Open Hands Gallery opens

BOAZ – Breathing new life into old items and helping people find their place in the world through their creativity has led to the opening of a new learning center and gallery.

“Everything we have in the gallery has either been refurbished or built by our guys,” said Mark McCullough with the Open Hands Seed Project. “It is really amazing what unique things they come up with and do with what we can find.”

The Open Hands Seed Project opened in April 2011 and is a part of the Mentor Network/REM Community Options. After more than two years in the local community, the organization opened a learning center and gallery.

On Aug. 26, directors, supporters and members celebrated the grand opening of the Open Hands Gallery and Learning Center, located next to the learning center at 2242 Williams Highway, also known as West Virginia 14 in Boaz in the small strip mall near Keller Lane.

“The learning center is an off-shoot of our employee training center and the gallery allows the hard work and items created by our people to be fully appreciated and find a home,” said Jason Lynch, regional director of REM Community Options.

McCullough said their roughly 55 employees take items removed from old homes – such as doors, windows and furniture – and encouraged to use their creativity to make these items something new and useful.

“We have a number of windows repurposed into wall cabinets and coffee tables,” he said. “We also made a free-standing bar from 130-year-old windows and a counter that had been part of a downtown Parkersburg speakeasy during Prohibition.

“We think it is very important to not only repurpose these items, but every piece made, the builders are required to learn the historical value of the materials,” McCullough said.

The classes at the learning center, which is located directly beside the Kangaroo Kids Bounce House, will include stained glass, knitting, furniture building and painting, Lynch said.

“All classes will be integrated, so anyone who wants to learn how to do these things is more than welcome and we want to make it affordable so everyone can join us,” he added. “It is our hope that disabilities will disappear when the classrooms at the learning center are filled.”

The Mentor Network/REM Community Options has been in the Parkersburg area since 1999 and is one of the top 25 employers in West Virginia. Their goal is to “plant the seed of having a job that gives self worth to our workers.”

“So many of our people have been told they can’t do anything and that isn’t the case,” McCullough said. “We help our employees use their creativity as an opportunity to contribute to society.

“We are also teaching them and the community that old items still have value in this throw-away society,” he continued. “We don’t give up on our people or the history and value of the items they work with.”