Arts collaborative group offers guidance to county
CHARLES TOWN – A partnership between The Creative Council of the C*Town Arts and Culture District and the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation department brought the Create Your State tour to Charles Town last week.
The tour is a multimedia performance and workshop geared to inspire and empower creative community transformation. The group, based in Princeton, W. Va., came to Charles Town to share their story of how the arts reignited their once abandoned downtown with creative capital. Through the arts, the group has created an atmosphere that attracts other businesses and their downtown is now once again a vibrant, thriving area attracting tourism and additional businesses.
Lori McKinney, project manager, shared part of her story of growing up in the Princeton area and just wanting to leave. That sentiment, she said, is common in youth throughout the state. After traveling for a bit, including a stay in London where she was active in such activities as open mic nights, McKinney said she missed home and decided to come back. Even after coming back to Princeton, she said that she and others would travel away from the area for opportunities for mic nights and to share other music and arts activities. She then realized that those activities could be held right there in her own town.
While the process of bringing to life the now thriving arts center in Princeton was a long one, McKinney said that it has well been worth all of the hard work.
“The key is to keep going and never give up,” McKinney told those gathered at the Charles Washington Hall in Charles Town.
McKinney, along with her husband, Robert and members of a band, provided a concert between sharing stories of how their efforts have created such annual events at Culturefest, which draws thousands of artists to the Princeton area each year.
“Progress starts with people coming together,” McKinney said. “Then it becomes a movement.”
As part of the Create Your State program in Charles Town, attendees gathered after the concert and discussion hosted by McKinney, in an informal discussion of what Jefferson County already offers in the way of the arts and how those offerings can be better coordinated.
The list of venues and activities already open and occurring in Jefferson was quite extensive but there was an agreement that a lack of communication between groups and individuals leads to duplication of efforts and fragmented activities.
Through the meeting, individuals involved in multiple areas were able to connect to discuss what might work best in efforts to communicate and coordinate to better promote the county’s arts events and the artists themselves. Collaboration is the key according to McKinney.
Many factors were named for the lack of collaboration and expansion of the arts in the county including conservative approaches to art, lack of funding and minimal value being placed on the arts.
McKinney shared that the worst thing to do to try to develop is to “committee it to death.” She again reiterated that taking one step after another, even small steps, will see results.
The Create Your State group offered skills, tools and on-the-ground contacts to help spark positive change by offering continued support and resources to help coordinate and collaborate on activities in the county. Attendees exchanged contact information in the first step to building a cohesive and collaborative program for the arts in Jefferson County.
For more information on the progress of these first steps, contact Teri Burhans at Jefferson County Parks and Recreation at 304-728-3207 or Clissy Funkhouser with the C*Town Arts & Culture District at firstname.lastname@example.org.