PARKERSBURG - Artsbridge saw a change in leadership with the new year.
Parkersburg native Mark Lanyon was named as the agency's new executive director in December, succeeding John T. Hoffman who retired last summer after nearly four years on the job. Lanyon became executive director on Jan. 3.
Artsbridge supports arts-related programs in Wood and Washington counties that range from educational and school-based programs and re-granting money to other arts organizations in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Parkersburg native Mark Lanyon, right, with Lee Rector, president of the Artsbridge Board of Directors, in December during the announcement of Lanyon’s hiring as the new executive director of Artsbridge. (File Photo)
Lanyon, 44, is a 1986 graduate of Parkersburg High School. He attended the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati and studied musical theater.
He also attended California State University where he is completing a degree in bio-medical engineering.
Lanyon has performed on Broadway with parts in "Grease" and "Babes in Arms," was in a national touring production of "Grease" and has performed in regional theater.
Before returning to Parkersburg in 2012, Lanyon spent several years working for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles as the program director in its medical division doing outreach work.
He created and directed the Early Intervention Program, identifying and helping newly diagnosed individuals access healthcare services.
He also devised a way to show how services were impacting patients and show the return these programs were having. It demonstrated how the programs were lowering infection rates, increasing health benefits for the patients and raising revenues for the foundation.
As he completes his first month in his new job, Lanyon said his time with Artsbridge so far has included "moments of panic," but it has also been going well due to the assistance of the staff and board of directors at Artsbridge as he works to get his feet on the ground.
While he has ties to the area and knew some of what the Parkersburg-Marietta area has to offer in terms of the arts, Lanyon said he has been surprised by the availability of and the desire for an artistic community.
"There is a real need for Artsbridge to serve," he said of local interest in the arts.
As a performing artist in the past, Lanyon said he knew much of what the local area had to offer in that regard, but he has been surprised in his first weeks on the job by the wide range of visual artists also active in the local community.
He mentioned a recent visit to the Riverside Artists Gallery in Marietta, which works to encourage and enhance appreciation of the arts in the community through education and display and sale of fine arts and crafts by regional artists.
Lanyon said that visit helped show him some of the wide range of artists present in the local community.
"I am surprised by the talent of the artists here, and the creativity," he said.
Looking ahead, Lanyon said he has a lot of ideas for things he would like to work on in the new year. One of the first is to work on developing closer partnerships with the various programs and agencies in the area which Artsbridge supports. The educational programs through Artsbridge are in good shape and have a good foundation, so he wants to look at other areas he can work on.
"The education component is there, it's solid and it works," he said.
As an example of his partnership idea, Riverside Artists will hold a casino night fundraiser, Lanyon said. He wants Artsbridge to take an active role in promoting and supporting that event.
"I'm actually going to be dealing blackjack for them," he said.
He wants to look at ways to do similar things with the various programs and organizations associated with Artsbridge.
"We can help promote and work together, we have common goals in mind. The stronger we can build those relationships - with the Actors Guild, with the Smoot, with the art center - the stronger it will make everybody," he said.
Lanyon also wants to restore a stronger Artsbridge presence in Marietta.
When it started more than 20 years ago, Artsbridge had active offices in both cities and a goal of creating a single Parkersburg-Marietta arts community.
That has changed over the years, but he is intent on restoring that dual focus.
"That's one thing I feel very strongly about rebuilding," he said.
Lanyon also would like to incorporate some of his own interests and experiences in possible new programs for Artsbridge. Through his studies in bio-medical engineering and physical rehabilitation,
Lanyon is interested in developing art therapy programs for people with disabilities.