Mercer County man preserves coal industry through art

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PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — A local man spent more than 40 years preserving the memories of coal tipples and coal communities.

Not everyone would look at a coal mine and be inspired to create a masterful work of art, but not everyone is J.R. Shuck.

“People from Florida see them and they think, ‘who in the world can see beauty in a coal mine or a coal tipple?’ and I say, well I can,” Shuck said. “I can just see the history, the historical aspect of it is the most important to me.”

Born in a coal camp in Mercer County, Shuck’s art depicts a time when life in Appalachia was driven by coal.

“That’s why its so valued by coal people,” said Shuck.

Shuck was not just raised by coal miners, he worked in the industry himself, in the engineering departments as a draftsman.

Three years ago, the National Coal Heritage Area authority honored his efforts with the Coal Heritage Achievement award for excellence in the arts.

“It surprised me,” said Shuck. “But I was honored to do it.”

However, Shuck said his coal paintings are only a small portion of his portfolio. Shuck is a veteran, and illustrates his respect for the military through life-like paintings. He also paints landscapes, and portraits, all of which have a story.

He now volunteers at the War Museum in Princeton, and his art is scattered throughout the coalfields. While the once thriving coal tipples and communities continue to disappear, Shuck remains devoted to preserving their memories.

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