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SouthBound: Robert Gipe On Making Art In Coal Country, And The Many Things People Get Wrong About Appalachia

Robert Gipe photo
Photo by Amelia Kirby
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Robert Gipe is from Tennessee, but he has spent most of his adult life teaching art and making art in the coal country of Eastern Kentucky.

He’s best known for his theater productions that bring in community members as actors and playwrights to produce shows about hot-button issues such as stripmining and opioids. He’s a consultant to the upcoming Hulu series called "Dopesick," based on the bestselling book about the opioid crisis in Appalachia.

Along the way, Gipe has written and illustrated three novels dealing with some of the same issues – the last book in the trilogy, called “Pop,” just came out last week. His characters have rough edges, tough problems, and big hearts. They’ve also been failed by a country that doesn’t know or care much about what happens back in the holler.

Robert Gipe cares.

Show notes:

Other music in this episode:

  • Mid-Air Machine, "Appalachia Coal Mines"
  • Blue Dot Sessions, "Coal Baron Blue"
Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary that airs every Monday. He's the author of "The Elephant in the Room," a memoir about life as an overweight man in a growing America. He spent 23 years as a reporter and local columnist for the Charlotte Observer, where he was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in commentary. He has also written for publications including Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Garden & Gun. He’s a graduate of the University of Georgia and was a 2008-09 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Tommy and his wife, Alix Felsing, live in Charlotte.