Childhood experiences led the chairperson of the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission to become involved with the local arts community, and she wishes to offer the same opportunities to children and adults alike from the Mountain State’s Northern Panhandle and from East Ohio.
The fifth annual Wheeling Arts Fest is set this year for West Virginia Day, June 20, 2015, on the West Virginia Northern Community College Plaza along 16th Street. Festival sites also include West Virginia Independence Hall and the Ohio County Public Library.
“We don’t know as parents what our children will wish to become when they grow older, but I can tell you that attending the Pittsburgh Arts Festival when I was a child made a huge impression on me,” explained Wheeling resident Erika Donaghy, now in her fourth year as chair. “Those experiences really led me in a direction in my life, and that’s why I went to college for music, why I am involved with the Wheeling Arts Commission, and why I do what I do as hobbies too.
“I know there are a lot of people in this area who cannot travel to Pittsburgh or Columbus for the festivals in those cities, but since we have one here in Wheeling, they are able to attend,” she said. “A child could watch one of the demonstrations, or maybe one of the bands on stage made an impression, or maybe it’s one of the displays or activities the kids get to do during the Wheeling Arts Fest that guides them in the future. There’s really no way to know.”
The staff of Independence Hall, along with officials from the state and from the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp., will be on hand for a special ceremony to dedicate a statue of Francis Pierpont, one of the state’s founding fathers, at noon on the corner of 16th and Market streets.
“It was going to be a very special day to begin with, but the statue dedication definitely is going to add a lot to it,” said Donaghy. “The placement of that statue on that corner right in front of Independence Hall is going to be amazing, and it will most definitely fit right into what we will be doing right across the street.
“It will be more of a celebration this year because of the dedication and because they always do a wonderful job celebrating the history of our state and the role Wheeling played in West Virginia becoming the 35th state,” she continued.
Donaghy is confident the hundreds of hours she, the commission and committee members, and the volunteers donate throughout the year have made a big difference in the local community, and she expects this year’s event to continue the tradition initiated in 2011. The event has grown since the first year, and this summer Donaghy and commission members scheduled a stellar lineup of performers to celebrate all the arts. The spoken word, dance, music on two stages, theater, and visual arts will be featured, and all the festivities are free and open to the public.
LO-FI from Toronto, Ohio, leads off at 10 a.m. to provide gutsy electric blues performed on handmade cigar box guitars. Their microphones are made from beer cans, and old license plates were used to manufacture resonating guitars. Two Bridges, a grassroots, ground-floor band from Wheeling, will share music from its new CD, “Appalachian Soul” at 11 a.m. on the main stage in the middle of 16th Street.
The Iron City Aerial outfit, an acrobatic entertainment company located in Pittsburgh, is set to perform at 12:30 p.m., and again at 3 p.m. They will provide a breathtaking show that tells the story of a bird in flight, according to Donaghy. Founded by aerial artist Kelsey Keller, the company will perform on aerial hoops, hammocks, silks, static trapeze, and corde lisse.
Percussionist and performer Elec Simon, a native of Martins Ferry and a graduate of Buckeye Local High, performed for a few years on Broadway in, “STOMP!” He is a self-taught percussionist/drummer, and plays in Carnival in Bahia, Brazil, every year with Marivaldo dos Santos. He also travels the world with his own band, Elec Simon and Friends, and also visits schools where he holds anti-bullying assemblies. Elec will take to the Main Stage twice, initially at 1p.m., and again at 6 p.m.
Subscribe to Weelunk
Wheeling’s own Allegro Dance Company is set to perform at 4:30 p.m., and Soup Camel from Morgantown will be on the Main Stage at 5 p.m.
“The majority of the artists who participate in Arts Fest are from our Valley or our region, and we always book local musicians for the live performances,” she continued. “We believe it’s very important for us to represent our area, and there’s no way better to accomplish that but to showcase the people we have right here.
“Every year I hear from a lot of people that they had no idea the arts played such an important role here,” Donaghy said. “It’s also a way to get our artists and our local performers out there. It’s really a win-win for everyone involved.”
Surrounding the musical performances will be more than 30 artists and organizations selling their creations and offering demonstrations. Several culinary artists also will perform demonstrations and food and ice carving exhibitions. In addition, a plethora of presentations will be offered at three different locations.
10 a.m. – Poetry Open Mic with David Thomas (WVNCC auditorium)
2:30 p.m. – (OCPL) Soldiers & Sailors 6th Regiment USCT Drum and Fife Corps
3 p.m. – (OCPL) Musical performance and readings of Emancipation Proclamation, 13th Amendment, 14th Amendment, and 15th Amendment, plus a description of Wheeling’s Juneteenth Celebrations
“I do have a lot of memories from the Pittsburgh festivals I was able to go to, and I know I benefited from being exposed to so many different art forms and performers,” she said. “That’s exactly what we try to do for the Arts Fest here in Wheeling. Our goal every year is to gather the community so the public can see what this area and this region have to offer them as far as the arts are concerned.
“The arts have long been an important part of the Wheeling community, and this area has so many wonderful organizations that make it a very enjoyable place to live and work,” Donaghy insisted. “And our art community provides so much for children and their parents, so it’s very inclusive the way it needs to be.”
The 2015 Wheeling Arts Fest will be made possible by the city of Wheeling Arts & Cultural Commission, WesBanco Bank, the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley, the Wheeling CVB, Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp., the Ohio County Commission, and many other generous donations from the public, Donaghy reported.
She also said there remains a month before this year’s event if a member of the public would like to support the event in one way or another.
“We are very fortunate to have the great amount of support that we get each year for Arts Fest, but we can always use more,” she said. “If there are people who want to volunteer for the day, there’s plenty of time to get involved.
“And if there is someone who wishes to offer Arts Fest monetary support, they should know that we do our very best to stretch every dollar as far as it will go,” Donaghy continued. “Even if they want to get involved the day after this year’s festival is fine because we start planning next year’s event the very next day.”