Exhibit celebrates returnees

Artists on hand for first arts center display back for anniversary event

Artists on hand for first arts center display back for anniversary event

January 03, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -The railroad tracks are bare and the nearby town is depressed, but when Frank Herrera sees them he remembers the stories his late father passed down of the southern Spanish town he and Herrera's grandfather left for the U.S.

"Those are the tracks that my father and grandfather got on that went to the city of Cordoba and to Cadiz," recalls Herrera, 67, who lives in Martinsburg. At that port city, they took a ship in 1915, looking out for submarines off the coast because it was during World War I. They arrived at Ellis Island, went to New York City and traveled to southern West Virginia, where Herrera's grandfather found work as a coal miner.

Photography of Herrera's 2005 visit to his father's homeland is part of the "20th Anniversary Reunion Exhibit" at The Arts Centre that opens Friday in the downtown Martinsburg gallery.

Herrera is among seven artists who displayed their work in the center's first exhibit 20 years ago and for the anniversary exhibit, which will be open through Saturday, Feb. 2.


The center spent most of those 20 years as the Boarman Arts Center in the Boarman House, a historic home across King Street from the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library.

Before temporarily relocating to the Caperton Train Station, the center was renamed The Arts Centre. It moved into its current home, the former Federal Building on the corner of West King Street and South Maple Avenue in August 2006, says Shelley Aikens, program director.

Before the Boarman Arts Center, the only places in Martinsburg for artists to exhibit their work were the library and empty storefronts, says Diana Suttenfield, an artist who helped found the center.

The Boarman House had been vacant for years, and its owner, Associates for Community Development Inc., was considering demolishing it if a good use couldn't be found.

Finding a good use was left to board member Gail Jones, who discussed the issue with friends, Suttenfield says. The group decided to make the house an art center with the main purpose of education, especially for schoolchildren.

The center's new home provides more space for exhibits, says Herrera, who operates his own photography gallery downtown.

The main gallery in the former Federal Building is 2,300 square feet with ceilings about 18 feet high. There is a classroom next to the gallery, separated by partitions, and another, smaller one, upstairs.

The nonprofit art center still holds hands-on classes for children and adults, a Young Artist Summer Workshop, after-school art classes at the center and three Martinsburg elementary schools, and hosts five to eight art shows a year from September through May, Aikens says. The center also organizes the annual West Virginia Wine & Arts Festival, a fundraiser for the center.

If you go ...

WHAT: The Arts Centre's "20th Anniversary Reunion Exhibit" featuring approximately 30 works of art by seven artists who participated in the center's first exhibit

WHEN: Opening reception is 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4. The exhibit will be up Friday through Saturday, Feb. 2. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

WHERE: The Arts Centre, 300 W. King St. (northwest corner of West King Street and South Maple Avenue), Martinsburg, W.Va.

COST: Free admission

DIRECTIONS: From Hagerstown, take Interstate 81 south to King Street/downtown exit (Exit 13) for Martinsburg, W.Va. Turn left on King Street. Drive into downtown Martinsburg. The Arts Centre is the large brick building on the left, on the corner of West King Street and South Maple Avenue. The entrance is off South Maple Avenue. Metered parking is available along the streets.

MORE: For more information, call 304-263-0224 or go to

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