Cultural crawls of WV’s Certified Arts Towns
West Virginia’s official certified arts towns go above and beyond. They are THE places to visit for a dose of culture, beauty, and heritage.
Here are the best things to do in 4 of these cultural towns:
Located on the edge of the beautiful Monongahela National Forest, Elkins has no shortage of natural beauty. But its human-created arts scene is also vibrant. Randolph County has its own arts center housed in a historic Catholic church, which offers classes to locals throughout the year. The Augusta Heritage Center of Davis and Elkins College specializes in multi-week arts seminars through the summer, with a special focus on regional Appalachian dance, music and folklore. And if you are looking for nighttime entertainment, the Gandy Dancer Theater puts on full dinner and dancing extravaganzas.
In the northern panhandle, Wheeling’s culture often seems more indicative of a northeastern industrial town like Cleveland or Pittsburgh than its West Virginia neighbors. For the last 5 years, Wheeling’s Arts and Cultural Commission has been putting on a summer arts festival that brings in all disciplines of creativity– dance, music, literary, and even culinary arts!
If you are not fortunate enough to catch the Arts Fest in the summer (this year it coincided with West Virginia’s statehood day), there are still plenty of museums to see in this town on the Ohio River. The Oglebay Institute’s Glass Museum features on-site glass workers making beautiful creations. The Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum will bring out your inner child. And, if you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a play or concert at the Capitol Theatre, or by students of the Mount de Chantal Conservatory of Music.
This beautiful town in the Greenbrier Valley is definitely the artistic and cultural hub of Southern West Virginia. Carnegie Hall is not just in New York City; Lewisburg has its own theater endowed by Andrew Carnegie, and it attracts quality musicians that run the genre gamut from down-home Appalachian bluegrass to high classical and opera. The Greenbrier Valley Theater also puts on community play productions. For museums, check out the Greenbrier Historical Society’s North House Museum, in a beautiful red brick mansion constructed in 1820.
4. Berkeley Springs
This historic town has been a spa destination since the days of George Washington, when it was named “Bath,” and attracted wealthy Virginia planters to soak in its mineral waters. Today, its mineral springs are contained in a state park that features beautifully preserved historic stone walls and old houses.
In between soaks at the park, you can check out galleries and shops with unique products by local artists. The Artists of Merrywood shop has beautiful sculptures and paintings, with an outdoor sculpture/rock garden as well. Frog Valley Artisans is an interesting collective where you may be able to see the artists at work. If you are just walking around town, the State Park also holds a semi-monthly “Art in the Park” showcase, featuring a lineup of local painters, photographers, jewelers and more.
There are also 2 entire counties that have been awarded the certified art honor: Wood County in the Ohio Valley, encompassing arts in Parkersburg, Vienna and Williamstown; and Mercer County, with its 2 neighboring cultural hubs of Princeton and Bluefield.
Where do you explore the arts in WV?