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Students help Arts Centre make the move

August 17, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A team of Shepherd University students helped the executive director of The Arts Centre carry out some "marching orders" Wednesday.

"We wanted to be in here," Topper Sherwood said of the center's new historic digs in the towering downtown federal building at 300 W. King St.

"We wanted to be open here ... and now we are," Sherwood said.

The move of the center's office from Caperton Train Station off East Martin Street comes five years after leaders of the nonprofit community center for the arts acquired the four-story building from the U.S. Department of Education at virtually no expense.

"We're going to be a little bit scruffy for a time," Sherwood said after more than two truckloads of office furnishings were moved from the train station off East Martin Street.

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The volunteer labor provided by 12 students and professor Alan Tinkler was part of Shepherd's sixth annual Day of Service. The community outreach event, coordinated by Holly Morgan Frye, included the participation of about 150 students and 20 faculty and staff, Frye said.

"I think students enjoy doing this kind of work," Frye said. "And I think it's kind of becoming the norm - they're not the exception to the rule."

For Leigh Anne Cassell of Charles Town, W.Va., helping Sherwood seemed to fit perfectly.

"I love art," said Cassell, an art major.

For their participation in the service program, students were able to move in to residence halls two days early. They were treated to dinner and given a "goodie bag," and also are expected to help other new students when they arrive on campus before classes begin Monday. University officials hope students make "connections" with the community and new friends as a result, Frye said.

"It's an awesome program," said Frye, director of Student Community Services and Service Learning.

Sherwood was grateful for the help.

"Right now, quite honestly, we're dependent on our volunteers," Sherwood said.

Within a few months, Sherwood said another group of volunteers is expected to construct a sloped concrete entrance so disabled individuals can readily access the building, which does not meet West Virginia fire codes.

"The big thing is sprinklers - very expensive," Sherwood said.

The state Fire Marshal's office is allowing up to 100 people to be in the street-level floor of the building, which was completed in 1895. A limited number of adults at one time can access the second floor, where artist-in-residence Ralph Basford will be teaching oil painting and, beginning in September, drawing. Beginning Sept. 2, officials expect the center to be Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday hours also might be considered, Sherwood said.

"We have someone working right now on the fall regional show," Sherwood said.

Sherwood acknowledged the organization's recent financial troubles, but downplayed the fact he took a pay cut and that staffing had been sliced in half through attrition.

"We haven't come close to raising the kind of money we should or could be raising in this community," Sherwood said. "And I think it's because we haven't been here ..."

Aside from his arrival five months ago, Sherwood said five new board members, led by board President Karen Rice, have joined the organization. He also noted successes with the center's Wine & Arts Festival fundraiser, which was restructured.

"I'm here to tell ya' things are going to change," Sherwood said.

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