homepage logo

Artwork adorns Town Hall

By Staff | Dec 30, 2011

Mayor Jim Auxer officially accepts original artwork for the new town hall from Benita Keller and Mike Austin. (Chronicle photo by Toni Milbourne)

As visitors enter the meeting room of Town Hall, they can enjoy three delightful pieces of art donated by two town residents.

Photographer Benita Keller, presented with the Ernst Haas Award naming her one of the top 100 photographers in the United States, has donated a framed print along with two original drawings done by Mike Austin.

Mayor Jim Auxer shared, “Shepherdstown is grateful for the beautiful pieces of artwork donated to the town by Benita Keller and Mike Austin.”

Keller, who was born and raised in Kearneysville, attended Shepherd College where she received a Regent’s Bachelor of Arts degree in business and photography. She then attended the University of Maryland where, under the tutelage of John Gossage, she found and focused more on the aesthetics of photography as opposed to photography as a commercial subject.

The emphasis on aesthetics over technique impressed Keller deeply, launching her career as a freelance fine art photographer and photojournalist.

Keller has traveled extensively, visiting and photographing such places as Cuba, Africa, Russia and Vietnam, recording daily cultural life through her photographs.

She has been the recipient of many grants, including one from the West Virginia Culture Center which allows her to facilitate her continued workshop, the Jefferson County Photography Project. Her work can be seen at the Bridge Gallery in Shepherdstown.

Austin, a retired Naval officer, international mobilization planner and disaster management adviser, also has work displayed at the Bridge Gallery. He is also an active participant in the local Friday Painters Art Group.

Austin has worked in a wide range of art media over the years, trying to capture some of the beauty and insight from unusual adventures experienced during his civil and military careers. Much of his work focuses on nostalgia and country living, he says; the cultural anthropology of many nations and cultures that is reinforced by life in the Eastern Panhandle.

Austin’s forte is work in pen and ink and linoleum block prints. He hopes to develop the capability well enough to illustrate his own short stories and books. Much of his work, he shares, is based on memory reinforced by years of military and diplomatic training that taught him to be observant and to be able to record and evaluate what he has seen. He also strives for authenticity and does additional research drawing upon old photos, prints, engravings and descriptions to achieve the desired outcome. He explains that he must first understand how something works in order to draw it.

The artwork donated to the town offers not only pleasant visual items for those visiting to town hall to view, but a glimpse into the two artists who provided the pieces.

“How fortunate we are to have these talented artists offer their wonderful gifts to decorate town hall, providing enjoyment for all,” Auxer said.