Artists Bring Vision to ‘Celebrate Wheeling Invitational’

Will we see Suspension Bridges? Park landscapes? Businesses that are no more? The Ohio River or Wheeling Creek? Sculptures of historic mile markers? That remains to be seen when visions of Wheeling will dance right out of the heads of artists onto a canvas or into other media for the “Celebrate Wheeling Invitational” exhibit.

In honor of the Wheeling 250 celebration, more than 20 artists will bring scenes and impressions of Wheeling to life for the “Celebrate Wheeling Invitational” exhibit on display this month at the 3rd Floor Loft Gallery at the Wheeling Artisan Center, 1400 Main St., Wheeling.

A reception opens the show from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3. Guests can meet artists and peruse the art pieces, many of which will be for sale.

“The Old Is the New,” is an oil painting of the Flatiron Building on Main Street in downtown Wheeling by Greg Siegwart. A Wheeling artist, Siegwart is a member of Artworks Around Town, where he occasionally teaches oil painting.


The artists were invited to interpret Wheeling, said Chris Villamagna, arts and culture program manager for Wheeling Heritage, which operates the 3rd Floor Loft Gallery and also owns Weelunk. “This is another event to add to the multiple events the Wheeling 250 committee has created,” Villamagna noted.

The past several months have been full of celebratory and educational events including a gala, art exhibits, a parade, pop-up history programs and much more.

Jay Frey, chairperson of Wheeling 250, commented, “The concept of this exhibit is very appealing to me: local artists creating images to convey what Wheeling 250 means to them. I think it’s an interesting complement to our programming efforts to tell Wheeling’s stories.”

Wheeling artist Robert Villamagna has entered two pieces that bring to life some of Wheeling’s past. “Shrine to Peking Garden,” left, is a repurposed lithographed metal, found object, photo transfer on metal with rivets. “Big Bertha’s” is repurposed lithographed metal, found wood, photo transfer on metal, nails, on panel. “Both of my pieces relate to two businesses that are no longer here, but are part of Wheeling’s history,” he said.


The mission of the 3rd Floor Loft Gallery is to support local artists, Villamagna said, which in turn supports the community economically. “Artists need to have a venue.”

She’s looking forward to the artists’ visions of standard Wheeling icons — for example, the Suspension Bridge — but she’s also excited to see some “surprises.”

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“I always like to see what some people come up with that are what you’d never expect,” Villamagna said.

Natalie Kovacs, of Bethesda, Ohio, likes “to dip my toes in all media, but painting, drawing and embroidery are my favorites.” Her piece, “Tallman Mausoleum,” created with ink and colored pencil, was inspired by the architecture of Greenwood Cemetery. “It’s a historical staple of the valley and one of my favorite places to take a walk, so Wheeling’s 250th birthday felt like a great time to celebrate it,” she said.


While Villamagna didn’t have time to create an entry for the show, if she had, she said she would’ve contributed a piece of wearable art, made from Wheeling collectibles — things like pins, adorned with some beadwork. (Maybe she’ll do that for Handmade Holiday, a show set for Dec. 7 at the Artisan Center!)

A variety of media, including tin, mixed-media pieces, oil paintings, acrylics, watercolors and photographs, will be displayed.

Herb Weaver’s piece, “Welcome to Wheeling,” is made from a 250-year-old piano. He also used found objects from the area, including a relic from Mount de Chantal. The retired teacher and full-time artist specializes in ceramic sculpture. He noted that his three daughters attended the former school

Participating artists include Adam and Beth Bedway, Betsy Cox, Brian Fencl, Daniel Finsley, Al Fitzpatrick, Cheryl Ryan Harshman, Katie Holt, Natalie Kovacs, Eric Price, Jes Reger, Cecy Rose, Greg Siegwart, Georgia Tambasis, Lambros Tsuhlares, Robert Villamagna, April Waltz, Herb Weaver, Katie Welch and Alex Wright.

Kasia Nowakowska, a West Liberty student from Poland, will exhibit 20 framed photos of Wheeling, offering a visitor’s impression of the city.

Brian Fencl, a professor of art at West Liberty University, has entered two paintings from a series of works that focuses on “architecture, space and light around Wheeling.”

The exhibit will be available for viewing 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday through the end of October.

Having spent nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigal now serves as Weelunk’s managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.