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80 Years of Inspiration

April 12, 2010 - Phyllis Sigal

That's a long time — 80 years.

Oglebay Institute has been inspiring us for 80 years in many areas — art, theater, cinema, dance, nature, the environment, music, history and more.

This weekend, beginning Thursday, at 8:08 a.m., the institution is "pulling out all the stops for its 80th anniversary, 'Imagination Celebration,' for a four-day, citywide celebration of art, nature and community," according to the celebration brochure.

I am quite excited to celebrate with OI, which has been inspiring me since I was 5 years old. I remember taking art lessons from Wes Wagner above what is now Spic-n-Span Dry Cleaners.

And when I was about 7, in Mrs. McCollough's second-grade class, I remember being enthralled when Hal O'Leary came to Steenrod School to read a Dr. Suess story. He was so dramatic! I went home wanting to be an actress.

A few years later, I was enchanted with Nature Camp. For several summers, my friend Nancy Kadar and I attended Junior Nature Camp, held at Camp Giscowheco. Every summer for about four years, I'd debate (driving Nancy crazy) ... do I want to go or don't I want to go? I always went. And always had a great time, learning about birds and snakes and creek life and plants, etc. It was so great to return year after year to see the friends we had made. And the two of us shared a very special bond because of the camp memories we made.

We graduated to being junior counselors one year at Junior Nature Camp. What fun that was!  We got a taste of what dealing with mischievous youngsters was really like.

Then we moved up to Terra Alta for mountain camp. That was definitely a learning experience. We had to pick special projects one year; Nancy and I prepared a whole dinner for our campmates from things we had collected in the wild. Buttered pokeweed and cattail roots were a couple of gourmet selections, as I recall.

Oglebay Institute became important to my children's lives years after my nature camp days.

Amanda became a beautiful dancer thanks to the instruction at Oglebay Institute's School of Dance. Then, she spent her high school years using her gift to teach dance to little ones, instead of having to work retail or flip burgers.

Both Leland and Amanda participated in theater with Parcel Players as well as in Towngate Theatre's regular theater season.

And I'm proud to say I've been on the board of directors of Oglebay Institute for close to 20 years, I think.

We are truly a lucky community that Oglebay Institute has continued to thrive over the past 80 years.

As far as cultural offerings to the people of the Ohio Valley, Oglebay Institute does an amazing job. On any given weekend, there's bound to be several events: a concert, a wine tasting, an art exhibit, a movie, a play, a lecture . ...

And this weekend? It's practically round-the-clock activities! Many of the events are free, which makes it even better.

I've already got my schedule filled up from Thursday morning's opening ceremony at the City-County Building until the celebration wraps up Sunday afternoon at the closing ceremony at the Schrader Center.

Here's just a sampling:

A Hot Glass Jam at the Mansion Museum; a Gourmet Lunch with the Arts at West Virginia Northern Community College; guided tours of the historic Stifel Mansion; wine tasting, dinner and gallery tour at the Stifel Center; "Night at the Mansion Museum" sleepover; "The Matchmaker" at Towngate Theatre; a Nature Camp Reunion at the Schrader Center; "80 Kicks for OI" dance line on National Road at the Stifel Center; Raku firing at the Stifel Center; a live music marathon at the Stifel Center; a campfire at the Schrader Center; and a nature walk and pancake breakfast at the Schrader Center.

Check out for a complete schedule of events.

And I hope to see you out celebrating somewhere this weekend!



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