It’s been a long time coming, but the general feeling among members is now is the time to get the arts and culture scene rolling in Moundsville.
The Moundsville Arts and Culture Committee began in June at the start of the new fiscal year. The members are very excited about what they have planned for the upcoming year, and they have already kicked things off at their first event.
“Right now, we have a city council that is very active in the community, and we realize the importance of arts and culture in a community,” Sara Wood, chair of the committee and also a new council member, explains.
“It’s a multigenerational thing, so we’re going to have kids’ events and things for the millennial generation to do and older individuals — we just want to create fun, positive experiences for people in our community and we also realize the economic benefits an Arts and Culture Committee can have on an area,” she said.
Moundsville’s city council decided to designate a portion of funding this year to an arts and culture program, which is a subcommittee of council.
Partly to thank for this committee and other recent changes in Moundsville is City Manager Rick Healy. The newly appointed official is very much on board with shining a spotlight on the arts in the city.
Healy began his new post on Jan. 2, and Wood also is a fresh face on council. This combination — along with other younger volunteers and committee members, such as Rick’s son Nick Healy — has paved the way for new ideas.
“It feels like we have turned the corner, and the positivity in town is strong,” says the city manager.
“The Arts and Culture Committee helps fill a void in the community and targets a segment of the population that probably has gone unserved — or even unnoticed by the city. This brand new committee has predominately younger people, and the ideas they bring forward are ‘younger’ and present options the city hasn’t considered.”
SURVEY SAYS …
One of the first things the committee did was present a community-wide survey through social media, and printed surveys were placed in specific locations around town. The surveys asked citizens what type of events they would be likely to attend. The categories included public art, festivals, music and theater.
The first two events are a result of the responses they received.
One complaint that committee members often hear is that there is nothing for young kids to do in Moundsville. The Arts and Culture Committee took that to heart, and their first event offered something that kids could attend with their families and friends, which also included a little art on the side.
On Aug. 30, the committee had their first “drive-In” movie at the Moundsville Riverfront Park. The popular film How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was shown on a large screen, and beforehand, kids were encouraged to participate in a “car contest” by decorating cardboard boxes to enter in a car show and win prizes.
Ginger DeWitt, vice-chair of the committee, initially came up with the idea of showing a movie for children. She tossed around the idea of having it at one of the local public swimming pools, but then the committee decided to include an art activity for the children along with it. And the turnout was beyond what was expected.
Families showed up with their lawn chairs, and kids were ready to decorate. All of the committee members were in attendance and were either popping free popcorn or handing out free beverages — which were donated by the Marshall County Family Resource Network. Volunteer Nick Healy was there making cotton candy for all, staying busy the entire night handing out cotton candy “tornadoes.”
Nick sees what is happening to Moundsville as being similar to the renaissance Wheeling began to see around 10 years ago. “There’s a demand for events, there’s a demand for cultural recognition, and there’s a demand for fun things for kids to do. These are the things we’re looking at to provide for the residents here. Moundsville looks different than it did 10 years ago. There are brand new playgrounds at East End Park and Ruby Street, 4 Seasons Pool has gone through some major upgrades, the baseball fields are being lined and dragged again, and there are dozens of upgrades in the works for the coming years.”
The turnout for the movie — around 150 people — proved that the arts committee is resonating with the people of Moundsville.
“With kids going back to school, we wanted to have a fun, relaxed, and free event for kids of all ages before summer is over,” Wood explained.
It’s not just the people of Moundsville the committee wants to attract to their new scene. They are trying to get the word out to all surrounding communities that Moundsville should be a place to consider when looking for something to do.
THE NEXT BIG THING
The next event the committee has scheduled is “Jefferson Fridays” — the first of which will take place Sept. 13 on the historic Jefferson Avenue in downtown.
The business area will be transformed into a live music venue, with a stage, lighting, food trucks and a beer tent. The popular band Hit Play will be on the stage at 7 p.m., and food from the Cheese Melt, Nana’s Pizzas and Pies, and Ideal Provisions will be available for purchase. People are encouraged to come and have a great time mingling on Jefferson.
These events will be held every month during warmer weather, and the committee is hopeful that it will bring people from outside the community as well. Rick Healy will be there, as his “commitment to be a visible city manager is ongoing” and “the thought of a couple hundred people on Jefferson Avenue having a sandwich and a beer, listening to music while talking with friends” really excites him.
Wood hopes that Jefferson Fridays will “draw attention to the arts, showcase our historical business district and provide a fun night of food and entertainment.”
Members are brainstorming about the possibility of art exhibits and different gatherings indoors throughout the colder months.
The committee is hoping to find more artists in the area. They want to identify who is doing what in terms of arts and culture in Moundsville and the surrounding areas.
“We want to support our artists,” Wood says. “Whether that’s making their events more visible, having some art galleries — even if you don’t have a business or an organization, but you have a hobby where you’re a woodworker or a painter — we want to know where you are and what you’re doing.”
The funding for the committee was designated by city council for one year and, at the end of that year, they will compile all the information to determine the impact the committee has had, and then petition for more funding in the future. The committee is hoping to keep most of the events free because they want the arts to be as accessible as possible for the public.
HOPING TO GROW
The Moundsville Arts and Culture Committee is looking to grow. Currently, there are about six consistent members, and they would love to see their numbers grow. Anyone interested should feel free to join a meeting and get on board to see what the committee is all about. The committee meets once a month at the Moundsville City Building. Those interested can reach out to Nick Healy or Wood. For information on upcoming events, follow the committee’s Facebook page.
As City Manager Healy sees it, “I want Moundsville to be a place people want to visit or move to, and a place where those who move here want to stay.”
• Kelly Strautmann lives out in the country of Cameron, West Virginia, and proofreads in the city of Wheeling. She has a supportive and talented husband and two ridiculous daughters who keep her busy and full of love.