The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

Rosalind Patrice Harris

In Memory of Maureen Celia Mullinax (1962-2018)

From 2004-2007, Maureen worked with a variety of partners on a US Department of Education project that paired public school teachers with historians and filmmakers to produce digital documentaries in American history. Maureen led the media training and traveled with the teachers to Boston and Santa Fe, where she supported them in documenting historical landscapes that could be repurposed for their teaching. Maureen brought her international collaborative mountain region’s work to UK through screenings of her Appalshop work together with screenings of works of her international collaborators from Indonesia and China. By the time Maureen had returned to UK, she was well into completing her doctoral program in sociology. In carrying out the research for her dissertation, Maureen embedded with Robert Gipe and Higher Ground at the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, Cumberland, Kentucky. Ultimately, Maureen used the opportunity to understand the formation and unfolding of a process of community building and cultural resistance within the context of Harlan County’s history of social political engagement and resistance. Maureen received the James S. Brown Graduate Student Award for Research on Appalachia, in acknowledgement of her thoughtful-incisive dissertation research, “It’s about Being a Resident of a Place”: A Qualitative Case Study of Practicing Civic Engagement through Community based Arts and Oral History in Harlan County, Kentucky. Soon after graduating from UK, Maureen accepted a position at Xavier University. In addition to her teaching and research responsibilities at Xavier, Maureen was a member of a Faculty Learning Community made up of faculty from various departments at Xavier and members of the Urban Appalachian Council. Maureen brought her depth of experience and critical gaze to support the mission of the council in addressing a range of public issues including: environmental degradation, the business climate and economic opportunity, land use regulation and transit policy, politics, race relations, poverty, education, art, and culture, neighborhood and community organization, declining population and the “brain drain.” The overwhelming pain and tragedies within our communities broke Maureen’s heart and broke-open her heart. She embraced her path as a wounded healer with grace and soul, and she will be deeply missed.

Filmmaker, scholar, and arts activist Maureen Cecilia Mullinax, 56, passed away on Sunday, March 25, 2018, at her home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Maureen was a pioneer in trans-local cultural work to bring about social and political transformations within subjugated communities, both nationally and internationally. I had the deep good fortune to work with Maureen for close to thirty years. She became my research assistant when I joined the Department of Sociology at the University of Kentucky (UK) in the early 1990s. It didn’t take long before we became colleagues and friends as we colluded in a restive plot to nurture authentic community university partnerships for addressing pressing challenges within Kentucky and beyond. Maureen brought a precious, tender, open heart to her unrelenting work for social justice. Her fluid, creative, processual approach to research, teaching, and engagement was activist-artistry at its finest. Her work was acknowledged with commendations and awards while she was at UK, including the award for Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher. In 1998, Maureen became the Director of the Appalachian Media Institute, a project of Appalshop, Inc. This was work that both drew upon and nourished her deep creative instincts in tandem with her reach for true praxis. At Appalshop, Maureen managed award winning youth media literacy and leadership development projects for high school and community college student. She introduced the region’s youth to opportunities to take ownership of their roles in shaping dialogues in their communities about race, class, LGBTQ+ issues, and more. In 2004, Maureen shifted her position to Director of Appalshop’s Learning Center. In this role, she skillfully integrated an international component to her work with youth in the region by coordinating the cultural exchange of youth, regional educators and Appalshop artists with thirteen youth-focused media arts organizations from Indonesia. She also hosted and developed programming with Asian artists in collaboration with the Asian Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowship project. Through this international work Maureen developed rich and enduring collaborations with independent filmmakers. While at Appalshop, Maureen maintained a focus on nurturing authentic community-university partnerships.

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