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Paying tribute to some of the many people who help keep Charleston's arts scene interesting

This is part one of a two-part series that will continue next week.

Charleston’s arts and music scene had a busy year in 2019.

The updated, renovated and renamed Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center finally became fully open. Long-time local favorite Tyler Childers sold out “Mountain Stage” in seconds. Contemporary Youth Arts Company moved into its new home in Elk City on Charleston’s West Side. FestivALL and WomanSong got new directors and the Charleston Light Opera Guild and the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra celebrated major milestones.

There were big shows, little shows and surprises all along, all of which were made possible by a small army of performers, producers, promoters and patrons who generously give their time, money and hearts to make Charleston and West Virginia a better place to live.

In keeping with the spirit of gratitude during this holiday season, through the end of the year the A&E section of the Charleston Gazette-Mail would like to recognize a few of the many people who work behind the scenes to make Charleston a little more interesting and a lot more fun.

Stuart Frazier

What groups do you belong to?

I have been involved in the arts in Charleston for over 10 years, bouncing around different projects and organizations. I have performed as a member of the No Pants Players Improv Comedy Troupe — now State 35’s No Pants Players — since 2008.

I have performed in numerous plays for Kanawha Players and Charleston Stage Company, including “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Superior Donuts,” “Twelve Angry Men,” “Othello” and others.

I have worked with West Virginia State University’s Cultural Activities in directing a staged reading of Calvin Ramsey’s “The Green Book,” and I am currently directing “The Colored Museum” by George C. Wolfe at the Alban Arts Center.

What do you do?

I am the marketing coordinator for the Kanawha County Public Library.

I promote the classes, events and resources of the library throughout the county via radio, television, social media and any other form that is applicable. I also serve as spokesperson and media contact. I have helped plan events and marketing campaigns of the library and I write several newspaper articles promoting library activity and news.

Off the clock, I am directing “The Colored Museum” at the Alban Arts Center.

It is a unique show that is structured as 11 sketches that explore African American identity and culture. Featuring an all African American cast, it is an incredibly relevant play that still touches on issues and stereotypes that we still deal with in contemporary America.

Also, I co-host a podcast with Charles Minimah, Jr. called “Black Apex Podcast.”

We discuss the political, social, and cultural issues of the day and how they relate to the Black community. We dig into those issues and try to find solutions to improve the lives of the community.

Additionally, we have recently started a radio show based on our podcast called “On Air with Black Apex.” It plays on Thursdays at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on 92.1 FM WSVQ — similar themes, but more locally targeted.

Creative/professional high point in 2019?

I was really proud of how the “Charleston Reads Banned Books” video project came together.

As part of celebrating “Banned Books Week,” I was able to get several local figures to read banned or challenged books for the library, including WTSQ’s Josh Gaffin, WSAZ’s Amanda Barren, local poet and activist Crystal Good and mayor of Charleston Amy Goodwin.

It was a challenge to coordinate so many schedules, seeking permission from publishers and editing the footage, but it all came out really well.

And it really showed a lot of support for the library from people in the community.

Another creative high point was WSVQ accepting our bid to host a radio show, “On Air with Black Apex.” By doing so, myself and co-host Charles Minimah, Jr. are able to talk about the important issues that affect the community, speak with community members and leaders, and reach a large audience.

Low point?

Artistically, my biggest challenge was making the decision to take a hiatus from my beloved improv troupe, State 35’s No Pants Players.

There were many things on my plate, and I had to make some tough decisions on what I should focus on. I do miss seeing the troupe and performing with them as often as I had, but I still keep up with some of the things they are doing and I think Charleston is going to be blown away by some of their projects.

I look forward to seeing them myself.

Any plans you can share about 2020?

I’m definitely excited about the premiere of “The Colored Museum.”

It’s such a strong, fascinating, unique show that I just feel like audiences will be wowed by it. We have some amazing talent, a great theater and a spectacular show.

I just can’t wait to see it all come together, February 2020. I hope to continue directing and performing, continue with my online businesses, GRWL Media (social media management business) and Chuck City Tees (local tees and apparel) and keep doing my part to contribute to my community.

Jessica O’Hearn

What groups do you belong to?

I work at the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences in Charleston.

There is always a lot going on here with so many different areas, but across the board we provide entertaining and educational programs and experiences to the public and to students throughout the year.

What do you do?

I am the Artistic Director and Curator for the Juliet Art Museum.

I oversee all exhibits and programs that happen within the art museum. That involves keeping an exhibit plan about two years in advance, installing and de-installing exhibits, and creating content for all of the exhibits we curate in-house.

We plan all lectures and events that happen in connection to our exhibits, and also manage all aspects of our permanent collection, which has a little over 1,000 objects.

With a 2018 renovation, we added an interactive art space and an art studio, which has given us the opportunity to hold art classes and workshops on a regular basis.

This is a lot. But it does not happen without a lot of help from our incredible staff here. The Clay Center truly is a collaborative environment and I feel so fortunate to work with such a supportive and positive staff.

Creative/professional high point in 2019?

The night we opened the first Juliet Art Museum Invitational exhibit in March was definitely a high point — not just because we had a wonderful turnout for the event, but because of the reactions and feedback from people who attended.

I was overwhelmed with the support for West Virginian artists.

There are so many incredibly talented artists working all over the state and it was an honor to have the opportunity to highlight their artwork, the work they do within their communities, and the place they hold in the greater contemporary art world.

A more recent highlight was our visiting artist Mari Gardner this past October.

Mari is a Portland-based artist who we commissioned to create a sculpture for our sculpture garden renovation this coming year. She is a public artist who specializes in working with communities to involve them in the process of creating a sculpture.

Mari was here to work with the Charleston community to create glass tiles that will be permanently installed as part of her sculpture. We held a public workshop as part of FestivALL Fall, and a week of workshops with Kanawha County middle school students.

Seeing so many students and Charleston residents excited about contributing to the garden project and exposing them to the possibilities of public art was so rewarding.

We are so excited to have Mari back here this February to give more people an opportunity to participate in the project.

Low point?

I don’t think that there is one specific low point, but I am hardest on myself when we have a program that does not go the way that I envisioned or is just not as successful as I would have liked.

It is always tough to plan programs for the general public, trying to identify the audience you want to reach and where you want to make an impact.

There are times that we have successful events and I can take a minute to feel proud of what we accomplished, but when something doesn’t go as well, I always think about how we can be better and what to do differently.

It is such a privilege to work in a place like the Clay Center and my goal is to create meaningful experiences for people, whether that be through events, classes or exhibits. Sometimes we might miss the mark, but I am always striving to be better and listen to our audience and what they want from us.

Any plans you can share about 2020?

I am most excited about our sculpture garden renovation.

We just broke ground on a complete renovation of the soon-to-be “Susan Runyan Maier Sculpture Garden.”

The new space will be a place where we can hold events, and it will be a contemplative space for people to enjoy beautiful outdoor sculptures. This has presented an exciting opportunity to engage with public artists regionally and nationally to place work in the garden.

Betty King

What groups do you belong to?

For my day job, I proudly serve as Vice President of Operations and Education for the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

We make great music to inspire and enrich our region. I’m also on the Board of Directors for the Kanawha County Public Library and for Arts Advocacy of WV.

I teach flute lessons and play for the Charleston Light Opera Guild.

What do you do?

Professional juggler.

I often say my job is “the all other duties as assigned” in large print. I get to be a detail witch to make sure things are running smoothly, but I don’t do it alone or in a vacuum.

I could be working on anything from in-house information technology, providing project information, personnel of upcoming concerts, housing arrangements with local hotels or managing our string education program in two dozen Kanawha County schools.

Creative/professional high point in 2019?

Personally, it is the acquisition of a piano in my living room. It’s not the instrument you will ever hear me play in public, but I rediscovered playing piano for my own enjoyment.

Twice in my life now I have asked, “Why did my parents let me quit taking lessons?”

Professionally, we implemented new software this fall specific to orchestra management. Getting all the information from five different excel spreadsheets with various tasks imported into one system is like building our own virtual farm or city, but ours has to show progress every day and powers a living breathing organization with lots of rules, a real workforce and real concerts.

Low point?

Despite all the best plans and sound checks, and confirmations of technical aspects and reservations, every concert seems to have its black hole moment where a microphone doesn’t work or worse. At least once every six months the team has heard me say, “We are never doing THAT that way again!”

The trick is not to let the audience see you sweat ... staying backstage helps.

Any plans you can share about 2020?

I’m still not sure what I want to do when I grow up, but I have been fortunate enough to have the beauty of music and art and books surround me while I try to figure it out.

My husband will tell you I have a lot of older needlework and art projects that have been unfinished for a long time.

I should realistically finish some of the “great works” that I have started — applique Christmas tree skirt, rather large oil painting in counted cross stitch, etc.

Adam Harris

What groups do you belong to?

“Mountain Stage.”

We produce live events for national broadcast via about 240 NPR stations.

What do you do?

I’m the executive producer and work with host and creative director Larry Groce to choose and book talent. I oversee the production from scheduling to completion of the broadcast and more.

Creative/professional high point in 2019?

There were so many. Working with Kathy Mattea as a guest host on “Mountain Stage” has been fun and rewarding. WVPB had a wonderful preview event for the Ken Burns PBS documentary film “Country Music” in Morgantown.

This fall we experimented with an intimate evening at Adventures on the Gorge in Fayetteville that wasn’t for broadcast. It was an incredible place for a show and the audience responded fondly.

Low point?

I didn’t get my photo taken with Los Straitjackets in their lucha libre masks.

Any plans you can share about 2020?

“Mountain Stage” will kick off our 37th season Jan. 19 in Morgantown, and we have a string of shows in February and March that folks will be really excited about.

I’m also excited for Larry Groce to be inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

Reach Bill Lynch at,

304-348-5195 or follow

@lostHwys on Twitter.

Funerals for Friday, January 24, 2020

Benson, Vernon - 1 p.m., Lowdell United Methodist Church, Rockport.

Davis, Linda - 1 p.m., Stump Funeral Home & Cremation, Grantsville.

Fernatt, Angel - Noon, O’Dell Funeral Home, Montgomery.

Fraker, Estolean - 2 p.m., Gatens-Harding Funeral Home Chapel, Poca.

Friend, Thomas - 2 p.m., Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.

Johnson, Orean - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

McCommack Sr., Jerry - 3 p.m., Second Baptist Church, Ravenswood.

Meeks, David - 11:30 a.m., Sunset Memorial Park, South Charleston.

Newbrough, Norma - 2 p.m., Bartlett-Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Nichols, Barbara - 1 p.m., Seven Day Adventist Church, Spencer.

Noe, Victor - 1 p.m., Freeman Funeral Home, Chapmanville.

Pridemore, Ellen - 1 p.m., Evans Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Chapmanville.

Sizemore, Madeline - 1 p.m., Kanawha Valley Memorial Gardens, Glasgow.

Spaulding, David - 1 p.m., Toler Missionary Baptist Church.

Stone, Beulah - 1:30 p.m., Sunset Memorial Park Mausoleum Chapel, South Charleston.

Taupradist, Delma - 11 a.m., Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home, Charleston.

Thomas, Gloria - 6 p.m., West Virginia Home Mission, Nitro.