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Love art, love Martinsburg

City plans street fairs featuring local artists

City plans street fairs featuring local artists

March 18, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - American west painter William Robinson Leigh and 19th century magazine illustrator David Hunter Strother happen to be among Berkeley County's most famous native sons.

So maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that art will be the focus of a series of Saturday street fairs planned in downtown Martinsburg in the coming months, beginning Easter weekend.

"We're trying to get people to fall in love with the city again, through art," said Bonnie Rockie, president of ArtBerkeley, Inc., a nonprofit organization formed last year to enhance the arts community in the county and surrounding region.

"We think people are really energized to make a change here. "We're trying to use art to revitalize downtown Martinsburg."

In collaboration with the Heritage Craft Center of Eastern Panhandle and Main Street Martinsburg, Rockie said local artists and artisans will be displaying and selling their work along with vendors of other high quality merchandise such as clothing, accessories and jewelry.

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Actors affiliated with the Apollo Civic Theatre have agreed to perform skits to promote upcoming shows and some artisans will demonstrate their skill and still others are expected to entertain with their instruments, Rockie said.

The inaugural fair will be held April 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and are expected to be held the first Saturday of each month.

"We're basically going to do it until the weather cools down a little bit," said Rockie, a painter of centerpiece adornments used in jewelry.

Though expected to start small, Rockie hopes the events grow into a large-scale ongoing street fair.

Among those who are expected to display their work are artisans Carol Slovikosky, Nancy Streeter, Karen Cartlidge and Kathy McClung. Also among the early registrants is fine art photographer Rip Smith who will be offering prints from his "Martinsburg Portfolio" and will discuss his award-winning images from the Cumberland Valley Photographic Salon.

Registration of other artists, artisans, authors, and performers is ongoing and the organizers expect to provide visitors with a great cross-section of local creative talent, Rockie said.

With about 70 members, ArtBerkeley develops resources for artists of all disciplines, facilitates arts related exhibitions and events, encourages arts education, and promotes cooperation among all arts organizations in the region, Rockie said.

In November, the organization changed its name from the Arts Alliance of Berkeley County.

"The (name was) a mouthful every time you say it," Rockie said laughing.

Main Street Martinsburg Executive Director Randy Lewis said the street fairs will complement the downtown revitalization group's "first Friday" events that businesses already take part in to attract customers.

Main Street Martinsburg also is planning to launch another arts project to showcase the work of artists the week of the Wine & Arts Festival in May, Lewis said.

Select works of art are expected to be on display in empty storefronts and other downtown locations through the fall, Lewis said.

As for the community's famous artists of years past, Strother was born in Martinsburg in 1816 and went on to be a frequent contributor to Harper's Monthly and then served as a topographer in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, according to historical accounts.

Born in Falling Waters, W.Va., in 1866, Leigh was most famous for his Western scenes and now many are on display across the nation, according to the William Robinson Leigh Foundation. Leigh also painted works including The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, which hangs at Old North Church in Boston, Mass.




More information about ArtBerkeley is on the Internet at www.artberkeley.org. The Heritage Craft Center of the Eastern Panhandle also has a virtual presence at www.heritagecraftcenter.org.

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