The Randolph County Community Art Center has been providing residents of Elkins with art classes, art exhibits, cooking classes, concerts, gallery space, and many other art opportunities for the past 10 years. The organization will celebrate this milestone with its annual gala on Sept. 9.
Dr. Vic Thacker, Randolph County Community Art Center board chairman, said he doubted anyone could have envisioned that the center would grow to what it has become today.
In 2000, a meeting was conducted at St. Brendan Church, where the art center is now located. The meeting was intended to gather people in the community who had two purposes: who wishing to get a space to house a community art center and those who did not want to see the St. Brendan Church razed. Some of those people working for the greater good included James Wallace, Margo Blevin, Gary Schoonover and the late U.S. District Judge Robert E. Maxwell.
Above, originally St. Brendan Catholic Church, the Randolph County Community Arts Center will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Sept. 9 during the annual gala.
The group formed the Randolph County Community Arts Council, which was incorporated in August 2000. St. Brendan Church was purchased to house the art center in February 2001.
The renovations to the church took about 18 months and included the addition of restrooms and a new heating system.
"St. Brendan Church was built in 1927," Thacker said. "Through the renovations, it was our hope to make it good for another 100 years. Board member Gary Schoonover was at the center every day at 7 a.m. helping make sure everything was going as planned and keeping abreast of the work."
First meetings on saving the building
Randolph County Community Arts Council incorporated on Aug. 2
Mary McMahon named Administrative Coordinator in December
Purchased the building from the Diocese of Wheeling in February
Stalnaker Room named in honor of Roy and Margaret Stalnaker
Doug Van Gundy named Arts Center Director for 2002 2003
Maxwell Room named in honor of Judge Robert E. Maxwell
First Concert was hosted during the spring
First Classes were hosted in July
First Gala was hosted in September
Victor Thacker named Director
September Gala raises half of the amount needed to buy a grand piano
First Brown Bag with Gale Poe Howell hosted in October
First Annual Arts Center Members Exhibit hosted in February
Randolph County Community Arts Council received its non-profit status in April
First Messiah Sing Along hosted in December
Beth King named Arts Coordinator in January
First Randolph County Student Art Exhibit hosted in May
First Holiday Open House for Children in December
Beth King named Executive Director in August
First Summer Camps offered
First Family Concert Series began in September
First Holiday Arts Market in December
Hosted Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibit / Museums on Main Street Exhibit on WWII: Produce for Victory in November and December
Secured Save America's Treasures Grant in March
First Timber Flute Festival hosted in June
Established the Maxwell Gallery for RCCAC Artist Members
Established Lab Band Music Programs
Paid off the mortgage in March
Applied for and received the Certified Arts Community Designation for Elkins in March
Hosted Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibit / Museums on Main Street Exhibit: Roots Music / New Harmonies during the summer
Purchased 1 Park St. through generous donation on June Myles / Myles Family Foundation
Established Carol Lambert Judy Scholarship Fund and Classroom
10th annual Gala
10th annual Concert Series
Seventh annual Family Series
Will host Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibit / Museums on Main Street Exhibit; The Way We Worked during May and June
According to Thacker, the art center was blessed with many public officials who helped procure Budget Digest funds for the center.
"Mike Ross, Walt Helmick, Bill Hartman, Bill Proudfoot, Clark Barnes and now Denise Campbell have all worked to help make sure the RCCAC received funds if they were available," Thacker said.
The first classes that the center offered were in conjunction with the Elkins Parks and Recreation during its summer program.
"In the beginning, things just came together as everyone worked for the common good," Thacker said. "St. Brendan Church is a great historical building that became available at the right time, thus providing a space for the art center and preserving the church. The acoustics in the church are perfect for art center concerts, and the openness of the building is great for displaying art, especially large paintings and prints."
Susan Pell moved to Elkins to retire eight years ago. She was a teacher for seven years before arriving here and pottery was one of her hobbies.
"I was so surprised and thrilled that a small town like Elkins had such a wonderful place that offered a pottery studio," Pell said. "I took a class and then began teaching pottery for the RCCAC."
Pell said she is still amazed at the enthusiasm and creativity of the children and teens who take her classes.
"During my first class with children, I had my class all planned, and the clay laid out at each station for the students," Pell said. "The students all sat down and began working with the clay immediately. It was so thrilling to see the kids so eager to learn and improve their skills. Some of these students have been in my classes all eight years. I am so pleased with their progress and am fortunate to have the opportunity to see them grow into young men and women."
Pell said that some of the adults who have taken her classes have even purchased a pottery wheel or kiln for their home. She said she is so pleased that they are continuing their love of the art.
Beth King also started at the RCCAC teaching classes. She accepted the position as arts coordinator in January 2004 and was named executive director in August 2005.
"When I started teaching in 2003, I taught kids multimedia art classes, and Egyptian art in pre-K through eighth grade," King said. "I am pleased to now be the RCCAC executive director.
"Many great things have happened including paying off our mortgage in March 2009, just eight years after the building was purchased," King said. "It was a great feeling and a wonderful day. We are also happy to have acquired the property at 1 Park Street, a house made available through a generous donation by June Myles and the Myles Family Foundation. This property will be used to add a new pottery studio and other needed space."
According to King, the event that inspired the most visits has been the Smithsonian Institute Museums on Main Street displays. The art center has hosted three different displays in six years.
"The 2006 Smithsonian Institute traveling exhibit was 'Produce for Victory,' and we had people from all over and locally who contributed art, music, instruments and personal stories for this exhibit," King said. "It was very well received and well attended."
King also initiated the application and completed the work to give Elkins the designation of a certified arts community. This application was made through the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.
"This is a great award for the community," King said. "We were the third town in West Virginia to receive this honor."
King said she would like for anyone who has never visited the RCCAC to take some time to view an exhibit, or attend a brown bag luncheon, a concert or anything else that appeals to them to see all of the great things offered at the center.
"We are offering our bring a friend class, where if you and a friend both enroll together, the second tuition is 50 percent less," King said. "We also have a wonderful holiday art market sale on the first Friday and Saturday in December. And if anyone would like to attend our gala on September 9, tickets are still available."
"The RCCAC is a great facility which presents an average of 16 art exhibits a year, 25 concerts a year, and provides student education to over 700 each year," Thacker said. "It is hard to imagine what our area would be without this great venue.
"In the wake of the current economy, everyone is facing hard times, and the board of the RCCAC plans to continue to provide as much as we can afford to do," Thacker said. "We are having to tighten our belt, and we need the support of the community."
For additional information about the RCCAC, visit www.randolpharts.org or call the center at 304-637-2355.