Monday, October 6, 2008

ARTS/West - The Gateway to Arts in Athens

Danielle Sills

Experienced or not, anyone with an artistic idea in Southeast Ohio has a built-in support group. From a middle school student with an idea for an art gallery to an advanced theater troupe with a phenomenal production, ARTS/West is eager help transform these ideas into reality. With a goal of providing resources for area artists, the facility offers anything from guidance to practice space.

ARTS/West may be a physical building on West State Street in Athens, but it's an idea as well - one of promoting the arts that local residents believe in. Funded by the Ohio Arts Council, ARTS/West is a nonprofit organization. It houses several programs for children, local musicians, and theater companies and playwrights.

Aquabear Legion Spreads Local Music

The founders of Aquabear Legion wanted to strengthen the local music community in Athens and the surrounding cities. So they went to ARTS/West, who "adopted" them as an incubated program.

"The point of incubation is that you'll start here - you'll have a home base [at ARTS/West] - and you'll take your programs out into the community," says ARTS/West Program Specialist Emily Prince.

Emily Prince talks about Aquabear Legion's role with local music

Prince says by giving the program a venue for concerts and community events, the Aquabear Legion is able to attract a wider audience. Concerts at ARTS/West start earlier than they would at bars and provide an alcohol-free environment.

Annual Play Festival Gives Playwrights a Chance

The Appalachian New Play Festival is another way ARTS/West helps local artists see and hear their work come to life. It selects five submissions from local playwrights, schedules rehearsals for local actors to do readings of the plays, and gets community members involved by inviting them to performances and post-show discussions. Playwrights get to hear what their play sounds like so they can make changes for future productions.

Local Playwright Celeste Parsons explains why she loves ARTS/West

Celeste Parsons was one of the featured playwrights at this year's festival. She says it's the variety of programs that brings her back to ARTS/West over and over again. "This is really one of the best values for theater dollar I can think of," explains Parsons.

Don't Forget About the Kids
Not all the programs at ARTS/West are targeted to adults. The Ohio Valley Summer Theater invites about 3,000 students to watch a production each winter. This year, students will take a fieldtrip to see a classic - Pinocchio. Music Together in Athens teaches children music, and the Appalachian Progressive Education Center uses ARTS/West as a facility to provide a more complete arts-based education.

A Gallery, Too?
The walls of ARTS/West are covered with - surprise! - art. Whenever community members stop in to see a performance or use the facility's practice space, they can browse the current gallery. Here's what's on display right now:

what's on display right now at ARTS/West

ART/oberfest is the next big event at ARTS/West from October 17th-20th. The event will include a local music showcase by the Aquabear Legion, an open art fair, and performances and art demonstrations.

"There would be no reason for us if the community didn't want it and use it," says Prince. But luckily, the venue is booked every day of the week with classes, workshops, film screenings, and any art event possible.

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