JM Students Create Art as Part of a Rural Arts Collaborative Project Offered by Oglebay Institute

Students at John Marshall High School recently participated in a yearlong project-based arts initiative to create a public art installation.

Students worked alongside accomplished artist and filmmaker Michael McKowen to create a site-specific art installation titled “Passage.” Using wood and cloth, the students created a visual expression of the cycle of life. It was unveiled during an exhibit and reception at John Marshall High School in Glen Dale Tuesday afternoon. The sculptures are inspired by the design of the Adena Mound Builders culture.

The project was made possible through a partnership between Oglebay Institute and the Rural Arts Collaborative–an initiative that delivers hands-on, project-based learning programs to schools–with funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

“An exploration of the creative process, the project began with a feeling that evolved into an idea and then developed into something that is tactile and evocative,” McKowen explained. “The physical work is inspired by the Land Art movement of the 1960s and 70s as well as the work of the Adena culture that once occupied Marshall County.”

McKowen’s artwork has been seen in both group and solo exhibitions and his films have been screened in numerous festivals. He has more than 25 years’ experience working as a professional designer and artisan for theater, film and events across the country. His work has been seen at numerous theaters, independent and corporate films, music videos and commercials. As a milliner, he worked on the Broadway productions of “Wicked,” “The Producers,” “Spamalot” and many others. He is former art instructor at Wheeling Jesuit University and the curator of exhibitions at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center.

McKowen worked with the John Marshall students throughout the entire academic year. “It has been a joy to spend time with the students and get to know them as human beings. I looked forward to every opportunity I had to sit and create with this group. They are fearless, passionate and resourceful and they have taught me much about art and life,” he said.

In 2017, Oglebay Institute received a two-year grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to offer teaching artist residencies through the Rural Arts Collaborative (RAC) Arts Education Project in multiple rural schools throughout the Oglebay Institute service area. One of those schools included in the project was John Marshall High School. The Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation provided additional financial support for this project at John Marshall.

Other area schools participating in RAC projects offered by Oglebay Institute for the 2018-19 academic year are Bellaire High School, Brooke Middle School and Weir High School.

“We are deeply grateful to the Benedum Foundation for positioning us to be a change agent in the arts community in area schools,” said Danielle Cross McCracken, president of Oglebay Institute. “Because of Benedum’s generosity, we can offer new opportunities for students, who may not be able to travel to our facilities in Wheeling, to connect with Oglebay Institute programs. It also allows us to employee incredible professional artists like Michael McKowen and gives students in small communities an opportunity to share their voice with the world through their art. Oglebay Institute is thrilled to be the conduit to deliver this project and make it a hands-on reality for these students thanks to the support of Benedum and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.”

James Denova, vice president of the Benedum Foundation stated, “The RAC project is at the heart of what we at Benedum are pleased to fund–those initiatives that impact the arts in education for children, providing them with new experiential opportunities that they may not have in their traditional classroom curriculum.”

The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation is dedicated to encouraging human development in West Virginia and Southwestern PA through strategically placed charitable resources. Over the years, the Foundation has authorized grants of more than $410,000,000.

Oglebay Institute fosters appreciation, expression and discovery by engaging people of all ages and abilities through exceptional programming in performing and visual arts, dance, history, and nature.

Oglebay Institute advocates the essential value of arts and nature in our personal lives and its public worth to our community. Experiences in arts and nature break cultural, generational and social barriers, teach commonalities among us, connect people more deeply to the world and open up new ways of seeing.

Oglebay Institute venues in Wheeling include: the Stifel Fine Arts Center, Oglebay Institute’s School of Dance, Towngate Theatre, the Schrader Environmental Education Center, the Museums of Oglebay Institute. The Institute also operates Terra Alta Mountain Nature Camp in Terra Alta, West Virginia.