BUCKHANNON – In December, a local photographer realized one of his dreams when his work was accepted into Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia.
Upon learning his work had made the cut for the premier showcase for advancing arts, crafts, food products and their creators, Robbie Skinner took to Facebook to make the announcement.
“DREAM. COME. TRUE,” his post read. “I’m so excited to announce that I’m officially a member of the prestigious TAMARACK: The Best of West Virginia artisan community!’
Nearly 200 friends responded to his post, offering their congratulations and well wishes.
Tamarack, located in Beckley, was created in the late 1990s to promote the Mountain State’s image, and each year, it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors. Each item sold at Tamarack is chosen through a jury selection process to ensure quality and authenticity – i.e. that each product is made by West Virginia artisans and crafters.
In order to be selected to feature work in Tamarack, Skinner said there are four to five jury sessions each year around West Virginia.
“Work is submitted online – photographers can submit up to 10 pieces of their work,” he said. “After making it through the online jury selection, you are notified if you made it through the first cut. Following that, I traveled to an in-person interview – mine was in Charleston, where I laid out my work and met with the juror. Then they make the determination whether or not you make the cut.”
Skinner said he initially submitted his work in early November 2019 and his in-person jury session was Dec. 13 the same year.
“There were four people accepted during that session and space will be made available to us after the first of the year,” he said.
He said when he found out he was accepted into Tamarack, he was thrilled.
“I was ecstatic!” Skinner said. “I have wanted my work to be showcased in Tamarack for so long. It’s such a prestigious honor in West Virginia for the artisan community and having your work there for travelers to see and to be able to showcase the state that you love and to show the really nice things about West Virginia to those who are not from West Virginia is a great honor.”
“You never know – if people see something enough and if they like it enough and if the opportunity presents itself, it is possible that having work in a place like Tamarack could entice someone to visit more often or make a life change and come to West Virginia because of the beauty that is here,” he said.
The photos Skinner will have on display at Tamarack will showcase images from all corners of West Virginia with an emphasis on photos of Buckhannon. He said he believes his work in Tamarack is important because Tamarack is a meeting place for visitors from a multitude of states.
“I want people to see the real West Virginia,” he said. “I want them to see beyond what they’ll see along the interstate. Our mountain vistas, peaceful valleys, winding rivers, charming towns and bustling cities are unique, full of beauty and unlike other areas. Our state is truly a special place, and I want to inspire people to visit more often or even relocate here.”
Skinner said his passion for photography was born from his love for the aesthetic beauty of Buckhannon.
“We have such a gorgeous Main Street, college campus and surrounding area,” he said. “Photographing our community not only strengthens the pride I have for my hometown, but also shows the world how incredibly blessed we are in this community.”
Skinner was born and raised in Buckhannon, having graduated from Buckhannon-Upshur High School in 2007 and from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2011.
“Professionally, I’m an insurance agent, managing Mountain Lakes Insurance Agency located on Main Street,” he said. “Civically, I’m involved in many organizations including Buckhannon City Council, where I am a member of our city’s Water Board and Historic Landmarks Commission.”
Skinner’s an executive board member and past-president of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce and is also involved with St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation, Artistry on Main, Create Buckhannon, Southern Upshur Business Association, the West Virginia Independent Insurance Agents Association and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Along with his photography, Skinner said he enjoys golf, hiking, biking and sharing in volunteer activities to give back to the community.
“I also cherish so many special relationships in my life, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without the encouragement, love and support of my family and friends,” he said.
Lifelong learning and traveling are another two top pastimes.
“I love learning about new techniques, researching new technology and equipment and of course, finding new places to explore,” Skinner said. “I’m fortunate to say I’ve visited all 55 counties of the Mountain State, and I want to continue expanding my content library to have a varied selection from each county.”
He said he is a proud member of Artistry on Main in downtown Buckhannon.
“If you haven’t been there, you’re really missing out,” he said. “The store is open seven days per week and is full of high-quality merchandise crafted by the immensely talented local artisan community. My work is on display there, and of course can be purchased there.”
Skinner said he would be remiss if he didn’t mention Buckhannon and Upshur County are very well represented at Tamarack.
“Many of the artists who participate in Artistry on Main are also present at Tamarack,” he said. “The artisan talent in this area is significant, and we are fortunate to have so many helping to put our community on the map.”