Wheeling’s ‘Tin Man’ Profiled

Wheeling artist Robert Villamagna, who has been featured many times on the pages of the Life section, is receiving some well-deserved statewide attention.

Over the years, Villamagna has earned several awards on both local and state levels for his colorful, clever assemblages. He also is an assistant professor of art at West Liberty University and serves as director and coordinator of the university’s Nutting Gallery.

Now, Villamagna has been profiled in the fall issue of WV Living magazine which has dubbed him “The Tin Man” in recognition of his talent for using discarded pieces of tin and other metals to create brilliant works of art.

Several color photographs showing the artist at work in his studio and home, as well as shots of finished pieces, accompany the six-page feature article in the magazine’s WV Heritage section. The caption on one photo reads: “First you smile. then you think. That’s how Bob Villamagna’s work sneaks up on you.”

Describing Villamagna’s creations, writer Carter Taylor Seaton observes, “At first glance, the pieces may appear merely light-hearted and whimsical, and they are, sometimes. Beyond pieces of music or snippets of overheard conversation, his feelings on social issues also inspire his work.”

The article also reflects on the artist’s reverence and admiration for “used things.” The writer concludes, “So, look for Villamagna poking through a nearby flea market. He’s the bald guy in rectangular glasses buying all the vintage tin cans you passed by.”

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It’s always a great time when Tim Luke and Greg Strahm, the Appraisal Guys, come to town to appraise antiques and collectibles, with proceeds going to the Museums of Oglebay Institute. The pair also hosts other events during their week-long stay, and Strahm conducts cooking classes with delicious results.

During their “The Appraisal Guys’ Price Is Right” game and auction at the Mansion Museum Friday evening, Sept. 17, Luke commented that Wheeling is always one of their favorite destinations. And, of course, people in Wheeling love Tim and Greg!

Serving as one of the “celebrity” participants in “The Appraisal Guys’ Price Is Right,” I was paired with audience member Joel Pelaez of Wheeling. We tied for second – the game was fascinating, but difficult, this year!

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Interest and controversy are running high in the Ohio Valley these days, stemming from proposals for Marcellus shale drilling, combined with the spate of natural gas well fires in Marshall County and environmental concerns over the practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”

In light of the urgency related to this controversial topic, the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling is offering the first local screenings of the critically acclaimed film, “Gasland.”

The documentary will be shown in the library’s auditorium at noon Monday, Oct. 11, and at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18. Both screenings are free and open to the public.

A press release from the library states, “The HBO documentary uncovers some of the problems associated with the largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history, which has swept across the United States and the Ohio Valley … When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light drinking water on fire.”

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at: Comins@news-register.net