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Artists find a home at Buckhannon gallery

Kenny Kemp
Tom Lynch welcomes visitors to Main Street Gallery in Buckhannon, where more than 30 regional artists show and sell their work.
Kenny Kemp Pottery, paintings, furniture and glassware fill the walls and floor of the gallery, including a driftwood sculpture by Karen Sparks of a dinosaur in the center of the room.
Kenny Kemp Pottery pieces by Brian VanNostrand fill a tiered display.
Kenny Kemp Jon and Lynn Rudloff of Cherry Falls Pottery created this whimsical pottery birdhouse.
Kenny Kemp Main Street Arts Cooperative President Tom Lynch says he encourages new artists to apply to be juried into Main Street Gallery.

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. -- Tom Lynch pointed to a 2008 Sunday Gazette-Mail feature on him and the fine wood furniture he crafts as an explanation for the time he devotes to Main Street Gallery in Buckhannon.

"At the end of the story I say that I want to slow down chair production and encourage other artists," Lynch said.

That's exactly what he and several other people did two years ago when they founded Main Street Arts Cooperative and a gallery, which represents and sells the work of more than 30 regional juried artists. Main Street Gallery is a subsidiary of the arts cooperative, of which Lynch is president.

"We wanted to have a presence on Main Street. We raised funds within the community, who have been responsive and supportive," he said.

The artists represented range from well-established artists -- including glassblower Ron Hinkle, iron sculptor Jeff Fetty and potter Brian VanNostrand -- to emerging artists to schoolchildren whose work is displayed on the Community Art Wall.

The wall serves several purposes. "The students bring their parents in to see their work and it showcases their art. There's never been any public space here for kids to show their work," Lynch said.

Visitors wander around the gallery to see textile, painted and glass creations, as well as jewelry, sculpture, furniture and wooden items, many displayed on shelves that are mounted on slim tree trucks.

Several of the artists participate in the gallery's outreach mission with "Artists in the School," a program in which artists teach their crafts as they spend time in classrooms.

The program is modeled in part on one in Randolph County Schools, where volunteers stepped up to provide arts education after it was dropped by county administrators.

In another community project, West Virginia Wesleyan College students produce videos of artists at work. So far, they've produced videos of Hinkle, Fetty, sculptor Ross Straight and potter Scottie Wiest, which can be viewed on the gallery's website, www.mainstreetartscoop.org.

The arts really come to life in Buckhannon during the Main Street Arts Festival, which this year will take place Sept. 21. Participation of West Virginia artists in the festival has doubled each of the last three years, starting with eight artists in 2010 and growing to 30 last year.

The festival celebrates all the arts, including musicians, dancers and actors who perform on Main Street, which closes to traffic for the day.

Lynch credits Steve Foster of the Upshur County Economic Development Authority; Kim Ellsner, formerly of West Virginia Wesleyan College; and artists Ron and Karen Buckton with helping to get the cooperative and gallery off the ground, and VanNostrand, who owns the gallery's building.

He's always looking for board members, as well as artists to represent in the gallery, to continue the cooperative's growth.

"We're a young organization. We've accomplished a lot, but there is still lots to do," Lynch said.

Main Street Gallery, 27 E. Main St., Buckhannon, is usually open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Because the gallery is staffed by volunteers, it's a good idea to call 304-473-1444 or email mainstreetgallery.inwv@gmail.com to check on hours.

Robinson is a former staff writer for the Sunday Gazette-Mail.


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