FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. -- Everyone knows Fayetteville is a cool small town. It even says so on the entrance signs.
How could anyone possibly make Fayetteville cooler? How about improving access to its arts community?
Like many people, Shea Wells was drawn to Fayette County because of its natural beauty. She has worked as a raft guide for more than a decade. But she is also an artist and an art teacher. Many people drawn to the biking, hiking, rafting and rock climbing that Fayette County is known for may not be able to earn their livings in outdoor recreation. Also people who do work in the tourism industry may not be able to sustain their incomes beyond "seasonal" recreation.
Why not develop art as a way of making a living and also as a way to nurture the natural environment? Wells said she and other like-minded people have been talking about how to enhance the environment for the arts for years. Now the Fayetteville Arts Coalition is a reality. Even though "Fayetteville" is in the group's title, Wells said all Fayette County artists are welcome to join.
"This area has so much to offer," she said, "except for the fine arts."
Wells said coalition members have many short-term and long-term goals. One immediate project is called "Art in Sight." She explained that artists in the coalition want people to see an artwork unfolding and understand what goes into the making of an art project.
The first artist who will be making a public art project for the coalition is Charleston artist Rob Cleland. People in Charleston are familiar with his work on public murals. In Fayetteville, he will start work this spring on an exterior wall of the Fayetteville Physical Therapy Building.
So often, Wells said, she has driven into Fayetteville from U.S. 19 only to see the blank wall of the therapy building that seemed to be "screaming for a mural." Wells envisions other buildings in town as future "canvasses," too.
Among the many goals that Wells and other members of the coalition hope to bring to fruition is a monthly art market. She said they are using the McGuffey Arts Center in Charlottesville, Va., as a guide. They hope to give local artists a chance to display and to sell their work and eventually work toward a permanent location where art can be exhibited.
Wells also said they want to use part of a permanent space for education. Wells teaches art at Collins Middle School, but she said most teachers agree students do not have enough opportunities to find arts enrichment. If they had a permanent space for studios and exhibits, Wells said they would definitely include space for arts education. They are looking for permanent space, including a former school.