Tucker County Commission hears from the Mountain Arts District

Photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Pat Schoonover, founding board member of the Mountain Arts District, and Josie Cuda, president of the Mountain Arts District, speak to the Tucker County Commission Wednesday about how the Mountain Arts District will strengthen the local economy, not only increasing the income of local artists and entrepreneurs, but also art-related and tourist businesses.

PARSONS – Tucker County Commissioners heard from representatives of the Mountain Arts District Wednesday, learning how the group could be of benefit to local artists and entrepreneurs as well as tourist and art-related businesses in Tucker County.

Mountain Arts District President Josie Cuda said the group had been meeting informally for several years, and incorporated and received their 501(c)(3) last year. Cuda said they hope to create a brand for the area that will make it more of an arts district and an arts destination.

“We are focusing on three things,” Cuda said. “The first thing that came up at all our public meetings was to create an infrastructure that connects artists with the tourists and residents to create an environment where our district people can have a feeling of the arts. We hope to facilitate public art and providing educational opportunities for artist entrepreneurs.”

Cuda said the work would be carried out by volunteers, some that are artists and art supporters. She said the group has public meetings twice a month that are open to the public.

A website serves as the infrastructure that connects artists with the greater public.
“It has an online artist showcase that advertises the businesses where these people’s art can be purchased,” Cuda said. “It is not just for the artists but for the local tourist business. It also showcases venues and events, and we have an online gallery of current public art that was put together by Dominic Piacentini, AFHA AmeriCorps member. It gives a history of those pieces of public art and their coordinates so teachers could use them for geocaching and things like that.”

Artist and venue subscribers are in Barbour, Randolph, Tucker, Pocahontas, Upshur and Taylor counties. So far, Tucker County subscribers include Ben’s Old Loom Barn, Buxton and Landstreet Gallery and Studios, ArtSpring and Alpine Heritage Preservation and Creature.

Cuda said they are looking for a full time AmeriCorp member and asked Commissioners if they would provide $2,000 sponsorship – $1,000 for an extra half-time AmeriCorp member and $1,000 for marketing costs.

Mountain Arts District Founding Board Member Pat Schoonover said she is a former science teacher and said everyday she had the realization that art was always there because of the design.

“I found in some cases, I had to get into the art world to teach the class so students could understand what I was trying to say,” Schoonover said. “Artists and science teachers are ones we do not think mix, but the world of science is art itself.”

Schoonover said she has watched Tucker, Randolph and the surrounding counties grow and said Mountain Arts District is working to pull in an actual area where people would want to come to and stay and spend their money.

“We want folks to be involved and immersed in all of the talent that is present right here,” Schoonover said. “We find it is difficult thing for West Virginia to look at because we are so embellished in the old ways of making money. We are looking for a way for artists to market themselves better and be entrepreneurs.”

Tucker County Clerk Sherry Simmons told Mountain Arts District representatives that Tucker County is in a shortfall with monies from the hotel/motel taxes.

“I think this is something that needs to be tabled until June when we review how much of a shortfall we are facing with our hotel/motel money,” Simmons said.

Commissioner Patrick Darlington said through the Parks and Recreation which receives hotel/motel taxes, they do grants and he said the window to apply for those grants is open through the end of May.

Commissioner Diane Hinkle said the group could apply for small grants through the Tucker County Cultural District.

Tucker County Assessor Chris Michael said state code requires they visit every property in Tucker County every three years.

“This year our main districts will be door-to-door in Black Fork, Hambleton, Hendricks, Thomas and Davis,” Michael said. “If anybody has any questions, feel free to contact the office.”

In other business, Tucker County Commission proclaimed May 2017 to be Older Americans Month.

Commissioners said they continue meeting to work on an ordinance for the EMS to have a mandatory EMS fee for the county. Commission President Lowell Moore asked the matter be tabled because they are nowhere ready to having the ordinance completed.

Commissioners voted to hire four summer youth students. They are seeking applications for the positions. They also voted to hire a part time employee for the Tucker County Animal Shelter.

The next Tucker County Commission meeting is slated for 4 p.m. May 24 in the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom.