PRESENCE EXHIBITION: A Virtual Tour Within Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center

At Weelunk, we’re all about keeping you connected to your community. Since that looks a little different right now, we’re bringing you ways to engage while staying safe and healthy. We hope Weelunk can continue to connect you to Wheeling — no matter where you are.

As many would expect, because of social distancing measures associated with COVID-19, Oglebay Institute‘s brick-and-mortar sites are currently closed to the public. However, we’re working with OI to take their latest art exhibition, “Presence,” and bring it to you at home.

“Presence: An Exploration of Aging Through Art” examines the universal, yet intensely personal, experience of growing old. Through painting, photography, sculpture, written word and mixed media, artists from throughout the United States explore a broad range of perspectives — from thriving lifestyles to the harsher realities of aging. “Presence” provides insight into the physical and mental aging process, challenges us to rethink how we perceive age, highlights the therapeutic benefits of the creative process and examines the role of elders in our society.

  • Rouberta Rousos’s sculpture Tenuous Legacy stands in front of Isadora Kosofsky’s photo documentary, Senior Love Triangle.


Although there are artists participating from all over the country, four of the artists featured in the exhibition are Wheeling natives. Thomas Wharton painted a series of four self-portraits, exploring man’s mortality and existence among the physical, emotional and spiritual worlds. Jean Och also submitted a collection of paintings that she had created throughout her life, one of which she did as a 6-year-old child. The other two local artists, Debbie Joseph and Robert Joseph, are both sculptors. They each have unique and beautiful ceramic work that is displayed throughout the exhibition.

  • Wharton's series, Late Quartet. Titles from left-right: Void, Philosophy, Crucible and Metaphor.



The mission of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project is to “improve the quality of life of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia by facilitating creative expression through poetry.” Gary Glazner is the founder and executive director of the APP, and he personally visited Wheeling to teach his methods to members of our community. For a project specifically designed for the “Presence” exhibition, Glazner hosted an interactive poetry workshop with students at Wheeling Central Catholic High School and Triadelphia Middle School. After a two-hour workshop, the students took what they learned and applied it at two local health care facilities, Elmhurst — The House of Friendship and the Continuous Care Center at Wheeling Hospital. This video is displayed at the exhibition and captures not only the process but the impact that it had on all of those involved.

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Michael McKowen, Oglebay Institute’s curator of exhibitions, shared his thoughts on the exhibit’s importance below.

“I believe a public art space should invite exploration, and a fine arts center should serve the community as a place where all people can gather, learn and experience. By presenting topics that affect every human being, we provide opportunities to explore and understand our humanity.

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Curator: Michael McKowen

“Presence; An Exploration of Aging Through Art offers insights on an aspect of life that contributes to the definition of humanity — aging. Every day in America, 10,000 people turn 65. We are experiencing a population boom. People are living longer and stronger. This growing demographic asks us to rethink how we perceive age. With this exhibition, I hope to provide a variety of perspectives on what it is to age. Through the work of artists from across the country, the show provides opportunities to explore the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the aging process as well as the roles of our elders within our society. 

“One of the facets of the show that I feel is very important is the use of art as therapy for senior citizens. This is a topic that the NEA has brought to the forefront in recent years. Some of the benefits for seniors include: a feeling of control, social activity, improved cognition, sensory stimulation and a fostered sense of identity.

“Through photography, paintings, drawings, sculpture, pottery, video, poetry and mixed media, this exhibition hopes to take away some of the stigmas and fears many people associate with aging and allows us to appreciate what it is to be human.”

-Michael McKowen


In a time when it’s easy to feel disconnected, Oglebay Institute is doing all it can to serve and engage the community. They are utilizing social media to provide a wide range of online classes and activities that are all open and free to the public. All of the activities listed below will be accessible through OI’s Facebook page.

Nature Time with the Schrader Center
Every day at 3 p.m. you can enjoy a short video on plant, animal or tree identification, feeding demonstrations and other cool nature-themed topics.

Listening Through the Lens: The Musical Portraits of George J. Kossuth 
The Museums of Oglebay Institute will digitally share George J. Kossuth’s photographic portraits that immortalized internationally renowned musicians, singers, composers and conductors who visited Wheeling in the early to mid-1900s. A different portrait and bio will be shared every day at 10 a.m.

Towngate Memories
At 1 p.m. each day, Towngate Theatre will share photos, videos and newspaper clippings from past productions. Also, some of their fabulous volunteer actors will talk about some of their favorite roles and share monologues and songs.

Storytime with Miss Cheryl 
OI Director of Dance Cheryl Pompeo will read some of her favorite dance-inspired children’s books on Facebook every evening at 7 p.m.

Online Dance Classes
OI’s School of Dance is offering free online classes through a private Facebook group. Classes include ballet, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, dance sampler and more. Contact Cheryl Pompeo through the Oglebay Institute Facebook page or at if you are interested in joining the group.

Online Art Instruction
Stifel Center Director Rick Morgan will provide online pottery instruction. Learn how to center the wheel, watch demos on making a mug, a bowl and much more. Director of Art Education Brad Johnson will share hands-on art projects that kids can do at home. Look for their lessons every Wednesday at noon.