Artsbridge program brings kids to art center, Actors Guild

PARKERSBURG – Wood County middle schoolers didn’t just look at art and watch demonstrations of theatrical costuming and makeup techniques Wednesday during the inaugural Arts Encounters program.

At the Parkersburg Art Center, students practiced watercolor techniques under the guidance of professional artist Virginia Killian. Across Market Street at the theater of the Actors Guild of Parkersburg, students tried on costumes from the guild’s current production of “Shrek The Musical” and applied makeup to simulate mouse whiskers, mustaches and other effects.

“Where’s my monocle?” top hat-wearing Blennerhassett Middle School sixth-grader Max Cain asked in a British accent after a classmate painted a black goatee on his face.

“I’m loving this,” said Cain, who is part of Blennerhassett’s theater program. “I, being an actor, am just in shock and awe of all this.”

Arts Encounters is a pilot program of Artsbridge, the nonprofit group that supports local arts and offers arts programming to students at schools in Wood, Washington and Morgan counties. It brought students from each of the six middle schools in Wood County to the art center and the Actors Guild “to let these students experience all aspects of art and art activity,” said Jane Irvine, Artsbridge director.

“Most of them had never been in the guild” theater, she said. “I’d say at least half of them had never been in the art center.”

Teachers selected 10 participating students from each school based on their interest in art and theater.

“We’d love to see it grow and have more kids involved,” said Kim Mathews, curriculum coordinator for Wood County Schools and an Artsbridge board member. She said Artsbridge doesn’t have offerings geared toward middle schoolers like it does at the elementary level.

One of the goals was to get students interested in art beyond what they have to take in school, and it looked like it worked for several kids.

Jackson Middle School eighth-grader Dwarkesh Patel said he was looking forward to trying some of the watercolor techniques discussed Wednesday at home.

“I learned a lot that I didn’t know before,” he said.

Van Devender Middle School sixth-grader Destiny Kittle said her behind-the-scenes tour at the Actors Guild got her interested in being in a play.

“It makes me want to participate in it,” she said.

Although she described it as a pilot program, from what she saw Wednesday morning, Irvine was already confident the Arts Encounters would return.

“I can tell we’ll continue it. It’s too valuable,” she said.

Mathews said plans are in the works for a similar event in Marietta later this year.