givers, we are educators and we want to emphasize who we are.”

Hamlin added that the organizers hope to expand the categories even further over the next year and encouraged artisans to submit their work. To do this, visit appalachianartsandentertainmentawards.com and fill out an online form to submit your listing. Artists can submit their work or be nominated.

For more information, visit the Mountain Arts Center at (606) 886-2623 or visit the website at macarts.com. The actual award ceremony will take place on March 20th at 7pm in the Mountain Arts Center. Tickets cost $ 25 to $ 40 each. Anyone wishing to attend events in person is asked to wear masks.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com