Caress by Emily Reeves
Caress by Emily Reeves

Countywide Youth Art Exhibition to finally make its debut Friday in new Colonial Theatre Gallery

BUCKHANNON – In March, everyone was excited for the countywide youth art exhibition sponsored by Upshur County Schools art teachers and students, ART26201, the City of Buckhannon and the Upshur Arts Alliance.

Those plans were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Folks have waited patiently, and finally, this Friday and each Friday and Saturday through June, they’ll have the opportunity to visit the Youth Art Exhibit.

This will also be the first time Buckhannon residents will get the chance to step inside the newly renovated gallery space located in the Colonial Theatre.

Buckhannon Mayor David McCauley said the dedication of the Gallery in the Colonial Theatre begins at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 5. The exhibit will be open every Friday and Saturday throughout June from 5 to 7 p.m., and the public is invited to tour the Gallery and view the artwork on display created by Buckhannon-Upshur youth.

McCauley said the city and school system is taking precautions, however, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We will be limiting the number of folks touring the Gallery at one time to achieve social distancing mandates and to minimize possible exposure of COVID-19,” McCauley said. “Masks will be provided by ART26201, and we will be as safe as possible during this event. Details are being handled by ART26201 and the Upshur County Schools art teachers.”

The art show and tour of the gallery are free and open to the public. Buckhannon-Upshur High School Art Teacher and Fine Arts Department Chair Heidi Thompson said this exhibit represents the first year all Upshur County Schools will be collaborating in this venture, adding she hopes this exhibit will become an annual tradition.

Thompson said the exhibit includes approximately 180 pieces, including both two-dimensional and three-dimensional works.

“The Colonial Theatre provides the perfect gallery venue being downtown and accessible to the public,” Thompson said, adding she hopes community and family members to visit the exhibition and the Colonial Theatre and experience the colorful celebration of visual arts in Upshur County.

McCauley said the youth art exhibit serves as an “absolute perfect” opening for the next segment of the Colonial Theatre.

“The entire Colonial restoration project has always been first and foremost about our City serving our B-U youth,” McCauley said. “Too often we hear the louder voices of naysayers complaining about the lack of things for our kids to do. Some of those same people have been the most critical and outspoken against our City taking on this project.”

McCauley said the restoration will afford area youth a vast array of new experiences in the arts.

“Our Stockert Youth & Community Center essentially will be expanded into the Colonial Theatre to expose kids to the arts in all forms every day – the biggest portion of the bottom floor of the Colonial will be dedicated to youth instruction in mediums such as voice and instrument lessons, drawing, painting, graphic arts, dance, theatre, filmmaking and photography.”

The mayor said kids will perform on the stage of the main floor as part of bands, in individual voice performances, dance performances and plays.

“The top floor in our cinema and a second live performing arts’ area will feature kid-friendly movies and other events throughout the year,” McCauley said. “This facility, when completed, will be essentially 24-7-365 about our youth. Our after-school program will be expanded to bring kids to the Colonial just like so many now go to Stockert. So, to be able to display youth art from every school in the Upshur County School system in 2D and 3D form as the first use of the new Gallery is just perfect.”

McCauley said there is still a need for funding to finish the Colonial Theatre project, and said he believes, realistically, it could be completed by late 2021.

“We’re very thankful for the folks with the State Division of Arts, Culture & History who have graciously supported us. Also, thanks to First Energy Foundation and all our many private donors who have given their resources and/or time in our project,” McCauley said. “Folks wanting to make a gift toward finishing the Theatre may contact City Hall by calling 304-472-1651.”

“Finally, we couldn’t have realized this project without our architect, Bryson VanNostrand, who has gifted all of his invaluable design work pro bono along with the members of ART26201 and all of our friends associated with the Buckhannon Community Theatre,” the mayor added.

A virtual tour of the exhibit from McCauley featuring some artworks by B-UHS seniors which have since been removed for inclusion in their portfolios is available at https://www.bu-student-art.mountaineer.news/.

Volunteers are welcome to assist during the exhibit hours. Those who wish to volunteer or need additional information may contact Thompson by calling 304-266-4100 or by emailing hgthompson@k12.wv.us.

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