Pound receives grant for monument to region’s labor history

July 2, 2024

Leabern Kennedy, Vice Mayor of Pound, leabernkennedytops@gmail.com

The town of Pound has recently received a $217,000 grant from Virginia Tech’s Monuments Across Appalachian Virginia program to construct a monument paying tribute to the region’s labor history. The proposed project, titled “Labor in Motion: Honoring the Voices that Shaped the Coalfields,” seeks to uplift and engage with the labor movement history of the coalfield region.

This project is being led by Pound’s town government, in partnership with Appalachian Voices, artists Dana Jo Cooley and Johnny Hagerman, and several local residents serving on a project advisory council. The proposed monument will be an amphitheater and decorative retaining wall at the site of the Church Street landslide and former Peoples Bank of Pound building. The project, which will be shaped and designed by Pound residents, will be unveiled in fall 2025.

“We are truly honored to receive this opportunity to create a monument in the heart of Pound, Virginia,” said artists Dana Jo Cooley and Johnny Hagerman. “As children of coal miners and residents of the Appalachian region, we bring our deep passion for the arts and a shared heritage rooted in the mountains of Appalachia. This unique monument will pay tribute to the region’s rich labor history while also fostering hope, creativity, inclusivity, and gathering. This collaboration, informed by community listening sessions, aspires to create a space that not only honors the past but also sparks limitless imagination for the future.”

The project site is currently being remediated and transformed into a pocket park for community recreation. The amphitheater will provide the town’s first performance venue for town events, including the Red Fox Storytelling Festival that will help uplift the labor narratives chosen by town residents. Community design meetings will take place in the fall and spring, and all design and narrative suggestions are welcome.

“My main interest is developing outdoor recreation opportunities for local citizens as well as potential tourists,” said advisory council member Debbi Hale. “I think the MAAV project will provide the town with a focal point! It will be a beautiful outdoor venue for art, music and storytelling, as well as providing a space to recognize veterans and folks who contributed their labor to build this community.”

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Monuments Across Appalachian Virginia is based in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech and is part of a $250 million initiative funded by the Mellon Foundation. The Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project began in 2020 to support public projects that reimagine commemorative spaces and transform the way history is told in the United States. MAAV is led by Dr. Emily Satterwhite of Virginia Tech’s Appalachian Studies Program and Dr. Katrina Powell of Virginia Tech’s Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies.

MAAV is proud to enable, support, and reward meaningful and extensive university-community collaborations. Through these collaborations, MAAV works to ensure greater participation in decision-making and governance by community partners. They are committed to collective, reflexive, and reciprocal working relationships through which new projects develop in coordination with organizations, constituents, stakeholders, and designers. Labor in Motion: Honoring the Voices that Shaped the Coalfields is one of nine MAAV Projects. To learn more about those projects please visit www.moremountainstories.org.