My grandparents ran a photography business, first in Salem, W.Va., then in New Martinsville, for decades. By the time I came along, it was just Grandma, taking portraits in her studio by appointment and spending a good deal of her "free" time painting or experimenting with sculpture.
In the photography studio, Grandma could do things with light that still elude me, despite many attempts. Photography was an art to her, as much as her paintings. Somehow, that need to turn simple photographs into more than just snapshots - into art - has become a bit of a family trait. As a child, my sister's photographs were so good, her entries in a contest were questioned, because none of the judges believed she had not been helped by an adult.
When technology became available to send digital photos off to a company that would print them on stretched canvass, I went hog wild with my own prints. But the thought crossed my mind, my goodness, what Grandma could have done with those.
Her canvasses were covered in oil paints, however, and those, in turn, covered her walls. The portrait she painted of my great aunt was magnificent. The bust she sculpted of my father is eerily accurate. My sister and I both have inherited paintings that receive pride of place on our own walls.
Grandma didn't learn the skills that helped her transport her artistic talents from the photography studio to the easel in expensive private lessons or as part of her formal education. She learned them in community arts classes, available right in her home county.
Though I have no idea who provided the funding for such programs back then, I can tell you similar programs are available right here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, and a great deal of the funding comes from organizations like Artsbridge. The group's mission is to "improve the quality of life in the Mid-Ohio Valley by promoting and supporting the arts through financial and technical support, and arts education in our schools and community." Its United Arts Fund campaign began a few days ago, with a goal of $75,000 in donations, to supplement money raised through grants and other sources.
Money raised for the fund is distributed to programs, artists and organizations that make up the local arts community. Those funds also help provide a local Arts Calendar, which features events such as today's "Convergence" art exhibition at Marietta College or the Spring Salon Series concert at 3 p.m. at The Castle. Monday's entries on the Arts Calendar include "Convergence" and a "Friends and Family" art exhibit at WesBanco, in addition to a 10 a.m. Mini-Monet art class or a 4:30 p.m. Muddy Mondays art class, both at the Parkersburg Art Center.
Artsbridge provides many more educational and enriching programs, including fantastic work in providing a catalog of artists and performers available to enhance the curriculum at local schools. But today, partly because Grandma's painting called "The Woodcutter" caught my eye as I walked out the door on my way to work, I'm thinking of the treasures that might result from some of those community arts classes.
Art is a precious gift. In an area like ours there are many who understand that, and how important the arts can be to all aspects of our lives. I am confident those folks will do all they can to help Artsbridge continue its mission. But I'm sure Grandma would agree with me, there is no such thing as too much support for these programs. Their benefits are immeasurable.
The News and Sentinel still needs to hear from you about those Gems of the Valley who have been flying under our radar. If you know someone who deserves to be recognized, who is truly a gem of the Mid-Ohio Valley, please send a nomination to:
Gems of the Valley
c/o Christina Myer
519 Juliana St.
Parkersburg, WV 26101
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org