Seeger Chapel steeple against an orange sunset

Milligan photography exhibit features churches in rural Appalachia

MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY, Tenn. (Oct. 25, 2022) – Milligan University will present an exhibition Oct. 29-Nov. 4 featuring photography by alumna Amy Shumaker. An opening reception will be held during Milligan’s Homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 29, 11 a.m.-noon, in the Milligan Art Gallery in Derthick Hall.  

Titled “Houses of the Lord,” the exhibition features photographs that document the individuality, diversity and history of Appalachian churches in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

“After studying the objective power of artistic photography, I wanted to preserve the patchwork of denominations that are spread on mountain tops, tucked in valleys and hidden by forests,” said Shumaker, a photography and graphic design major from Bristol, Tennessee, who graduated in 2020.

“The architectural microcosm of southern churches is worth documenting as it creates a timeline of our history and the overwhelming memories stored in hymnals and family Bibles.” 

Shumaker was drawn to the work of photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher who documented the architectural styles of turn of the century churches in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1959.

The Bechers photographed each building as objectively as possible, according to Shumaker, to show that every water tower, framework house and gas tank was an individual mark of socio-cultural beauty and a testament to the endurance of time.

“There are few institutions that can be as easily identified as an emblematic church on first glance, yet there is no written rule of what a church building must look like,” said Shumaker.

“Whether there is a steeple, a bell tower or a gym floor, the persistence and perpetuity of the church building calls forth a question that is somewhat difficult to rationalize: what is a church?” 

Shumaker’s exhibition is part of the alumni work that the university displays each year.

“It’s always exciting to see our graduates flourishing as artists and to see their creativity and skill on display in the art gallery for Homecoming,” said Art Brown, associate professor of graphic design. “It’s a privilege to invite them back to campus to exhibit their work.”

The event is free and open to the public. To learn more about Milligan’s visual and communicative arts programs, visit

Posted by Chandrea Shell on October 25, 2022.