The Times West Virginian

Local News

March 31, 2014

Visitor Center displays works by local artists

FAIRMONT — The Convention & Visitors Bureau of Marion County, and the Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission are “connecting the community with art.”

These two organizations have turned the Marion County Visitor Center, where their offices are located, into an art gallery. The building is stationed off Exit 136 along the Gateway Connector at 1000 Cole St., Pleasant Valley.

The Connector Art Gallery, its name tying in with the Gateway Connector, has been set up in the basement of the Visitor Center as well as in the main lobby and reception area on the first floor. The art is for sale, with a portion of the proceeds helping to fund MCPARC’s Arts in the Park series at Palatine Park in Fairmont.

An invitation-only premier was held on Friday, and then the gallery opened to the public with a reception on Saturday. From now until April 30, people are welcome to stop by the gallery Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. There is no admission charge.

Leisha Elliott, executive director of the CVB, said the idea for the gallery got a great response from the artist community. This particular art show is called “The Connection” and features the works of 27 artists who use a wide range of media.

“It’s really neat,” she said. “There are a lot of talented artists that are in the area.”

People may visit for more information, and find out about the artists and their artworks on the “Connector Art” Facebook page.

Elliott explained that Larry Whittington, who works for MCPARC and is also an artist, came up with the idea for The Connector Art Gallery.

Whittington, who is originally from Putnam County and now lives in Mannington, is a veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 10 years.

He used the G.I. Bill to study art, focusing on painting and sculpting, at West Virginia University. He has been employed with MCPARC, where he does park maintenance, for about a year now, and created a sculpture for one of the parks.

“It’s just kind of like a passion, something that I constantly pursue,” Whittington said of his lifelong love of art.

When Whittington walked down into the huge, empty basement area of the Visitor Center and saw the industrial-type rafters and nice open space, he asked MCPARC director Tony Michalski if he could put on an art show there. Michalski liked the idea, and Whittington got in touch with his artist friends and former classmates to build momentum.

The artists jumped on board to give a charitable donation from any artwork they sold to the Arts in the Park series.

“Everything is looking great,” Whittington said of the art gallery. “We really put a lot into it.”

He said the effort wouldn’t have been possible without Elliott and Sharon Phillips of the CVB, and Paige Belote, who has been helping with the Arts in the Park series. He also expressed his appreciation to fellow MCPARC maintenance worker Ryan McDonald, who has a disc jockey company, Double Shot DJ, and donated services for the invitation-only premier.

Michalski believes there was a need for a place for local artists to show and share their creations with others. The nice, empty space in the basement of the Visitor Center is perfect for setting up a gallery, he said.

This is a worthwhile project and fits well with MCPARC’s mission statement, he said. Michalski feels that the project is a great avenue for MCPARC to help out the community and provide recreational opportunities.

The organization is working to organize a free, outdoor event for the public at Palatine Park this summer that will include live music and an opportunity for artists to display their art. MCPARC is still working on the details for this new Arts in the Park series, and hopes to be able to expand the possibilities after the initial summer event is held, Michalski said.

Email Jessica Borders at or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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