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Jefferson County seeks state arts designation

By Staff | Aug 20, 2010

CHARLES TOWN – Efforts are in their preliminary stages to have Jefferson County certified as an arts community by the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, explained Steven Skinner, an attorney in Charles Town and a member of the WVCA.

“We’re assembling a team to apply for Jefferson County to be a Certified Arts Community,” he said in a recent telephone interview with Ogden Newspapers.

“The point is how to bring groups together who are interested in the creative economy.”

The West Virginia Certified Arts Community program was established in November 2005 by former Commissioner of Culture and History Troy Body, according to the Morgan County Arts Council website. Berkeley Springs was the first Certified Arts Community designated in West Virginia.

Communities must apply to be designated a CAC, which is granted by the state Commission on the Arts.

While the designation does not bring any financial assistance with it, it does allow a community to promote itself as an arts community to attract not only more artists and artisans, but arts consumers as well, all of which contribute to the local economy.

Skinner said he invited county, municipal and state leaders as well as arts and business leaders to an informal meeting earlier this year to begin the discussion of Jefferson County becoming a CAC.

Pam Parziale and other members of the Arts and Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County, known as AHA, are taking the lead in applying for Jefferson County’s arts community certification.

“We have to show that we can work cooperatively – municipalities, economic development, business community, arts and culture – present a united front to show the economic benefits the arts brings to the community,” Parziale said in a recent telephone interview.

“Arts is generally not acknowledged as an economic force,” she continued.

A past president of the Arts and Humanities Alliance and a former member of the WVCA, she and her husband, Ren, raised four children in Jefferson County by “making pots out of clay,” Parziale pointed out.

They have operated the award-winning Sycamore Pottery near Leetown for about 40 years.

The next step in the process is conducting roundtable discussions among the various parties, such as the arts community, government leaders and economic development professionals, she said.

Roundtable discussions are planned for the month of October in Shepherdstown during AHA’s annual member show, Parziale said.

These sessions also will include a presentation by a representative from Lewisburg, which recently won its CAC designation.

She added that AHA is talking with West Virginia University about doing a survey to show the economic impact of the arts on Jefferson County.

“We want to present some facts and figures, some dollars and cents,” Parziale said.

“It’s very exciting to get people together for the benefit of the arts economy,” Parziale concluded in regard to the program.