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Senior research scholar brings Appalachian culture to new life through stained glass

Piercing Lights, Silent Shadows: Stories of Appalachian Identity is on display through Nov. 3
Senior visual arts student Callie Thacker won the Creative Discovery Research Scholar Award in April. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to bring her vision of working with stained glass to reality and is now showcasing her work in the Birke Art Gallery.

The Stitch of a Quilt on a Barn in Appalachia (sculpture) by Callie Thacker

“I used the grant to fund the research within my project, along with the materials to teach myself a new medium: stained glass,” Callie said.

She has been working on the pieces in this show since she received the grant in late April, though she didn’t start physically making the artwork until early June. Prior to creating the artwork, most of her time was spent on brainstorming, collecting materials, troubleshooting and researching barn quilts.

Her sculpture The Stitch of a Quilt on a Barn in Appalachia was inspired by Appalachian barn quilts.

“This piece acts as a homage to Appalachia through the use of barn quilt imagery” - Callie Thacker

“I found this folk-style art form to be very curious, and with some research, I became infatuated with the historical richness and symbolism they embodied,” Callie said. “This piece acts as a homage to Appalachia through the use of barn quilt imagery.”

As a result of the research process, her video An Echo in the Hills was born. The video was inspired by the creative process of the grant itself and it documents Callie’s research.

“Throughout the research that I was doing for my sculpture, I found myself in beautiful locations throughout the region speaking with wonderful artists and individuals,” she said. “I created this short film to show what I experienced throughout the process, share several accounts of Appalachian identity, and express my appreciation to those who helped in making this project come to life.”

“Art is truly a passion of mine. It is something I can completely plunge into and never get tired of, which is really important when pursuing a career” - Callie Thacker

“Art is truly a passion of mine. It is something I can completely plunge into and never get tired of, which is really important when pursuing a career! I feel as if there is always something new to learn within this field, so it maintains a certain level of excitement for me.”

Her show partner in the exhibit is another grant recipient, Dawn Kushner.

“Once I heard that she also received the award, I reached out to see if she would want to talk about eventually exhibiting our grant work together,” Callie said. “Many months later, the Piercing Lights, Silent Shadows show came into fruition.”

Piercing Lights, Silent Shadows, on display in the Birke Art Gallery through Nov. 3, 2023, explores the interplay of light and darkness, hardship and triumph, and the intricate tapestry of Appalachian identity.

“Dawn’s work focuses on familial relationships and substance abuse, while my pieces highlight the importance of Appalachian culture and community,” Callie said. “By redesigning a small part of Appalachia in a way it’s not usually seen, I hoped to portray the beauty that I have grown to see within the specific artform, as well as the region as a whole.

“I hoped to portray the beauty that I have grown to see within the specific artform, as well as the region as a whole” - Callie Thacker

“This exhibition has given me a lot of experience installing my work in a professional setting, collaborating with other artists, and speaking about my work,” Callie continued. “This is my first duo show, which feels really big right now. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best way possible and gave me valuable experience for future endeavors.”

Callie says her ultimate career goal is to get her art out into the world.

Callie Thacker

“I think Marshall’s art program has done a tremendous job preparing me for a world outside of academics,” she said. “There is an immeasurable number of techniques, skills and professional practices that I have experienced throughout my time in this program — valuable aspects of being an artist that you don’t really think about, like exhibiting your work, collaboration and critiquing. I think my professors have been so beneficial in this learning process and have truly helped me become a better artist.”

Growing up in Ironton, Ohio, Callie said that Marshall University was kind of a family tradition.

“My family has always been a part of the Herd. Although we’ve come to Marshall for different reasons throughout the generations, I feel as if it really connects me with them in a way,” she said.

Her favorite part of Marshall has been the connections she has made during her time as a student. “I have had the pleasure of meeting so many creative people, many who I hope to know and work with for the rest of my life,” she said. “This community has been so supportive, and I owe a lot of my growth as an artist and individual to it. I love my people.”