With her 44th birthday approaching in April, Dr. Hilary Brewster said she has recently decided to stay in Huntington “for the long haul,” and purchased her first house in the South East Hills. She is an Associate Professor of English at Marshall University and the Director of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program. As a proud Huntington transplant, she is originally from upstate New York and has lived in Huntington for around 10 years. 

Having lived in various other cities, Brewster says that her favorite thing about Huntington is the community and “small town” energy that the city encapsulates. “I lived in Philly for a long time, was heartbroken that the Eagles lost the Superbowl on Sunday. But here we are. Then, I lived in Columbus which is a medium-sized city, and, when I go back to those places now to visit friends, it just feels too big.” 

Brewster said she appreciates living in Huntington and its close-knit community. “Small towns make you feel connected,” she said.” I think that people, especially nowadays, feel this disassociation from society and we all just feel so disconnected.” 

This connection made by inhabitants of Huntington, according to Brewster, inspires and fuels the thriving local art scene. “People do not understand how rich of an arts environment that we live in,” she said. 

“I am active in local theatre. I am active in local dance. A bunch of us just performed at the Developmental Therapy Center’s annual Valentine’s fundraiser as backup dancers for one of the lip sync battles,” she said. “I would say the art scene here is really fabulous.” 

Brewster said her favorite ways to celebrate the arts in town, outside of attending events presented by Alchemy Theatre Troupe, include visiting the Huntington Museum of Art and attending the semester-long Birke Fine Arts Symposium hosted by Marshall University. 

As a member of Alchemy Theatre Troupe, Brewster notes the group as her favorite “Hidden Gem of the Jewel City.” According to Brewster, it is one of the only year-round theatre companies for adults in the region. She said the group performs musicals, plays and also gives new writers the opportunity to have their work read for the first time in front of an audience. “Everyone is welcome to get involved whether it is tech or auditioning or just coming to see our performances – I highly recommend Alchemy Theatre Troupe.” 

Brewster performing with Alchemy Theater Troupe's production of Return to the Forbidden Planet

Along with the local art scene, Brewster said she is pleased with the local political climate and feels seen by her representative, to which she credits as being another positive to living in a town of Huntington’s size. “Huntington has a great city council and has some great nonprofits that are really trying to make the community better,” she said. “The fact that I can text my city councilperson, I am friendly with our mayor, and I am friends with the DJ on one of the best radio stations illustrates that small towns have their perks!  

However, Brewster said that she believes Huntington is missing something that would be an asset to the city – an indoor dog park. “On rainy days like today where there are all these people with dogs who are not going to take them to walk in Ritter Park, wouldn’t it be great to just take them to the indoor dog park where they can run around, and all make friends? That would be one thing I would love to see happen here,” she said.  

Brewster and her dog at Harveytown Park (Brewster, 2017)

As a professor at Marshall, Brewster says her experience as a part of the Huntington community is multifaceted. “I came to Huntington most directly from Columbus, Ohio where I did my PhD at Ohio State, and this is my tenth year at Marshall,” Brewster said. “I just cancelled class last Tuesday for maybe the fifth time in my entire life. So, my students are a statistical anomaly.” 

She is passionate about her job as a professor and Director of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program. Tonight, Friday, February 17, is the annual semi-formal fundraiser, and on-campus Prom hosted by the program. 

“I got the idea from a colleague whose students have been saying that COVID-19 ruined their high school prom,” she said. Although her prom experience was not ideal – a story she promised to share at the event – she has advice for students and community members interested in attending the event. “I wish I had known that prom would be more fun, like, my actual prom, with a bunch of friends than trying to have a date and the expectation of all that. So, come with your friends!” 

In addition to organizing the semi-formal fundraising event, Brewster is looking forward to March – Women’s History Month. She invites all community members to the 15th annual “Body Shots” multimedia performance, revealing this year’s theme as “Holler,” addressing the complexities of the Appalachian identity on Friday, March 24. Brewster is also excited to welcome New York Times bestselling author and cultural critic, Mikki Kendall, on Wednesday, March 29, as she presents the 2022 Charlotte Schmidlapp Distinguished Lecture in Women’s Studies. 

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