American Roundtable: Appalachia Rising, West Virginia

Editor Nina Chase and report contributors Caroline Filice Smith and Elaine McMillion Sheldon present the report Appalachia Rising and discuss key themes and findings.

January 27, 2021
12:00 p.m.

Credit: Rebecca Kiger

American Roundtable is a new Architectural League initiative, bringing together on-the-ground perspectives on the condition of American communities and what they need to thrive going forward.

What do West Virginia communities look like when they move past extraction-based economies toward alternative land-based futures? How might West Virginians change the narrative about their state, away from a focus on poverty, environmental degradation, and stagnation, to an optimistic vision of equitable prosperity, ecological health, and renewed communities? How can West Virginia rethink its relationship to land, to prioritize the uniqueness and resilience of West Virginia’s people and places?

Join editor Nina Chase and report contributors Caroline Filice Smith and Elaine McMillion Sheldon, as they share findings and highlights from their American Roundtable report, Appalachia Rising. Their informal presentation will be followed by discussion on some of the report’s key ideas and provocations with American Roundtable Project Director Nicholas Anderson and League Executive Director Rosalie Genevro.

Learn more about the American Roundtable initiative.

Nina Chase is a principal and co-founder of Merritt Chase, a landscape architecture and research practice based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A native of Morgantown, West Virginia, Chase is a graduate of West Virginia University and Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She works across Appalachia to plan and design public realm projects, including regional park master plans, riverfront parks, and trail systems.

Caroline Filice Smith, whose family hails from Eastern Kentucky, is a researcher at Harvard University, where she is pursuing a PhD in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning. Her research is centered on debt, risk, and uncertainty in central Appalachia, with a focus on histories of infrastructural development and the ways class and racism intersect in the production of America’s rural and urban built environments.

Elaine McMillion Sheldon, a native of West Virginia, is an Academy Award-nominated, Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker. She is the director of two Netflix Original Documentaries: Heroin(e)and Recovery Boys. Both explore America’s opioid crisis with a focus on West Virginians who are providing hopeful examples of community-building across the state.


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