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ART26201, Schools, City Gather to Celebrate Gallery Dedication & Youth Art

June 5, 2020

Bryson VanNostrand, ART26201 founding member and City Architect, discusses the Colonial Theatre Gallery prior to the ribbon cutting.
Heidi Thompson Keith, Upshur County Schools Art Teacher, discusses the Youth Art Exhibit on display at the Colonial Gallery.
Superintendent of Schools, Sara Stankus, greeted the crowd, remarking on Youth Art Exhibit and future collaborations with the Colonial Theatre and Upshur County Schools.
Mayor David McCauley provided opening remarks and thanked those who have been instrumental in transforming the Colonial Theatre into a public art space, including Catherine Cuppari, (pictured far right).




Welcome to Buckhannon’s “Next Big Thing”- the dedication of the Gallery at your Colonial Theatre & the opening of our inaugural Youth Art Exhibition.  In November of 2016, we sat down for lunch with Catherine Cuppari to discuss the opportunity to acquire this grand ole building.  We didn’t have much money to offer for this property, but- after explaining to Mrs. Cuppari how we intended to use it- to build the artistic talents of our B-U youth, to develop young minds, & to feature the performing arts of our community via Buckhannon Community Theatre & all of our arts’ groups- we reached agreement with Catherine to acquire this magnificent structure that we’ve been restoring for the past three years now- for a fraction of its real value.  To be clear, while we have many folks to thank today for getting us to this point with this wonderful project, the seminal moment that made it all possible was when Mrs. Cuppari said… YES!  Without her, there would be no project.  Please join me in giving Catherine Cuppari a big round of applause for her graciously allowing us to get started. 

When you think about the vision for our Colonial Theatre, the design of Jawbone Park, the Trader’s Alley/Milkman Lane Corridor & establishing our Arts District, the monkeys’ mural, the Sails’ Fence, the Charley Harper murals, & the creation of ART26201- the common denominator is Bryson VanNostrand.  It’s largely Bryson’s vision & imagination that’s gotten us to where we are with these projects.  He’s contributed his architectural genius to this project entirely pro bono.  Conservatively, a project of this magnitude would have cost as much as 12% of project cost.  If you consider this to be a $700,000 project, that’s an $84,000 gift.  We all owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.  Thank you Bryson for being our spark who’s always prodding us to move this project forward!  We would not be here today without you.

The biggest funder of our Colonial Theatre project- $230,000 & counting- is the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, & History.  We’re deeply appreciative to the Department’s curator Randall Reid-Smith, & to one of our community’s own, Jenna Green, Cultural Facilities Grant Coordinator, who’ve been instrumental in seeing our project funded.  Also the First Energy Foundation’s first gift of what we believe will be several more to come of $10,000 is huge for our Theatre.  Additionally, Buckhannon Community Theatre has made & pledged a $25,000 gift.  Please a nice round of applause for Arts, Culture, & History, First Energy & our own BCT.

We have some amazing talent that helps bring our many projects together for us, the guys in the trenches.  Jerry Arnold, Brad Hawkins, our entire Streets & Parks crew, our utility board employees especially in sewer & water- who’ve labored for many hours in this building to get us to where we are today.  How ‘bout a nice hand for our City staffers who’ve toiled to create this special place.  

My Buckhannon’s Beth Broschart asked me earlier this week, “What excites you about the Youth Art exhibition?”  I responded that this is the absolute perfect opening for the next segment of our Colonial Theatre that will be made available to our residents.  The entire Colonial restoration project has always been first & foremost about our City serving our B-U youth.  Too often we hear the louder voices of naysayers and chronic grousers complaining about lack of things for our kids to do.  Some of those same people have been the most critical & outspoken against our City taking on this project.  Our theatre restoration will afford our children a vast array of new experiences in the arts.  Our Stockert Youth & Community Center essentially will be expanded into the Colonial Theatre to expose kids to the arts in all forms every day- the biggest portion of the bottom floor of the Colonial will be dedicated to youth instruction in things such as voice & instrumental lessons, drawing, painting, graphic arts, dance, theatre, filmmaking, & photography.  Our kids will perform on the stage of the main floor in bands, singing, dancing, & performing in plays.  The top floor is our cinema & a second live performing arts’ area that will feature kid-friendly movies & many other events throughout the year.  This facility when completed will be essentially 24-7-365 about our youth.  Our after-school programs will be expanded to bring kids to the Colonial just like so many now go to Stockert.  So- to be able to display youth art from every school in our school system in 2-D & 3-D form as the first use of the new Gallery- it’s just perfect!

Finally, in the months ahead, more public art will be unveiled- including installation of the “Men in Black” car in tribute to Gray Barker at the southern end of Trader’s Alley, the completion of the next phases of your Colonial Theatre where by the way- BCT’s “Clue” the play- will be performed in October, the Jimmy Pankow Trombone Cove in Jawbone Park also being designed by Bryson, & our formal recognitions of the late Jim Knorr & Garland West, Buckhannon’s version of P.T. Barnum- both of whom dedicated their lives to the arts.

In closing, we all should be mindful that these things don’t just happen by themselves.  They take time & money.  I’d like to contribute $100 to ART26201 for our “Next Big Thing” that we know will be just around the corner.  Please folks- support your public arts with your dollars & enthusiasm.  The arts truly make all the difference in our high quality of life here.  Thanks to you all for being here, & remember, this place is for all of us to enjoy & be inspired by- you rock Buckhannon!  

ART26201 representatives, B-U student artists, and City officials join together for a ribbon cutting celebrating the new gallery space at Colonial Theatre at 48 W. Main Street in Buckhannon.
Art masks were on hand for guests to wear while viewing the exhibit and practicing social distancing.

Stop in to see the Colonial Theatre Gallery and check out the Youth Art Exhibit next time you are on Main Street. The space will be open Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. through June.

Additional details regarding the Gallery opening can be found here in the ART26201 press release:

Media: Callie Cronin Sams, or (304) 472-1651.