City Gets Creative at Arts Fest

WHEELING – The Friendly City showed off its creative side Saturday as an eclectic group of artists flooded the downtown during the third-annual Arts Fest.

Painters, sculptors, photographers, poets, designers, dancers and musicians were among the artists showcasing their talents all day at the Ohio County Public Library and West Virginia Northern Community College.

Outside of the WVNCC B&O Building, patrons browsed a diverse collection of paintings, photographs, pottery and jewelry, among many other works of art, in the open-air Artist Market.

Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commissioner Pete Holloway pointed out the wide age range among the crowd.

As a boy dinged on a xylophone under a tent nearby, Holloway said he was pleased the event could expose the arts to a young crowd.

Sitting in the center of the Artist Market, Holloway said the traffic through the event was steady all day – the crowd remained about the same size, but the faces were always changing.

Multiple bands and musicians performed on two outdoor stages and entertained guests throughout the day, while poetry and dancing were on tap inside the library. Also at the library, West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman led a creative writing workshop.

Back outside, the music paused as Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie presented the Harshman Distinguished Arts Award to the family of Beverly Fluty, a historic preservationist who championed the restoration of West Virginia Independence Hall.

Arts Commission Vice Chairwoman Susan Hogan said the festival was a local renaissance of West Virginia’s rich artistic history. Wheeling has many organizations dedicated to fostering the arts, she continued, and the Arts Fest provides a venue for all those groups to gather.

Hogan also noted the due to the excitement surrounding West Virginia’s 150th anniversary, the Arts Commission will celebrate Arts Fest on the Saturday following the state anniversary every year.

Inside WVNCC, actors read award-winning Wheeling playwright Jeremy Richter’s “Political Little Ones.” The play is based on the case of Lucy Bagby, a young Wheeling woman who was believed to be the last slave returned under the Fugitive Slave Act before the Civil War.

Wheeling Marketing and Community Relations Director Allison O’Konski said the Arts Fest is an opportunity for the city to showcase the talents of local artists, as well as to attract creative personalities from out of town.