Woman opens community darkroom in Shepherdstown

May 07, 2001

Woman opens community darkroom in Shepherdstown

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Three years ago, Hali Taylor decided to offer a photography class to neighborhood youngsters to give them something to do during their summer break.

The five students who took the class excelled quickly, and Taylor received permission from Shepherd College to use a darkroom at the school to show the students how to make prints.

The students were so enthusiastic about the class they wanted to continue, Taylor said. However, the college said it could not continue to offer the darkroom space.

"I couldn't just turn them on to something and then cut them adrift," Taylor said last week.

Taylor decided to build her own darkroom for the community.

She received a $1,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County and collected $500 in donations to start the project. She talked to Cindy Cook, administrator of the Entler Hotel, who suggested that Taylor consider putting the darkroom in the Entler, which serves as a community center.


Then came the telephone call Taylor will never forget.

Somehow, a woman near Manassas, Va., heard about that first summer photography class and called Taylor. The woman told Taylor a close friend of hers was a photographer and had collected about $10,000 worth of darkroom equipment over the years, including enlargers, mounting presses, tanks, reels, developing trays and about eight boxes of photography instruction books.

The woman's friend had died and the woman was looking for a place to donate the equipment, Taylor said.

"I said, 'Don't move. I'm on my way,''' Taylor said.

Taylor loaded the equipment in a truck and brought it back to Shepherdstown.

Many of Taylor's friends volunteered their time to make the darkroom a reality. The decision was made to put the darkroom in the basement of the Entler Hotel, and about a dozen people donated time to construct interior walls for the darkroom, run electrical wiring and install plumbing.

"It's just been an incredible showing of community goodwill," Taylor said while standing in the nearly completed darkroom.

A grand opening and reception is scheduled for July 27. There are plans to continue the youth photography course in the darkroom and open it to the community.

Given Shepherdstown's large art community, Taylor said she thinks it will be well-used.

"I think there are a lot of closet photographers out there," she said.

Taylor plans to organize a steering committee to determine what kind of fees to charge.

The darkroom will be named the Cecil Arnold Community Darkroom, in honor of the former Shepherdstown police chief who died last December. Taylor said she admired Arnold because he supported efforts to provide recreational and education programs for youths. When Taylor was starting her first youth photography class, Arnold donated $600 for the effort, Taylor said.

"I just adored him. He absolutely changed the face of the police," Taylor said.

Taylor hopes to have Pam Arnold, Cecil Arnold's widow, cut the ribbon to the new darkroom.

The darkroom will be for black and white photography, which is still popular despite advances in digital photography, Taylor said.

Taylor, the children's librarian at the Shepherdstown Library, has been involved in various photography projects over the years. Last year, she was hired to develop a photo essay of the peace talks between Syria and Israel in Shepherdstown.

The Shepherdstown Rotary Club hired Taylor to develop the essay as a keepsake for the town.

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