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Rockefeller: CATF’s impacts impressive

By Staff | Jul 23, 2010

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller addresses a group of CATF staff, supporters and community leaders Monday at Shepherd University’s Center for Contemporary Art on West Campus Drive. Chronicle photo by Michael Theis

In a small ceremony Monday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller presented Ed Herendeen and the board of the Contemporary American Theater Festival with a framed copy of a speech delivered by Rockefeller on the floor of the Senate in support of the popular summer theater festival. In an improvised speech, West Virginia’s newest senior senator praised the CATF for fostering healthy controversy and debate through the arts and for helping to expand West Virginia’s reputation as a community welcoming to artists.

“I can say this safely: I don’t know that even you know, coming from southern West Virginia as I do, how much this means for West Virginia,” said Rockefeller, who also highlighted the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences in Charleston as another example of investment in the arts. “People are understanding that arts draw people, and they draw the best kind, really high IQ people, really wonderful people … people seeking intimacy with an exciting ‘I have no idea what’s going to happen next’ experience.”

Rockefeller’s speech, delivered at the Center for Contemporary Art on West Campus Drive on Shepherd University, started a bit later than scheduled. Rockefeller was delayed in Martinsburg attending a roundtable on housing foreclosure prevention. There, Rockefeller met with homeowners, housing counselors, real estate professionals and representatives from the Department of House and Urban Development and the Federal Trade Commission.

Much of Rockefeller’s speech at Shepherd University touched upon the American mortgage crisis and its impacts in the three counties of the Eastern Panhandle.

“West Virginia is full of so many problems, so many people struggling to survive,” Rockefeller said during the speech.

Rockefeller also talked about the values of artistic philanthropy. He spoke of how his father, John D. Rockefeller III, poured hours of work into his efforts to support the arts. In his wake, John D. Rockefeller left a legacy that includes operas and symphony halls.

“My father, who built the Lincoln Center, was absolutely tone deaf!” Rockefeller said. “I think he liked plays, too.”

Rockefeller also told tales of how his father’s investments in the arts created thousands of jobs and drew commercial activity to locations where conventional wisdom said would fail.

“I remember when I was governor, state parks had the same effect. If you had a beautiful state park, people would come from Canada and Europe, and keep coming back and back,” Rockefeller said.