Robert Gipe’s first novel, Trampoline, was published by the Ohio University Press in 2015. Described by the Washington Independent Review of Books as “jagged, dark, and honest, Trampoline is a powerful portrait of a place struggling with the economic and social forces that threaten to define it or destroy it.” His book is an illustrated novel that takes place in fictional Canard County, Kentucky and is considered to be a new American masterpiece. Additionally, his fiction has appeared in Appalachian Heritage, the anthology Motif volume 4: Seeking Its Own Level, and the online journal Still.
Gipe is currently the director of the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College in Harlan County, Kentucky. Since 1997, he has coordinated community-based arts programming for the college. He is the executive producer of the Higher Ground series of community performances, which bring community residents together across the divides of race, class, age, and county section to create theater out of local music and oral histories celebrating community strength and exploring challenges facing community residents such as drug abuse, racism, land use, and the uncertain future of the community.
Gipe teaches Appalachian Studies courses and has helped catalyze the college’s Honors program and coordinated the production of public artworks throughout Harlan County. In the past, he has also taught art marketing, English, and American Studies classes for Southeast. He is a faculty coordinator for the Crawdad student arts series, and the coordinator of Southeast’s participation in the Appalachian Teaching Project, a research and community engagement program of the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The community-based art projects Gipe has catalyzed have been the subject of studies by Alessandro Portelli (They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History, Oxford University Press, 2010), Maureen Mullinax (in Transforming Places: Lessons from Appalachia, University of Illinois Press, 2012), and Bill Bishop (The Big Sort, Houghton-Mifflin, 2009). Gipe is the former director of Educational Services at Appalshop, a media arts center in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and a scout for the Annenberg Rural Challenge, a philanthropic project for connecting rural K-12 curriculum to community cultural assets.
Gipe grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee, received his bachelors degree in English from Wake Forest University and his masters degree in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.