Parkersburg Art Center helps bring a dash of color to region

PARKERSBURG – Whether a toddler and their first finger-painting or an adult trying pottery, the Parkersburg Art Center has an opportunity waiting.

The center was established in 1938 by the Parkersburg Woman’s Club and is in its fifth location on Market Street.

The work of artists within a stone’s throw of Parkersburg lines the center’s galleries, while classes for all ages and studios for children comprise the center, all with the goal of inspiring creativity through education.

The Parkersburg Art Center is also a longtime recipient of Artsbridge United Arts funding, and this year it received a joint grant with the Actors Guild down the street.

“It’s not a huge amount, I think we got about $3,000, and we’re glad to have it and certainly appreciative of it,” said Executive Director Abby Hayhurst. “We’re using it to pay for bases for our display of three-dimensional artwork, because the bases get moved around and dinged up a lot.”

Hayhurst has been at the center for 11 years and has prepared for “The River,” a biennial juried exhibition that features 107 pieces by 60 artists, all professional, and from all around Ohio and West Virginia.

“What we’ve been doing for 10 years is “The Regional,” where area artists within a 70-mile range can display their work,” Hayhurst said. “But now we’ll be rotating both every year, and in “The River,” only professional artists can submit, which is anyone with a college degree who regularly competes in juried art shows.”

“The River” kicked off Sunday and features artists from here and Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, Charleston and Huntington, to among other areas, with cash prizes provided by the sponsors, Camden Clark Medical Center and United Bank.

In the realm of arts education, the center offers year-round classes for children and adults. In the summer, the center stays busy with nine weeks of Camp Creativity for children ages 4 to 19.

“They do themed activities, and this year the theme is art in motion for all ages,” Hayhurst said. “It really makes you wish you were young again.”

Jessie Siefert, the center’s education director, said the camp has seen recent boom of growth.

“In the past six years it has really grown,” she said. “We used to do just two weeks of camp, and now we have nine because of the demand.”

The camp sees about 250 children each summer with participants coming from as far away as Charleston.

“We try to hire public school art teachers who are off for the summer, and we also have a lot of community volunteers to help teach these kids,” Siefert said.

With a preschool and its wealth of camp activity, including weekly “Arty Parties” throughout winter and spring that are free of admission for children and their parents, Hayhurst said the center takes a lot of pride in the education it offers.

“The gallery shows are our haute couture, and it’s what we do, but our most important part is childhood education,” she said. “A child who has been exposed very early to art will do better in math and science and all other subjects.”

With everything from pottery to painting to building mobiles, 10-year-old Harper Lawrence of Parkersburg said it is where she likes to spend summer.

“I like being able to draw pictures of people and put in all the detail I want,” she said. “I could not come last year, so I was glad I could this year.”

Hayhurst said the center strives for highly professional, local art educators to keep its standards top notch.

“Our school systems are taking arts out of schools, and it’s terrible,” she said. “A CEO wants someone who can think outside the box and we’re taking away the one thing that guarantees that.”

For adults, in addition to painting and pottery classes held regularly throughout the year for both members and non-members, the center also offers “Fine Time” on Saturdays that allow adults to take art classes while sipping their favorite drinks.

“There really is something for all ages,” Hayhurst said.