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Berkeley Springs ranks 12th in arts destinations

June 05, 2002|by SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The small, historic town of Berkeley Springs was ranked among the top 25 arts destinations in the United States in a poll taken by a magazine dedicated to crafts and art.

American Style, published by the Rosen Group in Baltimore, ranked Berkeley Springs 12th out of 25 cities. The art-oriented town preceded big cities such as Miami, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Last year Berkeley Springs, nestled in the mountains of Morgan County, ranked 16th, said Jenny Wheeler, president of the local Morgan Arts Council and owner of Mountain Laurel art gallery.

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"We're right in with the big boys," she said.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Morgan County has a population of 15,275.

The listing of the top 25 arts destinations is in the Summer 2002 edition and can be viewed at the magazine's Web site at www.americanstyle.com.

Votes were tallied from ballots inserted in the Winter 2001-02 edition of the magazine and submitted electronically via the Web site, according to the Web site.

On the ballot, readers were asked to list their top choices for arts travel destinations based on the "richness and variety of visual art sites, activities and events," according to the Web site.

"Berkeley Springs is known as an art Mecca," Wheeler said.

Morgan County has more than 100 working artists who specialize in visual and performing arts, according to a press release.

"The blend of visual and performing arts, as well as the art and beauty of the area itself and the healing waters," is what makes Berkeley Springs able to compete with such big cities as New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New Orleans, Wheeler said.

"The whole package is what Berkeley Springs is about. It's one gorgeous package of natural art and the art we create," she said.

Wheeler pointed to a recent week as an example, citing a free concert and school presentation by the Morgan State University Choir, the debut concert of the 25-member Morgan Community Concert Band, sales activity in three local galleries and a week of after-school youth theater classes.

Wendy Rosen, publisher of American Style, said this year's poll drew the most responses in its five-year history. Rosen attributes this in part to the surge in cultural tourism with travelers rating arts, heritage and cultural activities as one of the top five reasons for traveling, according to a press release.

Cites and towns encourage cultural tourists because studies show they contribute almost twice as much to the local economy as do business travelers or family vacationers, she said in a press release.

Berkeley Springs is not a stranger to the world of rankings based on a town's artistry and creative flare.

The town has been included in all three editions of John Vallani's "Top 100 Small Art Towns in America," Wheeling said.

To find out about theater events, concerts, gallery showings, shops and more located in Berkeley Springs log on to www.berkeleysprings.com.

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