After 13 years on Hale Street, Good News Mountaineer Garage is moving to a new location on the West Side. While it’s not an end to the organization that helps provide work vehicles to the poor, it’s the end of the organization’s participation in Charleston’s monthly ArtWalk, which takes place this evening.
Barbara Bayes, the director of Good News Mountaineer Garage, said, “We’re sad to be leaving.”
The venue has been a fixture of ArtWalk, but Bayes said how the garage even got involved was pure serendipity.
“I had a farm out in Lincoln County. One of my kids had a friend over — they always had somebody staying there. Once, though, there was this girl come out. She’d just got her bachelor of arts from the University of Florida, a really good art school.
“I was in my shop one day, and I saw these huge, rolled-up canvases. I looked them over and thought, ‘These are good.’ ”
Two weeks later, Bayes heard about plans to start an art walk in downtown Charleston.
Bayes said, “I got to looking at the bare walls and the track lighting…”
She asked the young artist if she’d want to hang up her canvases and be part of ArtWalk.
The girl told her, “Well, yeah.”
Bayes said, “She hung them up on the walls, and people came in.”
Most people that first time had never stepped inside the building before or even knew what was past the front door. Finally, a woman who’d come to see the art, asked, “Why do you call this a garage?”
Bayes told her what she tells just about anybody.
“We get donated cars and fix them up to give to people on welfare or going through rehabilitation services, so they can get to work and get off benefits.”
The woman paused a moment and then told Bayes, “Well, we’ve got a car we want to donate.”
Bayes said the organization gets two or three cars a year from people who discover it through ArtWalk, and she has looked at the garage’s participation as community outreach.
“I don’t try to compete with the galleries,” she said. “We’ve had outsider art, untrained art and installations that the galleries don’t usually do.”
One month, there was an exhibit of photographs taken at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Jolo, McDowell County, while a service from the snake handling church played through the stereo. Another month featured a collection of Senator Byrd’s political cartoons through the years.
“We had some guys from Morgantown and California who did ‘The Faces of Poverty in Appalachia,’” Bayes said. “They had pictures of people and their hand-written stories posted next to the pictures.”
Good News Mountaineer Garage also had a house band for years.
Some musicians approached Bayes about using the empty lobby as practice space. She agreed to let them on the condition that they’d come and play during ArtWalk.
“That’s been for seven years or so,” she said. “Sometimes there are 15 to 20 people out there playing.”
Bayes said she’ll miss being part of the action, but it’s time to go. The new venue is just too good to pass up.
“We had a very generous donor who bought a building and side lot for us on Fourth Avenue,” she said.
The new building will have a lot more space and will also allow for the offices and repair shop to be under one roof. The organization has raised money to renovate, and Bayes said the plan is to expand the program and eventually set up a low-wage car lot for the working poor.
This ArtWalk is to say thank you and goodbye. The garage will be showing a rolling slideshow of some of the people who’ve benefited from the program during the last 13 years.
“We have over 2,000 pictures,” she said. “We’ve given away over 2,500 cars, and that just shocks me.”
Bayes is proud of what the garage has done. She said that after a year, more than 90 percent of car recipients are off benefit services. A few have even later returned to donate cars of their own.
“We have such a bad attitude toward people in this country. Instead of a war on poverty, it’s a war on the poor.” She said, “You just can’t give up on people.”
Reach Bill Lynch