www.charlestonartwalk.com or 304-340-4253 (Charleston Area Alliance)CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Downtown Charleston ArtWalk has been around the block to get to tonight's 10-year anniversary celebration.The original concept was the brainchild of Callen McJunkin, who owned downtown galleries for years. John Auge credits her with bringing the concept from other cities to Charleston. He owned the now-defunct Distant Mesas gallery on Hale Street for three years in ArtWalk's early days."I remember the day Callen and her late husband Tom approached us about the concept," Auge said. "It was exciting to be part of the initiative to get people downtown, visiting the shops, increasing evening traffic. It was the concept of getting people comfortable with staying after work, just moseying about, checking out galleries.""It was based on her experiences with art. She was quite a catalyst, and Tom was so supportive and interested in anything creative," he continued. "We watched it continue to grow. More people got involved, asking 'How can we be part of it?' We added street performers once. I remember Callen had a guy playing the saxophone on the street corner. It was amazing."Charleston City Council recently honored the original participants of ArtWalk with a resolution extolling their early efforts, as well as recognizing the current participants who carry on the founders' vision.One of the honorees was photographer Steve Payne who had a gallery and studio on Capitol Street when ArtWalk started."The first meeting was at my studio," he said. "Callen and Tom McJunkin had been to these in other cities, and John and David [Morton, manager of Distant Mesas] were familiar with them. I had heard of them but never attended one. It was an effort to put some energy into the downtown arts scene."Payne pointed out that the 10-year trek has been a long road, indeed."It's super weather dependent, and that's a big issue for attendance. Some were really good, and sometimes it was, 'Well, it was fun setting up that table.'" Anne Saville, owner of Taylor Books and its Annex Gallery, was part of ArtWalk from the beginning and has the only original gallery still participating. She downplayed her role, though, instead praising former Annex Gallery manager Angie Mullins and current manager Dan Carlisle for handling the set-up, promotion and participation in ArtWalk."They just carry on down there so well," Saville said with a laugh. "They do all of the work, everything. They ask me when they need a cheese tray," she said, referring to the refreshments that are typically part of the ArtWalk events. McJunkin was humbled by the praise from her fellow ArtWalk originators."It's very generous of them, but you can't engage an entire downtown by yourself," McJunkin said. "I travel a lot to look at art, and I said there's no reason why this wouldn't work here."Most of us wanted the art to be accessible. We wanted to make it easy for folks to just walk in the door. Many people thought a high-end gallery would have impersonal help with no prices listed on the wall. They just didn't know the protocol. They didn't know if they could just come in and walk around, ask how much something cost. We wanted to break down barriers."Now that McJunkin doesn't have a gallery in the downtown district, she said she can't choose which one of the ArtWalk venues is her favorite."Everybody's got something to offer. You have to look at it all to train your eye."ArtWalk is held from 5 to 8 p.m. the third Thursday of every month (except in winter) with assistance from the Charleston Area Alliance. This month's participants are Art Emporium, Purple Moon, Modern by Design, Gallery Eleven, Studio 1031, Romano & Associates, Visions Day Spa, Chet Lowther Studio, Mission Savvy, Stray Dog Antiques, Taylor Books, White Oak Photography, House of Luxe, and the Charleston Ballet. Participating galleries for the March 15th installment of ArtWalk are:
Art Emporium, 823 Quarrier St.: "Slung, Flung & Hung," mixed media works by Robert Tribbie. The Charleston Ballet, 100 Capitol St.: Watch a studio rehearsal for "Play Ball!" and meet six of the show's male guest artists from Philadelphia's Ballet Fleming. Also, meet Chuck, the West Virginia Power's mascot, and find out about the opening of baseball season. Chet Lowther Studio, 223 Hale St.: Works by elementary and high school students in celebration of Youth Art Month. Gallery Eleven, 1033 Quarrier St.: Works by one of the art cooperative's three new artists, Tony Papa. (The other artists, Danielle Milam and Mary Lou Wiegand, will be featured in the future.) House of Luxe, 817 Quarrier St.: Debut of several new spring/summer jewelry lines, including mix-and-match bracelets by Aid Through Trade and Angelique de Paris. The Purple Moon, 906 Quarrier St.: Works from West Virginia artists Glen Brogan, Chase Henderson and Sharon Stackpole. Plus, art by William D. Goebel, Felix Krasyk, Hank Keeling, Chuck Hamsher and vintage 20th century design. Romano and Associates, 230 Capitol St., Suite 200: "Colors of the Rainbow Show," presented by Rainbow Pride of West Virginia. Studio 1031, 1031 Quarrier St.: Nature-themed works by Joeann Crawford and Stefani Andrews. Taylor Books Annex Gallery, 226 Capitol St.: Western-themed paintings by Morgantown artist Tracy Stuckey. Vision's Day Spa, 238 Capitol St.: Rose paintings by Keith W Johnson, stained glass by Bob Rosier, photographs by Dawn Combs and Chad Miller, hand-blown glass by Hinkle Glass and handmade scarves by Tia's Treasures. Also receive a complimentary makeover from makeup artist Ted Brightwell. Reach Sara Busse at email@example.com or 304-348-1249.