Upshur County Board of Education members, Upshur County School Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus, fine arts and culture facilitator/educator Elizabeth Marshall MacVean and members of the Buckhannon Community Arts Center gather during the Jan. 11, 2022, Upshur County Board of Education meeting to announce their ‘pARTnership’ with the City of Buckhannon, the Buckhannon Community Theatre and ART26201. The BOE members voted unanimously to hire MacVean as the new fine arts and culture facilitator/educator to provide arts and culture programming for Upshur County students. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

City, Upshur Schools unveil new ‘pARTnership’ with local arts organizations for new fine arts/culture educator

TENNERTON – One can’t spell partnership without ‘ART.’

That’s fitting because art is at the center of a new four-way collaboration between the Upshur County Board of Education, the City of Buckhannon, ART26201 and the Buckhannon Community Theatre.

At its Jan. 11 meeting, Upshur County Board of Education members announced Upshur County Schools’ ‘pARTnership’ with the City of Buckhannon, ART26201 and the Buckhannon Community Theatre and subsequently voted to employ Elizabeth Marshall MacVean as the new fine arts and culture facilitator/educator.

The position, which is entirely funded by the Board of Education, is distinct from the Colonial Arts Center managing director position that city council has indicated it plans to hire. While MacVean, as the fine arts and culture facilitator/educator, will develop arts and culture programming for Upshur County students, the managing director will manage day-to-day operations, bookings and programming for the Colonial Arts Center as a whole.

Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner attended the Jan. 11 BOE meeting to thank board members.

“We are excited for this opportunity to work with Upshur County Schools in our Colonial Theatre, and we are very near completion on that project,” Skinner said. “We took on this project as a City Council about four or five years ago to create a space to enrich the arts in our community and provide space for educational opportunities for our youth. This partnership is a capstone as we kick off this initiative with arts in the community.”

Bryson VanNostrand, ART26201 president and founding member, said the group is a nonprofit organization in Buckhannon that promotes the arts.

“If you see public art around Buckhannon, we most likely did it,” VanNostrand said. “Seven years ago, we took on the idea we would take a dilapidated old movie theatre, which was currently a bar, and turn it back into a vibrant arts center. We convinced the City of Buckhannon that it was a worthy economic development project to happen in downtown.”

VanNostrand said since that time, groups have been writing grants and working hard to get the building renovated. Much of the funding has been provided through a series of grants from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, according to previous stories.

“We are just a few months away from final paint and finishes on the building,” VanNostrand said. “Honestly, renovating the building is the easy part; the hard part is finding people that can run it, envisioning the programming and filling the building with wonderful, creative things – that is the magic and that is the next big hurdle to overcome. So, for the BOE to partner with ART26201, the Buckhannon Community Theatre and the City of Buckhannon to put a person into the building to start this programming for youth, well, it’s a dream come true – one we have been dying for, for a long time.”

VanNostrand said they met Elizabeth Marshall MacVean, who was later approved for hire as the new fine arts and culture facilitator/educator position.

“I am jumping out of my skin,” VanNostrand said. “I could not be happier; we are so fortunate to land with someone who has such experience.”

Representing Buckhannon Community Theatre and the Colonial Arts Center Board, CAC board president John Waltz thanked the Buckhannon-Upshur community and the Board of Education.

“There is a term in improvisation I am reminded of which is ‘yes, and,’ which is used when two people are acting in a scene,” Waltz said. “Every time we have come to the BOE or talked to people in the community, they have answered with ‘yes, and,’ which has allowed us to go on and allows us to go on and keep on dreaming. This has been a day we could only have thought we would dream of a few years ago. I am dreaming about stuff kids will be able to do in that space and the opportunities it will create for children in our community.”

Upshur BOE Vice President Katie Loudin said as an artist and a longtime member of the Buckhannon community, she feels grateful.

“Partnerships take a lot of work and people do not know that,” Loudin said. “I am proud of all of these people who have come together with a vision for our children and our community, to elevate experiences that our children will have in that space. I want to thank this group.”

“We know there are layers of people behind us who have done this work with us,” she added. “As a BOE member, I am proud. As a theatre lover, as an arts lover, as a mom and as a community member, I appreciate all of you working together to make this happen.”

As part of the partnership, the Upshur County BOE voted unanimously to hire Elizabeth Marshall MacVean as the fine arts and culture facilitator/educator.

Skinner welcomed MacVean aboard.

“We are thrilled that she will be a part of our program,” Skinner said. “We look forward to the educational opportunities for the youth in our community.”

Waltz said when they began talking with the BOE about a partnership, they had the expectation they would be working together.

“The real excitement came when Dr. Stankus and the Upshur County BOE members wanted to push things forward,” Waltz said. “They found the opportunity and asked about putting a full-time educator into the theatre. The City of Buckhannon has been focused on putting a managing director into the center because there are so many things to manage, including booking the space and making sure the talent that comes in and out has what they need.”

Waltz said what the group really dreamed of was having someone in the space to work with students every day – someone like MacVean.

“That person would produce programming, would produce content,” Waltz said. “The candidate the BOE found was beyond our wildest dreams in terms of what is possible.”

VanNostrand agreed this is a dream come true.

“Fixing the building is the easy part but finding people run to run the place with creative ideas, filling it full of programming – that is the hard part,” VanNostrand said. “Now, for the first time in seven years, we are seeing who is going to be knocking it out of the park. Elizabeth MacVean is 50 percent of that formula, and the City of Buckhannon’s manager (managing director) will be the other half. With those two individuals at the helm, we can really wrap this thing up. It is really exciting.”

City of Buckhannon Recorder and Colonial Arts Center Committee Member Randy Sanders said he is excited about the pARTnership.

“It shows the progress we have made and caliber that we have attracted in our new instructor and the partnership with the BOE,” Sanders said. “It is phenomenal. We are absolutely thrilled. This is a big milestone. We are getting it done.”


MacVean said she is thrilled about the new opportunity and has been searching for a position like the one she accepted for years.

“I never thought it would be in my backyard,” MacVean said. “Upshur County has a lot of vision and a lot of stuff going on.”

MacVean holds a Master of Arts degree in music education from Duquesne University, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fairmont State University and has more than 25 years of experience as an educator working with students in grades pre-K through adult. She has taught for the West Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts and West Virginia Ambassadors.

“I have been looking for a position like this for years,” MacVean said. “I had no idea this was going to be in my back door.”

MacVean will be the fine arts and culture facilitator/educator in Upshur County Schools. She decided to apply for the position because it aligned so well with projects she has completed in the past.

“When I did the interview, I told them I feel I could address each qualification they have asked for,” MacVean said. “I feel that it is taking the culmination of my 30 years of experience and bringing it all together.”

She said she has held offices on the Executive Board of West Virginia Music Educators while in conjunction with the National Association for Music Educators which is formerly MENC and she served in the offices of West Virginia State President, Vice President, Vocal Association President, WV All-State Chorus Chairperson and Regional Chairperson. She has represented WV at National Conventions in Utah, Florida, Washington D.C. and on Capitol Hill as an arts advocate.

Additionally, MacVean has worked extensively with the West Virginia Department of Education on various contract projects including being a member of the original writing, revision and

presentation team for the West Virginia Content Standards and Objectives. She completed work to align them with national standards in the area of music education and received commendations for her work at the state Department of Music on the project.

MacVean initiated the Backpack Food Program for public school students in Randolph County more than 10 years ago and has received the Key Woman Award and Good Samaritan Award as well as Teacher of the Year, Master Teacher Trainer, Best of the Region and Purpose and Perspective recognitions.

“I, myself, am an artist,” MacVean said. “I have been a contracted flower arranger for three or four years and I have taught dance for many years.”

She is an avid walker, loves to travel, garden and cook. She is married to Chris MacVean and together they have three adult children, one grandson and a golden retriever named Molly.

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