- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - The work of artists from around the state as well as the life and times of one of West Virginia’s most prominent politicians will be on display at the Parkersburg Art Center for the next month.

A reception was held May 22 for the opening of the West Virginia Allied Artists 70th Annual Exhibit and for the traveling exhibit “Robert C. Byrd: Senator, Statesman, West Virginian.”

“We got two shows opening and they will both be here for a month,” said art center director Abby Hayhurst.

The West Virginia Allied Artists exhibit, in the Main and Boll Galleries, features the work of 63 artists from around the state of West Virginia.

“This group has been around for a while and they have this juried exhibit every other year were they have a juror, Robert Peppers from Ohio University, came in and picked out these works,” Hayhurst said. “It really is a great show.

“We get artists from all over the state for this show. It is great to have these people here.”

Lauri Reidmiller, of Shady Spring, W.Va., was the winner of Best of Show with her acrylic painting “Cut So Deep.” Reidmiller said the work came from her dreams.

“I was very ill for a couple of years and I had lost my dreams,” she said. “When my dreams came back, they came back in images of animals.”

The colors and symbols in her painting represented something in her life from starbursts representing her children to round circles representing family and generations of women and snakes hidden within the painting represent surgeries she had.

Reidmiller has been interested in art all of her life since she was a child with crayons. She has only been doing acrylic painting over the last three years. This is her fifth piece in that medium.

“I wanted to challenge myself and get into a media that I haven’t tried since college,” she said. “I really challenged myself to create this body of work.”

Reidmiller has been involved with the Allied Artists for the last five to six years.

“It is a very strong organization in West Virginia with many artists doing high quality work,” she said. “This was a show I definitely wanted to get into and have been in the past.”

West Virginia Allied Artists is one of the oldest and largest arts organization in West Virginia, said President Sandra King who was also the chairperson for the show.

“We have members all over the state,” she said. “We try to put on one or two shows a year to display and promote the artists that are members and artists in general across the state.”

The juried show is held bi-annually and includes work from all artists across the state. Many times, there are more artists in the show than there are members because they bring in a judge from outside the state to make the selections.

Pieces in the show include photography, two-dimensional work, three- dimensional, pottery, fabric, wallhangings and more.

King wants people who come to the exhibit to realize the amount of talent in the state.

“We believe that West Virginia artists and craftspeople are our main natural resource,” she said. “We believe these people are so talented and it showcases what the people in West Virginia are actually doing.

“We hope the people get a feel for this.”

On the art center’s mezzanine, the Byrd exhibit will also be on display through the next month. Parkersburg is the first stop in a statewide tour for the traveling display on the life and times of Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

The exhibit will be traveling around the state until November 2017, said Ray Smock, director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education.

“It is an exhibit about his life, from his childhood and his 60-year career in politics,” Smock said. “We will tell stories about his contributions to West Virginia and the nation.

“We will tell what kind of senator he was, a very special guy. His story needs to be remembered.”

Smock said they have Byrd’s papers which provide insights into the history of the state and into the nation for more than half a century. The papers filled two tractor trailers and have taken four years to go through.

“We are still going through his papers and still discovering things,” he said. “This exhibit is a small sample of some of the things we are discovering as we go through this collection.”

The exhibit, which is displayed on 18 panels, details Byrd’s life from growing up in the coalfields of West Virginia to being elected to Congress and his rise to the leadership of the U.S. Senate. It includes images of documents, photographs, newspaper clippings and more detailing what Byrd faced during his time in office.

It also details Byrd’s faith, his work as a historian and his skill as a musician.

“He was not just a country fiddler, he was a master at it,” Smock said. “We tried to show a range of his personality besides his legislative career.”

The exhibit also addresses Byrd’s more controversial stances, including helping to pass the Panama Canal treaties which were not popular in West Virginia and his positions against civil rights in the 1960s which he later expressed regret over “and apologized for many years,” Smock said.

“The exhibit contains many of Senator Byrd’s own quotes,” he said. “He gets the final word and says what he needed to say about his own career.”

Both exhibits offer visitors a unique experience, Hayhurst said.

“We have two cool shows,” she said. “Both are very different.”


Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), https://www.newsandsentinel.com

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