The Times West Virginian

In Today's TWV

January 9, 2007

‘More than a storefront’

Defenders say Tamarack is vital to state’s artisans

FAIRMONT — Artisans and craftsmakers across the state are defending Tamarack from a legislative auditor’s gaze, saying concerns that the Beckley center is a money-loser for the West Virginia Turnpike are misplaced.

“They can have the smoothest road in the world, but if there’s nothing it leads to, people won’t take it,” said Genny Zbach, a glass artist on Fairmont’s East Side.

“It’s more than a storefront” for artists and craftsmakers, she said. Although the retail operation gets the most attention, its behind-the-scenes work for artists and craftsmakers is vital, Zbach said.

Through the Tamarack Foundation, artists and craftsmakers get access to world-class mentoring and marketing programs, she said.

She was one of the original artists in the state’s Cultural Center in Charleston. Her glass beads, animals and leaves have been available at Tamarack since it opened in the mid-1990s. Zbach has also served on Tamarack’s advisory board.

“It’s a support system, a teaching system,” she said.

The auditor’s report also overlooks the indirect effects of the Raleigh County attraction. Visitors use hotels, restaurants and gasoline stations, she said. They make side trips to natural attractions, like New River Gorge in Fayette County, or to the area’s white water rafting companies or Winterplace Ski Resort.

“We’re feeding the economy there and around the state” through the word-of-mouth advertising, the best kind of advertising, Zbach said.

“When I travel to other states, other artists and craftsmakers say they can’t believe we have a program like Tamarack.”

Vicki Angotti, the owner of the Vittoria & Banks Art For Your Soul gift shop at 232 Adams St. in downtown Fairmont across from the county courthouse, said Tamarack generates positive publicity.

“How do you put a dollar figure on a positive image for the state?” Angotti said. She has as many as 30 Tamarack artists and craftsmakers in her store.

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