Photo courtesy Leah Lewis Stankus

Look on the ‘Brightside’: Photographer plans to open creative collective this fall in former Miller’s Pharmacy

BUCKHANNON – The old Miller’s Pharmacy has closed, but a new venue for artistic expression will open in its place on Main Street this fall.

Upshur County native and Buckhannon-based photographer Leah Stankus will open Brightside, a new creative collective in the old Miller’s Pharmacy location sometime this fall.

“[Brightside is] going to be a creative collective where artists, business owners, creatives and photographers can come in and host events and workshops – and they can showcase their artwork,” Stankus said. “I really want this to be a community building that everyone in the community has access to, so there’s going to be monthly events, but it’s also going to be a place for creatives to come together and showcase their art. I’m really looking forward to collaborating with everyone in the community and really making this a building everyone has access to.”

Stankus wanted to provide a space for photographers in need of a studio or any artist in need of a designated artistic space.

Photo courtesy Leah Lewis Stankus

“This was something I could give back to the community, and a lot of photographers in the state don’t have access to a studio,” Stankus said. “It’s hard to start a studio from scratch or they don’t have a space available to use, so especially for photographers, this gives them a studio where they can do a photo shoot or other creatives who might not have a space to showcase their work.”

She loved the historical nature of utilizing a building on Main Street – and she knew another space like it wouldn’t become available again anytime soon.

“I’m renovating my house, which was built in 1900, so I love the history behind this old building and how CJ [Rylands] and Sam [Nolte] are renovating it to be something for any type of business and luckily, I get to be that business,” Stankus said. “CJ has really taught me a lot about the sun-dried brick and different building material and I’m just really excited to put my own twist on it and also let people come in to see it, bring people in from out of town and get more people in Buckhannon’s Main Street.”

She said there are less than five creative collectives in West Virginia.

“It’s a space where someone can rent it for the day or they can rent it by the hour, so say you’re a photographer from Clarksburg who needs a space to do an engagement session in the winter and you’d like a place to do your Christmas minis, this would be a space that you could use,” Stankus explained. “Hopefully, every month we will also be doing Small Business Sundays, so we’ll be bringing in maybe 10 creatives to do a small business market.”

Stankus said she grew up in Buckhannon, left to attend Shepherd University and did not initially plan to come back.

“I really want to show younger people that you can do this; if you want to be an artisan and do pottery or you want to [create] stained glass for living, that is possible,” Stankus said. “I want to hopefully team up with the school system, but I really want to showcase the idea that, if you want to be in the creative world, you can and you can build a really successful business off of it.”

Updates on the progress of the renovations as well as information about future events at Brightside can be found on the Instagram page @Brightsidewv, and you can follow Stankus’s photography page at ‘Leah Stankus Photography’ on Facebook and Instagram.

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