I had the pleasure of stopping by the offices of the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau on Thursday for what I hope will be a new milestone in the continuing renaissance of our area.
The Summit Gallery officially opened its doors that night, showcasing the work of four regional artists, with plans to put even more on display in the near future.
Now, I am by no means an artist myself. I can barely draw a stick figure properly, let alone put together any type of complex painting or sculpture.
But, I can appreciate art in all of its forms.
I can look at the shapes and colors, the brush strokes and the textures and the various media used to put the pieces together.
I may not understand its meaning, but I can appreciate that it means something to someone and a lot of work went into the piece.
We have a great deal of artistic talent in our region, whether it be painters, sculptors, poets, authors, or musicians.
Over the last several years, I have had the fortune to watch as various groups have stepped up and provided higher profile opportunities for all of us to experience these talents first-hand, whether it be through a concert at the Weirton Event Center, a showcase at the Weirton Museum, and now a display at Summit Gallery.
As I pulled up to the gallery Thursday, I wasn't certain what to expect.
This is, after all, something completely new to our area and sometimes we don't always take to new things so easily.
The place was packed, and I hope it continues to be as the gallery will be open to the public for people to view, and even purchase, the pieces put on display.
The plan is to rotate the showcases every few months, and I can foresee so many opportunities.
There could be focuses on particular artistic media, certain themes, certain communities, or even a particular group of our local population.
One of the ideas I think would be great is to have a showcase from our local students. Many of our high schools have art programs, after all.
Wouldn't it be nice to have one or two students from each school selected to put their pieces on display? Someone may even see one they like and buy it. That could encourage these students to continue their studies.
In a time when many schools are faced with the possibility of cutting some of their arts programs because of funding issues, we are fortunate to be able to see them continue and succeed, and the work of these students and their teachers should be shown and appreciated by our residents.
I?think it's great to be able to have such a place in our community, and I?thank the CVB and the Hancock County Arts Council for doing so much work to put this project together.
Remember, this isn't just about Weirton, either.
We have artists from all of our local communities, and they each should be celebrated and given an opportunity to shine.
Our readers, or even those to check out the gallery, may have noticed, the current display features artists from Weirton, Follansbee and even Smithfield.
We are truly crossing boundaries here, which I think is a good thing for all of us to do when looking for new experiences.
It can only make us all better.
Ten years ago, I doubt many in Weirton could ever have pictured an art gallery standing along Main Street, let alone a museum or an agency dedicated to promoting the tourism of our region.
Yet, here they are, helping to showcase just a little bit of what makes our area great.
For generations, Weirton was known primarily as a "steel town." Now, to many of those looking at us from the outside, it's a "former steel town."
But those of us who grew up here know it always has been far more than that.
Weirton has a rich history, with friendly people and a lot of talent.
The Summit Gallery just helps to prove that point even more.
(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)