West Liberty University alumni are making a big difference in Wheeling.
One recent graduate working to improve Wheeling in a creative way is Amanda Carney, the new manager of Cat’s Paw Art Studio, located at 2137 Market St. A custom matting and framing shop, Cat’s Paw provides artists and art students a new way to shop for supplies.
Carney earned her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies in May 2014, which allowed her to combine her two favorite areas of study — English and Fine Arts.
“When I graduated, I was looking for something to do afterwards with my degree. I visited New York City and looked at my dream school, New York’s School of Visual Arts, for my master’s degree. But when it came down to living here and making it work, I wasn’t so sure. As I began to consider the amount of debt I would take on to earn an MFA, I wondered if it would be smart. Then I began to think about what I could do here to make it work,” Carney explained.
“It seems like other young people feel this way too, wanting to make Wheeling more open to the arts so artists can make a living here. Centre Market is clearly getting better and growing, so when this opportunity arose, I took it,” she said.
Carney, who is 26 years old, lives in historic North Wheeling and rides her purple bike to work.
She is buying the business from her uncle Michael Turbanic who ran Cat’s Paw from his home and various other locations over the past 10 years or so.
Turbanic graduated from West Liberty in 1975 and also is a former employee of WLU, retiring as vice president of finance after 30 years of service in 2005. He went into the framing business as a way to assist his wife, Lenora, an active artist and art teacher in the Wheeling community.
Carney has been into art her whole life.
“I started to take it seriously in middle school and entered art contests. Then in high school I actually got paid to paint murals. One is on a wall of Woodsdale Elementary School still,” she said.
Carney is pleased to be running the art business, happy with the new location, and plans on adding art classes and workshops in the future.
Though her uncle was a self-taught framer, she worked at Michael’s, the arts and craft retail chain, for six years. But she’s quick to point out the real difference in a frame job at Cat’s Paw versus Michael’s.
“Because we’re artists, we are more familiar with many of the terms and tools of the trade. We take our time and use better materials to create the individual look that an artist wants. We are cost conscious too,” she said.
In fact, Cat’s Paw has gently used art supplies, frames, and easels for sale.
“We’ve also donated supplies to non-profits and sell our scrap mat board (large center pieces created when cutting out framing mat). I want to help artists and educators who are here in Wheeling and create a stronger community of artists,” Carney said.
An artist herself, she does a little bit of everything, but lately a lot of watercolor and gouache paintings. She does digital design as well and is associated with Artworks Around Town. She just participated in the Paint Historic Wheeling, plein air painting event organized by Artworks.
Carney and her uncle matted all the artists’ plein air paintings that resulted from the event and are now hanging in the Historic Centre Market art gallery. One of her paintings shows the exterior of her new shop and her trusty pink bike parked in front of it.
Her new old location is the site of a former computer repair shop and originally was a tile store. The building was constructed in 1901 and features many historic details that add to the ambiance of the friendly store.
She encourages arts students to call her or visit the shop’s Facebook and Instagram sites for complete information.
“I’m always asking artists, ‘What do you need?’ I’m trying to reach out to more artists, which is one reason I have a program that takes in gently used supplies and resells them. I offer the artist cash or trade. We also can make greeting cards or prints for artists,” she said.
One of the most exciting items she framed recently wasn’t original art but a souvenir pair of Grateful Dead tickets from the recent Fare Thee Well reunion show held in Chicago.
“They were beautiful,” she said.
Cat’s Paw is open from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. To contact Carney and discuss art supplies, framing, or her shop, please call her at 304.280.0043. Or find Cat’s Paw on Facebook or @cats_paw_art on Instagram.