Photo Exhibit Featuring Miners Makes Local Debut

BECKLEY, W.Va (WOAY) – The Beckley Art Center unveiled its exhibit of photographer Builder Levy’s photos from the coalfields of West Virginia on Sunday.

After growing up and attending college in New York, Levy decided it was time for a change of scenery. He began his project in 1968 but didn’t finish capturing the coal industry in West Virginia until 2009.

“I wanted to see the rest of America and explore it,” said Levy. “I thought that the fantastic heritage of coalfield Appalachia would be a good place to see it.”

The exhibit only holds a fraction of his work, but it has already captured the hearts of guests who visited during its opening day. Guests included curious community members and subjects he photographed nearly 50 years ago.

Among those guests were the daughters of one of Levy’s subjects, John Mendez. The three women; Emelia Mendez, Linda Mendez Lambert and Gloria Chambers; brought the original photograph to the gallery. Before Sunday, they had never met Levy but were thankful for his work.

“You know its important to us because he was a hard worker and, like I said, he was a small man but he stood tall for everything he achieved,” said Lambert.

The gallery will be on display until March 29. Beckley Art Center is open Wednesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at