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Colonial Arts Center board member Keith Buchanan addresses commissioners about the CAC's fundraising needs and naming rights at their Feb. 1 meeting. (Photo by Monica Zalaznik)

Colonial Arts Center Board proposes partnership with Upshur County Commission

BUCKHANNON – The Colonial Arts Center is searching for partners to sponsor three sections of the facility, including the main theater, the balcony theater and the art gallery.

Colonial Arts Center board members attended the Feb. 8 Upshur County Commission meeting to propose a partnership between the county and the CAC. Board member Keith Buchanan told commissioners the board is seeking funding — which would earn the sponsor naming rights of the space.

“I have three naming opportunities I want to throw out there: our art gallery – for $50,000, somebody can have your name on that – and we also have our balcony theater, it’s a beautiful little space with 80 seats for $75,000, and our main theater for $100,000,” CAC board member Keith Buchanan said. “Over 50 organizations, businesses and individuals have contributed to the first stage of our Colonial Arts Challenge, which is our campaign to raise $350,000 by the end of this year, and we’re about halfway there.”

The board members also discussed their plans for the center. Buchanan said almost 3,000 people have come to the events its hosted, including their final event of 2023, the Buckhannon Community Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Story.”

“Over 1,000 people came to see that show, and we’re so lucky to have these kinds of organizations and talent and to have a place for them to perform, so that’s a good way to wind up the year,” Buchanan said.

City Recorder Randy Sanders said he hopes community members will also chip in to help enhance the programming the CAC can offer.

“There are just so many aspects of ways that people can collaborate with us,” Sanders said. “We have suites in the lower area and two of the suites are utilized by the BCT for wardrobing and so forth, but we still need to do things like install a washer and dryer to be able to clean some of the cast clothing for the events.”

Other items the CAC hopes to obtain are a piano, keyboard equipment and electronic recording equipment.

“We need to fill these suites with proper equipment to have classes, so if somebody wants to teach piano, we need to have a piano down there,” Sanders added. “Our goal has been to provide classes at a very economical price so young people can come in and be able to explore what talents they might have or what their particular talent is.”

CAC Manager Anne Wilson said the board plans to use those classroom spaces to offer STEAM classes to the Mountaineer Homeschool Hub.

“If you’re not familiar with STEAM, it’s a combination of science, technology, math classes and the arts,” Wilson said. “I think that that’s going to be a fun thing for our local homeschool community because they’re operating out of Morgantown right now, and they want to expand down this way into North Central West Virginia.”

Wilson also elaborated on their continued partnership with West Virginia Wesleyan College.

“I’m working a lot with their technical director of theater, David Hartley, and he’s been a wonderful guide in technical direction, helping us with our lighting and sound,” Wilson said. “We are also working together with the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Black Student Union to host an event later this month called ‘Jazz and Java,’ which has gained a lot of popularity already. It’s going to be a Mardi Gras-themed get-together with live jazz music and a live cooking demo with a chef from Wesleyan.”

The ‘Jazz and Java’ event is slated for 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the CAC.

WVWC has also taken over the management of the art gallery at the CAC, with assistant professor of fine arts Robert Howsare serving as the new gallery director.

“I’m getting to see a lot more art students coming into the gallery, and they get to show their work more to the community,” Wilson said. “Wesleyan has picked back up the Governor’s School for the Arts this summer, and they’re going to have that on Wesleyan’s campus for the next three summers, and I am really excited for this and what it could bring to the gallery.”

The Buckhannon Community Theatre has also been able to produce more performances, thanks to its partnership with CAC.

“They have really been able to expand their season, so this year, they’re doing the biggest season I’ve worked with them on,” Wilson said. “They have five shows plus a summer camp now for kindergarten through fifth grade, and now I’m working on adding another summer camp week later in the summer for sixth through 12th grades, so we’re offering a camp for all K-12 students.”

The board members took the commission on a tour through the CAC, but no action was taken on the proposed partnership. Any funding allocation would have to be determined during the commission’s budget sessions, which typically begin in March.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the CAC’s fundraising efforts, contact anne.wilson@buckhannonwv.org, randy.sanders@buckhannonwv.org, Keith Buchanan or any other board member.

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