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OI celebrates milestone

‘Imagination Celebration’ begins

April 11, 2010
Times Leader

WHEELING - Art can fill the soul, heal the heart and create community. That's why Oglebay Institute is pulling out all the stops for its 80th Anniversary "Imagination Celebration," a four-day, citywide celebration of art, nature and community April 15 18. Almost all of the special programs are absolutely free.

Located in Wheeling, West Virginia, Oglebay Institute is recognized as the nation's oldest arts council, and the 80th anniversary celebration involves all aspects of the Institute's programs - art, nature, history, dance, theater and music. Events for all ages are planned. A complete schedule is available at or by calling the Stifel Fine Arts Center at 304-242-7700.

"We want our anniversary to be a celebration of Wheeling's creative community the artists, musicians, actors, writers and performers who contribute to the vibrant cultural life of our city and the loyal residents who consistently support these programs and whose lives are enriched through the arts," President Kathleen McDermott said.

Opening ceremonies will take place at 8:08 Thursday, April 15 on the steps of the city/county building where Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie will read a proclamation honoring Oglebay Institute for its contributions to the cultural life of Wheeling. Guests and passersby can enjoy free coffee and muffins.

The imaginative programs planned for the celebration include art and history exhibits such as George Carey's "Native American Pride" and "Why OI?," which examines how the organization came into existence and helped shape the cultural life of Wheeling; demonstrations and workshops in art forms such as hot glass, raku pottery, watercolor and oil painting; guided tours of the historic Stifel Mansion; book readings by veteran actress Kate Crosbie and acclaimed author, poet and storyteller Marc Harshman; spoken word events such as dramatic readings, poetry slam and open mic with the Independent Theatre Collective; history lectures; 80-minutes of fitness and mural painting in downtown Wheeling.

The "Imagination Celebration" also includes plenty of opportunities for socializing and networking at events such as receptions at Towngate Theatre prior to performances of "The Matchmaker;" "Lunch with the Arts" at West Virginia Northern Community

College, featuring live music, artist demonstrations and gourmet food prepared by the culinary arts students under the direction of Chef Gene Evans, a wine tasting and dinner, traditional music, folk dancing and storytelling at the Schrader Environmental Education Center, an Artworks Around Town Coffeehouse and a live "Music Marathon" from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday at the Stifel Fine Arts Center, featuring performances by The New Day Saxophone Quartet, Gerald Lee, Ron Retzer, Roger Hoard, Derrick McKee and The Trainjumpers.

During the evening and late-night hours, the public can experience heat-defying acts of art. Raku pottery firing, which uses both fire and smoke to create unique patterns and designs, takes place on the Stifel lawn. Guests can simply watch and marvel or give it a try. A Hot Glass Jam at the Mansion Museum features live glass blowing, flame working demos and a jam session with local musicians. Night at the Mansion Museum sleepovers on Friday and Saturday include after-hours tours of the historic Oglebay Mansion, various theme-related activities and games, a late-night snack and breakfast.

Early morning events include birding, a pancake breakfast and nature walks with current and former OI naturalists along the same trails of Oglebay Park where famed naturalist A.B. Brooks led more than 50,000 participants beginning in 1928.

Other nature programs include evening campfires and stargazing with local astronomers at the Schrader Center; nature scavenger hunts; the planting of 80 trees and a nature camp reunion for former campers and counselors from all generations.

A community birthday "pARTy" on Saturday features family-inspired fun and gets underway at noon with an "80 Kicks for OI" dance line along National Road near the Stifel Mansion. The celebration includes free arts and crafts for kids, gallery tours, dancing, cupcakes, prize giveaways and a live radio broadcast.

Popular Wheeling taverns and eateries are joining in the fun, too, with a four-day FestivALE event. Ye Olde Alpha, River City, Later Alligator and Salsa Caf will offer drink and food specials and have commemorative beer steins and soup bowls, hand-crafted by local artisans, available for purchase for a nominal fee.

Area schools will also play a role in the "Imagination Celebration." Art students at St. Francis Xavier created 80 numerical artwork posters one to represent every year OI has existed. Artwork created by Ohio County school students and Wheeling Country Day students will be on display in various Wheeling businesses. West Liberty University's jazz ensemble and steel band along with steel bands from Wheeling Park and John Marshall high schools will present a special concert on Sunday at the Capitol Theatre.

"This celebration provides a glimpse of Wheeling's artistic community in one jam-packed weekend," Misty Klug, Oglebay Institute marketing director, said. "These types of events happen year-round in our city, but condensing them into one grand celebration really highlights the breadth of arts and entertainment opportunities that are available locally."

Funding for the "Imagination Celebration" was provided in part by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation, and Oglebay Institute partnered with several other organizations such as the Wheeling Arts and Culture Commission, WTRF, West Liberty University, Artworks Around Town, the Wheeling Symphony and the city of Wheeling to present its 80th anniversary celebration.

"In addition to support from organizations, dozens of individual artists, musicians, actors, writers, educators and dancers have volunteered their time and talents to make this free community celebration possible," McDermott said.

Oglebay Institute was formed in 1930 when a group of like-minded citizens, armed with the vision and the philanthropy of the Oglebay family, came together to "contribute to the joy of living" by creating cultural, education and recreational programming in the city's newly acquire Oglebay Park.

Since that time the Institute has grown to include six facilities throughout Wheeling The Mansion Museum, The Glass Museum, The Stifel Fine Arts Center, Towngate Theatre and Cinema, The Schrader Environmental Education Center and the School of Dance - and offers hundreds of community and school programs in the city, county, region and state. These institute-sponsored programs annually give entertainment and instruction in the arts, history and nature to more than 120,000 people of all ages.

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