June Exhibit Marks Milestone, Features Founding Artists
WHEELING — In June, Artworks Around Town will celebrate its 20th anniversary. It was founded by Susan Johnston, a Bethany resident at the time. She brought a group of artists together and through her energy and experience, formed a co-op which is now the oldest surviving one of its kind in the state. Under her leadership, the original group of 20 artists began exhibiting and selling artwork in June 1998.
The first gallery was in North Wheeling, on the corner of Eighth and Market streets, and was called Artworks in Old Town. The original membership was by invitation only. Jurying new members began the next month and artists were admitted as they came forth and submitted their work to a jury committee for approval. There were watercolors, oil paintings, drawings and pottery.
The original members were: Susan Johnston, Liz Neumann, Betsy Cox, Lenora Turbanic, Robert Sako, Robert Villamagna, Marilyn Hughey Phillis, Bernie Peace, Wes Wagner, Kathy Thompson, Janet Rodriquez, Deanna Taylor, Herb Weaver, Philip and Kathleen Van Voorst, Tom Doepken and Pat Temple.
After two years in North Wheeling, the corner of 12th and Market streets became the second home of Artworks. The space had formerly been leased to McDonald’s and then to a bar. Many member artists put in countless hours scraping black paint off floor tiles and repainting a black ceiling in order to open as an art gallery. It was not uncommon to have questions from customers in jest, “Can I have fries with this?”
During this time, the group grew in status and became a destination. Artworks stayed on 12th Street for four years.
In 2004, Centre Market welcomed Artworks Around Town. Artworks leases a large portion of the Upper Market House on the city-managed property. It was also the same year the organization was awarded its nonprofit status and became a corporation, which expanded the co-op’s ability to apply for grants and to better serve the community.
After Johnston moved out of town, Neumann took over the reins. Under her leadership, Artworks continued to flourish. Artists have come and gone, each one giving his or her own special gift to the community.
The Centre Market area has grown with Artworks, and both have enjoyed the flow of both local and out-of-town visitors through its doors.
June’s Gallery Hop from 5:30-8 p.m. Friday will honor the group’s original members, as well its 20th year of holding First Friday receptions. The works on exhibit will represent a selection of artwork from as many of the founding members as possible. The North Gallery will feature works by clients of Crittenton Services.
Outreach activities have been a longstanding priority for the group and have included brown bag lunches as well as Painting with Patients, first at Peterson Hospital and continuing under Janet Sheehan’s guidance at Wheeling Hospital’s Continuous Care Center.
Classes in watercolor, drawing and oils have been available for years at the gallery in Centre Market for a nominal fee and are open to the public. Fundraising events including auctions of artwork and lobster dinners have rounded out the group’s activities over the years. A popular and far-reaching weekend of events centers on plein air painting sessions and workshops around historic Wheeling.
In addition to featured exhibits in the main gallery each month, Artworks’ North Gallery is home to a changing exhibit by local schools or nonprofit agencies, such as the Sexual Assault Help Center. Finally, Third Friday at Artworks provides a concert venue for local and visiting musicians to perform for audiences. Recently, the Bridge+Tunnel Collective has taken over organizing the Third Friday events.
Regular gallery hours are Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the exception of Friday when the closing time is 6 p.m. On First Fridays, an opening reception typically is held from 5:30-8 p.m.