Clay Center for the Arts
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Through Lewisburg, of course! The Greenbrier County town is home to one of the world’s five theaters named after steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
With venues like Carnegie, the Trillium Performing Arts Collective (which offers fire dancing classes!) and the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, it’s easy to see how Lewisburg was named 2011 “Coolest Small Town in America” by Budget Travel magazine.
Lewisburg is in good company, as cultural offerings abound in the Mountain State. The eclectic mix of art, music and theater provides entertainment for all ages. These venues offer a unique theme for families and tour groups.
Most West Virginians are familiar with the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, Tamarack and the Huntington Museum of Art. But there’s more where that came from.
The Loft at the Wheeling Artisan Center has a 7,500 square foot open exhibition space. The Beckley Art Group’s Cynthia Bickey Art Gallery features original art and handmade crafts by West Virginia artists and artisans, with a new exhibit every 4 to 6 weeks. The Ice House in Berkeley Springs, home to the Morgan Arts Council, showcases the multimedia work of more than 20 local artists, and its theater sponsors several award-winning productions a year.
Restoration of theaters across the state, from The Capitol Theatre in Wheeling to the Old Opera House in Charles Town, brings new life – not to mention plays, concerts and films – to stately venues of yesteryear. There’s even a Historic Theatre Trail showcasing both Art Deco elegance and eye-popping neon.
The Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center in Huntington, built in 1928 in Mexican baroque style, captured the opulence of the Roaring Twenties. The theater served as a venue for vaudeville shows, then became a movie theater for many years. Today it serves as the venue for Marshall University’s Marshall Artist Series. The theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Huntington Downtown Historical District.
Alban Arts and Conference Center in St. Albans opened in 1938 as a movie theater. Today, the 206-seat facility houses community theater productions, arts instruction and an art gallery. In Petersburg, the 305-seat Landes Arts Center is equipped with a state-of-the-art light and sound system and a large projection screen, two art galleries, dressing rooms and a green room for performers. The Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton boasts an art gallery and offers a wide variety of performances, from children’s theater to concerts and plays.
Not all theaters feature human performers. Sassafrass Junction Puppet Theater in St. Albans (across the street from the Alban Arts and Conference Center) courts the pint-sized set with its furry, friendly cast of Creek Critters. Wonderment Puppet Theater in Martinsburg features hands-on puppet exhibits and a puppet store as well as weekend shows.
"Honey in the Rock" performance by
Theatre West Virginia
American Mountain Theater, located in Elkins’ Historic Rail Yard, presents family-appropriate variety shows that spice a mix of country, gospel and pop with patriotism and comedy. The theater’s popular shows include a Christmas Spectacular, Southern Gospel Series, and the History of American Music, which encompasses decades’ worth of music, from jazz and blues to modern rock and roll.
Elkins also is home to the newly opened Gandy Dancer Theatre and Conference Center, located at the Steer Steakhouse. The dinner theater seats up to 400 people and serves as a venue for top-quality live entertainment. The house band, Mountain Memories Show Band, performs shows of classical country, 1950s-era popular, bluegrass, gospel, old-time rock and roll and comedy.
West Virginia Public Theatre’s summer musical series has brought The Great White Way to Morgantown for two decades. At Shepherd University, the Contemporary American Theater Festival produces
Outdoor amphitheaters take advantage of gorgeous natural backdrops, and a spectrum of shows and concerts are presented at Mountain Lakes Amphitheater in Flatwoods and Camp Washington-Carver in Clifftop. The latter, which opened in 1942 as a 4-H camp for West Virginia’s African-American youth, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Many State Parks, including Pipestem Resort, Camp Creek, Chief Logan and Prickett’s Fort, host outdoor performances during the warm weather months. For information on upcoming shows, check the calendar at wvstateparks.com or call 1 800 CALL WVA.
For more information about art galleries, theater or music, visit the West Virginia Division of Tourism online at wvtourism.com.