“Art engages the mind, the body, and the soul at the individual — as well as — community level, and is the means by which we can connect our organization to others in our community.”

- Jessie Siefert

All of our community’s children are worthy and deserving of a stable home life situation. Yet every year, many foster children in our community “age out” of the official care system, leaving them with an uncertain path ahead and a future that too often involves joblessness and homelessness. The WV Children’s Home Society’s Transitional Living Program helps young adults aged 16-22 to work toward successful transition to independence and adulthood.

Jesse Siefert

Jessie Siefert of the Parkersburg Art Center said, “We did a workshop with the youth who take part in the WV Children’s Home Society (CHS)’ Transitional Living Program. These youth are having to save themselves; to find the strength and resources they need to live their adult lives. Many have been in and out of foster care and haven’t experienced what a ‘traditional’ or ‘stable’ home life feels like. Once they find the CHS program, Michelle and the other staff teach life skills and offer housing aid, educational help and job assistance. The caring CHS staff recognize the importance of the arts—how art is a healing means of self-expression—so they secured art materials to enable their youth to create works of art. They also asked us to offer a 3-D art workshop to introduce new materials and new ways of thinking about their art. A gallery exhibit and a reception was held for the youth, showcasing their art work. You could feel the sense of accomplishment in the room.”

Siefert said, “Various funds from the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation (PACF) have given us hope over the years by enabling us to reach out to communities that might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit the Art Center or who just need an extra welcome. One example is the Ruth M. Tepley Memorial Fund of the PACF. While modest in size, it’s big in impact. With its funding, we supplied an art instructor for Jefferson Elementary’s after-school program, providing the opportunity for those kids to receive a quality arts education. Jefferson is a school in a low-wealth area. Money should not limit opportunities for kids, but often does. PACF’s grants help to reduce that opportunity gap.”

She continued, “I think we’ve learned from the pandemic that we truly are better together. Collaboration and a sharing of resources and ideas is the key to cultivating a more hopeful and positive environment. It should not be about us ‘having this stick’ and you ‘having that stone,’ it needs to be about each of us sharing our materials to build something bigger and better than any organization could build on its own. Our hope as the region’s art center is that we are able to open our arms wider to embrace more people who need the mind/body/soul connection that art can provide.”

Located at the corner of Eighth and Market Streets in downtown Parkersburg, the Parkersburg Art Center was chartered in 1938, making it West Virginia’s oldest cultural agency in continuous operation.