Area Arts Community Celebrates

Happy 80th anniversary, Oglebay Institute!

The institute’s four-day “Imagination Celebration” concludes today. Area residents still have time to participate in festivities that are taking place at various Wheeling locations.

The newly-formed Wheeling Arts and Culture Commission organized some events to complement Oglebay Institute’s celebration, including the downtown murals project unveiled Thursday, April 15, at the former G.C. Murphy building. I like the new faux facade placed on the upper levels of the building’s Market Street side. It presents a stark contrast to the decrepit facade on the Main Street side, and shows what an improvement that real bricks and mortar could make to the structure’s appearance.

A number of members of the Wheeling Arts and Culture Commission envision the establishment of an annual city-wide arts festival, and they view this weekend’s celebration as a potential preview of coming events. The all-encompassing arts festival could be similar to the successful FestivALL held in Charleston every year.

Oglebay Institute and other arts organizations in the community have demonstrated the value of the arts, as a cultural force and an economic boost for the area. Two of the city’s largest and most successful arts organizations, Oglebay Institute and the Wheeling Symphony, were both founded 80 years ago, in the depths of the Great Depression. The foresight and fortitude of the founders should serve as powerful reminders of what can be, and is being, done in our community.

It’s time for those few folks with an Eeyore complex (remember the moping, woebegone donkey in the “Winnie the Pooh” stories?) to buck up, adopt a positive attitude and start helping the creative people who want to improve our town.

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When the Boston Marathon, the oldest and most prestigious foot race in the world, is staged Monday, April 19, Angie Zambito of Wheeling will be making her first appearance in the race. She will be joined by well-known Wheeling runners Tom Rownd and Frank Monteleone, among others.

Zambito qualified at the Pittsburgh Marathon last spring with a time of 3:29. Cheering her on at the finish line will be her mother, Maureen Zambito, and Angie’s boyfriend, Chad Hill, also of Wheeling. About 25,000 participants run the 26.2-mile race that begins in the rural town of Hopkinton and continues along a legendary course through eight cities and towns before finishing in Boston’s Back Bay area.

The annual marathon coincides with Patriot Day, commemorating the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord. Since Angie, her boyfriend and her mom are huge fans of early American history, they are looking forward to exploring the sites as well.

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A total of 450 people, including alumnae and former teachers, attended the final Alumnae Day gathering on the Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy campus in Wheeling last Saturday, April 10.

The private school closed May 31, 2008, and the remaining three sisters of the Visitation were to depart Wheeling Saturday, April 17, and head to their new home at the Georgetown Visitation convent in Washington, D.C.

Those attending the Alumnae Day Mass and dinner expressed a range of emotions, and if one tried to sum up their feelings in one word, perhaps “bittersweet” would be the best description of their experience that day. Of course, members of reunion classes were happy to see their classmates, many for the first time in several years. Younger alums enjoyed seeing their chums and teachers again.

For others, the emotions of the day left them speechless and unable to talk about their feelings. Some alumnae expressed sadness that other young women would not be able to have the same educational experience that they had at the Mount. Many were saddened and anxious about the still-undetermined fate of the school buildings. Others were angry that the school closed and that the property was being vacated, and horrified at the possibility that the historic structure might be razed.

One cannot begin to presume to know the thoughts of all Mount alumnae, but the comments on the newspapers’ Web site and on Facebook are telling. After Sister Joanne Gonter announced Tuesday, April 14, that Wheeling Hospital was “taking over” the Mount property, alumnae and supporters of the Mount expressed, in online postings, their feelings of sadness, resignation, anger and betrayal. Some felt betrayed that the announcement had not been made during Alumnae Day, and that, in their view, alumnae had been shut out of decision-making concerning the school’s future two years ago and the property’s fate now.

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Meanwhile, Glynis Board, an alumna of Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, is running for West Virginia Senate in the state’s 14th District. Currently, she works for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. We’re told that a campaign event, featuring a poetry reading and cake, is planned in the basement of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Moundsville, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 22.

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at: