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Martinsburg eyes new art project

February 16, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The side of a brick building in downtown Martinsburg that was the focal point of a mural controversy six years ago is being considered for another art project this summer.

For the five Friday nights in July, the side of 124 S. Queen St. might serve as the backdrop for bands playing and movie watching if Main Street Martinsburg receives final approval from City Council and others involved in the project, Main Street Executive Director Randy Lewis said Monday.

"I really think this will bring people downtown, especially families, in the summer months," Lewis said.

The event series is being made possible, in part, by a partnership with the Apollo Civic Theatre, which agreed to allow Main Street to use a digital movie projector for the film showings, Lewis said. The projector was recently donated by The Arts Centre, Randy Lewis said.

Randy Lewis said he had preliminary discussions about the proposed event with building owner Lane McIntosh, City Manager Mark Baldwin and Ward IV Councilman Roger Lewis, whose district includes downtown, and received a favorable response.

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The City Council next month is expected to consider Main Street's request to close the Queen Street entrance to the city's parking lot between McIntosh's building and First United Bank & Trust for about five hours, Randy Lewis said.

"Conceptually, I'm on board," McIntosh said Monday when asked about the proposed event.

Lewis said organizers still need a projection screen of some type for the movies, which will be shown after bands perform from 7 to 9 p.m. People would be encouraged to bring their lawn chairs for the events, Lewis said.

The mural project for 124 S. Queen St. surfaced in September 2002, and after much debate was ultimately stopped by former building owner Doug Craigo in June 2003, when city officials announced he withdrew his permission.

Historic preservationists objected to painting the mural on the Beaux Arts-style building because it had not been painted before and argued that it would detract from the building's unique characteristics.

The mural was to depict a local marching band that performed in Martinsburg from 1896 until the 1930s.

A second attempt at having a mural painted downtown resulted in the work titled "The Lonesome Touch" by artist William Cochran being painted on two panels and installed on the city-owned Market House building at North Queen and West Burke streets.

Randy Lewis said Monday that Main Street this year will be formally proposing yet another downtown mural project that would involve installation of relatively small, history-themed paintings on a piece of metal, which then would be attached to buildings.

Nine building owners have expressed interest in the proposal, which still must be presented to the Historic Preservation Review Commission for a certificate of appropriateness, Lewis said.

Titled "Traces of History," the paintings by Hagerstown artist Todd Groesbeck would depict each building's historic use as part of a "micro-mural" project, Lewis said.

Groesbeck has offered to do the artwork at no charge, Lewis said.

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