public art

Being a Hellion for a Good Cause

As a teen I am sure that my Mother often thought I was a Hellion. I was a free spirit, with wild friends and an artist heart. I dressed in the fashion of the Punks and Goths, stayed out way to late and had to many boy-friends. I loved reading horror novels and watching dark movies. I never really caused much trouble and did not fail out of school. So most of the problems I caused were minor. Actually I ran with a pretty smart crowd, kids who were just the misfits of our high school. You know them, every school has them, the theater kids, the artists, the poets, the gays, the rebels and musicians. The ones who were creative and always looking for an outlet. So many of my Halloween’s were filled with parties and costumes. That all ended as I grew up, working most holidays and getting kids ready for their costume parties. That all ended last week, my 2017 Halloween was as full as any child’s and it was all for a good cause.

Cody Powers and Jolynn Powers head to Haunted River Walk 2017

Hellion and Insane Chainsaw Man ready to head to the Haunted River Walk 2017

I was recently asked to help with a fundraiser for my sons after school and summer program (Stockert Youth Center). I was happy to help out and even happier to find out that they were putting on a haunted house themed event. The Haunted River Walk was planned for the weekend before Halloween and I was asked to be a monster in the woods of the walking trail. It had been years since I had made a costume and years since I had taken my creative monster making skills out of the closet. This was going to be good.

test run of the Hellion with woody

Test run of the Hellion costume Elkins WV Down Town Trick or Treat 2017

So as a fan of old Hollywood monster movies, I knew that I wanted something that was more old school then resent horror films offered up as characters. So with a quick look through my closet and a trip to Party City, I came up with the Hellion. Not really the Devil himself and certainly not the naughty she-devil that young woman play but a beast with horns, claws and skin of red. Something that was possible to put together in a few days. So with a lot of hair spray and some top quality black lipstick and some body paint, I became for the first time in many years a creature of the night. The fun had just begun.

 

The Haunted River Walk took about two weeks of planing and a few hundred hours of donated time from the local city workers to pull together. Our location was part of a city park that needed dividing walls and crowd control methods installed. We needed volunteers for set up, makeup, scary monsters and ticket sales and late night clean up. So the call for volunteers brought together families, students from the local college, city workers and our Mayor.  All people who wanted to see our local non-profit after school program/ summer camp program, continue to supply the much-needed support that our children need and deserve.

 

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College girls ready help out

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asking the new volunteers into the meeting

 

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Planning our costumes

The planing meetings included settling on masks and costumes. We looked over the site, picked locations for the mazes, tents and places for scary monsters to hide. Each day the excitement in me grew,  I had never been the source of the scare in the haunted house before. I was always a willing victim in a haunted houses imaginary world. This would be my first time trying with all my heart to scare the crap out of people and I was not sure I could do it!!

The day came for setting up the trail, the tents were delivered on the backs of roll back trucks. Loads of scarecrows were staked out in what was a soccer field. Rubber body parts and  fake corpses were hidden and hung in trees. Strobe lights were located in the most important places and we all prayed for no rain.

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Real structure walls were delivered and placed at the beginning and end of the trail . Cody my son was placed at one to use as a backdrop.

That afternoon my older son Cody, joined me at my home, saying he was ready to volunteer too.  So with my daughter in law’s help, we spent a couple of hours putting together our makeup. We covered my son in his first ever, white make up and teased my hair and sprayed it high. Cody had volunteered to be the insane chain saw welding character. He brought along his chain less, real chain saw. He was willing to stay out late and help clean up, so I had a partner in the long night ahead. At about 5 pm  we were ready to head out the door and take our places in the woods for the first shift of scaring visitors.  The first two hours was for children, we were instructed to not be tooo scary.

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view of the trail and in the back ground The Woods

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Tote of body parts and dead animals

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Flo is that you? Evil Scarecrow

At our arrival I was informed that I was supposed to warn the children about a slippery bridge that I was guarding. I had not even thought about how my character would sound. I had thought about hissing, and growling but never the voice of this Hellion had. Somewhere in my imagination I found a voice much like a hissing witch to let the families know that the bridge was slippery. Within those two hours I had found my scaring style and timing. Scaring children is not hard but with groups of adults it is all about timing and it took some skill to hide well enough and let people get close enough to scare them without getting punched. There is always the risk that a guy will feel so threatened  that he would try to punch you.

The night grew darker and the rain started, I think all of us hid under whatever cover we could find. I wrapped my cloth shroud around me and stepped off the gravel path into the cover of the trees and underbrush and waited. I lowered my head and let the rain wash over me. I watched dark rain drops drip from the tips of my horns. Finally after a short break the adults and full families slowly worked their way through the tents, a field of old broken scarecrows and mutilated body parts to the woods.

Over the course of the night I found that I was able to do two scares from my location. I was placed at the left side of a bridge that had a black plastic divider down the middle. I had placed skull decorations and lights around the ground and would leap out off to the side of the decorations. Then when the visitors returned to cross the back side of the bridge, I would tuck myself up close to the black plastic hiding the horns. In the dark I was almost impossible to see. I would make this guttural scream and leap out at them again with arms raised high with the shroud flapping. This was a fantastic location as the trail turned a 90 degree turn away from me at the end of the bridge. People were often much more worried about making the turn and staying on the trail than looking for me. A distant light allowed me to see them coming yards before they were within reach, so I had time to plan my attack.

Taking the advice of  a friend, I took my time when I planned my scares.  He commented to me that most haunted houses frights always get the people in the front or back of the group, never the middle. So often times, I would wait for the one moment when the whole group was near by or just past me so I could scare the whole group. In one case the group was about 7 people who appeared to be one large family group. In the lead was a young preteen girl with her mother and maybe an aunt. Behind them was a grandma with a female friend walking behind a few paces. Following the older women were three men  most likely fathers and or husbands. Hiding in the folds of the black plastic fencing I waited. I knew how the group was moving through the park by my first passing with them. I knew, I wanted to scare not only the little girl but the older women if I could. So as the mother, daughter and aunt passed me, talking quietly to themselves, the older women crossed the bridge a few steps behind them. With a large clear plastic umbrella in hand they came slowly off the wooden bridge and took three steps towards me in the corner of the turn. From the darkness, all at once I screamed like a creature from the depths of Hell and leaped at them. The umbrella flew into the air backwards and all 4 sweater covered arms flew up wards. The women’s screams rang out in the darkness and I had achieved success. The two women broke out in uncontrollable laughter with huge grins.  I had frightened the two older woman so hard that they had to turn around to recover the lost umbrella from the ground.  The men behind were laughing out loud and congratulating me on a scare well done. In the dark one man said “good job someone finally got them”. My heart sang at his words. I felt that I had finally given over to the actor in my heart. A smiling Hellion returned to the black rain covered woods to wait  for the next group willing victims.

The night continued with groups of teens and college kids passing and backing away from the horned monster who I had become for the night. I tried to find better and better hiding places and often times laughed right along with the victims of my scares, but two other encounters stand out in my memories.  The first was an older man and woman in their 60’s who may have only come to the river walk to donate money to the youth center. They seemed like locals who did not seem the least bit frightened in the dark of the walking path. They passed me the first time with controlled interest but no real fright, but the second time they never saw me coming. The couple was on the second pass of the bridge and the husband was in front chattering away at the wife who trailed behind him a step or two. As they left the edge of the bridge instead of turning up and away from me, he continued to walk straight… towards me….. in the dark. He continued  looking back over his shoulder speaking to his wife not aware how close he was to a demon. As I watched in the dark his foot left the path and he stepped onto the soft forest floor. That was my cue, a second later I flew at him, hissing arms spread wide, horns aimed at him. He turned shocked, he let out the scream of a woman and jumped back into his laughing wife. The man had actually gotten scared in our little haunted river walk. The wife thank me over several times for scaring the old man, who was always so smug about his lack of fear. He left my portion of the trail beaming and giggling with his wife. It felt good to know that men scare just as well as women, you just need good timing.

But my favorite moment of the night and the reason I will return to the woods again next year if they need me, is the memory of a young family with two children. The older of the two was a girl who looked about 7 or 8 years old walking hand in hand with her lovely mother both dressed in matching rain coats. Following behind was a father, tall and bearded holding a small boy in a hooded coat maybe 3 or 4 years old. They had come to the adult portion of the haunted river walk and I had mixed feelings about my amount of effort to put into my scare. I knew they did not see me in the dark bushes as they just about passed me. I slowed my jump and hissed like a cat at the right arm of the father as they passed. The mother and daughter squealed and leaped forward several steps as I stopped next to the young boy in his fathers arms. The father froze… and stopped moving altogether, I stood behind them by then. When the father knew my fright was over he moved to join his wife and daughter who were ahead of him on the path. As he passed the little boy in his arm turned around to face me and over his father’s shoulder yelled out, ” YOU ARE A BUTTHOLE for scaring me and my Dad”. The family tried to quickly correct the boy by saying things like “You can’t say that! and”That is not nice!” but It was too late. I was not offended  at all. It was all that I could do to keep from rolling on the ground with laughter. That boy was mad at the monster and let me have it in his 4-year-old way.

The night ended early, the rain had poured down for 3 1/2 hours and the temps dropped to about 38 degrees. We were all soaked to the bone, even my son who was wearing heavy clothes and a hood was cold and wet. The group in the woods had gathered at the exit of the river walk where my son was charged with standing with his chain saw. We all agreed that the fun was over and the night was to cold and wet to continue. As if by magic a herd of monsters,  the insane and dead emerged from empty spaces in the woods. We walked under the rain and fog of the field lights like an army of the dead. 15 creatures of the night, carrying skulls, bodies, cauldrons, chain saws, headed to the main tent to begin the long night of finding warm, dry clothes and washing off face paint. It had been the most fun I had in years!

In the end Stockert Youth Center’s Haunted River Walk had 96 visitors, in the pouring rain and cold. We had 20 or more volunteers who worked that night in costumes, 3 city workers who set up and tore down the event and lots of fun. We raised around a thousand dollars in 3 hours for programming, healthy snacks and field trips for all the children who use the center. In my heart I know that this Hellion was a force for good. So many good things came from this event, so many smiles and giggles were shared, so many children will benefit and so many friends were made in the dark that night. I can only hope to be asked to dig out my monster making skills for next year.

Jacob's Ram skull .jpg

Jacobs Ram skull use as a prop at the Haunted River Walk

 

 

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Categories: AmeriCorps, Buckhannon West Virginia, Halloween, Haunted House, public art, Uncategorized, volunteering | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Art and History Spark Interest in Downtown Elkins W.Va.

Quilts have always kept us warm, reminded us of our past, and brought families and friends together. These same ideals are used to create the Elkins Main Street’s Heritage Quilt Trail. A community supported effort to bring art, history and warmth to downtown Elkins. With guidance from Elkins Main Street and their Promotion Committee, small groups of community volunteers, such as Emma Scott Garden Club, Davis & Elkins College ladies lacrosse team, Youth Build North Central and Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps members, are creating more quilt blocks for instillation on several downtown Elkins buildings this fall.

YMCA Wall with Maple Leave“Maple Leaf” quilt block mounted at the YMCA building in downtown Elkins

The Heritage Quilt Trail began in 2015 with members of the Main Street Promotion Committee discussing how the brightly colored panels could spark a grass roots beautification effort. With information gathered from the Pocahontas County and Monroe County W.Va. quilt trails the committee set out to make their own quit trail. Quilt panels like the one above are created with grant funds and project proceeds received by the Elkins Main Street office.  The funds are used to purchase the construction materials and paint needed to make the 4, 8’ X 8’ft panels. Money gained from the sale of the quilt block panels in turn pays for the creation of more panels in smaller sizes. The current plan includes making 12 panels of three different sizes.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAMembers of Emma Scott Garden Club paint “Bear Paw” quilt block panel

The images used to create the quilt block panels are copied from traditional Appalachian quilts. They represent things that a family from the mountains would see or use every day. The patterns are often designed after nature. Leaves, animals and trees are the most often found subjects in West Virginia quilts, but other patterns like baskets, houses, and stars are also popular. Often families would use remnant materials from old clothing and sewing projects to make the quilts. Mixing materials and colors made each quilt unique and cherished by the owner.

A single quilt block panel will often take over a month to make, from design ideas, to painting, to an installed product. The Heritage Quilt Trail panels have approximately  15 different volunteers’ handy work as part of their finished product and installation. This part of the process is also reminiscent of the traditional creation of fabric quilts. In days past, friends and family would gather for quilting bees, but  today  Elkins Main Street  hosts painting parties, where people from the community come together to get to know one another and take part in community  art.

AmeriCrops working on Hertiage Quilt Block Panels   AmeriCorps Members Molly Greenhouse, Dominic Piacentini , JoLynn Powers (project coordinator) and Katie Marie Simmons add tape pattern to the 8 x 8 ft. panel.

 instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017
Volunteers help install the “Log Cabin” Heritage Quilt Block at the YMCA in Elkins

It takes a diverse group of volunteers to make the Heritage Quilt trail possible, and it brings a community together to enjoy them. With the future creation and installation of all 12 panels, the Main Street Promotion Committee hopes to publish a Heritage Quilt Trail Map.  The map/ brochure will give the location of the quilt block panels, a description of the images used and information about the history of quilting in Appalachia. Elkins Main Street hopes to give visitors another interesting reason to linger in the downtown and take time to enjoy the beauty of Elkins.

closeup of West Virginia Star.jpg“West Virginia Star” installed at the Davis Trust Company Bank, Elkins W.Va.

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Art, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, public art, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

#Heart of WV Rocks, Painted Rocks Become hidden Treasures.

I have never seen anything like it… West Virginians, young and old, fat and thin, boys and girls, men and women have discovered the joy of the treasure hunt with colorful painted stones. The painted rock treasures are found outdoors often in parks,around walking paths or businesses. Their bright colors pop and glow, hidden in trees, on benches, in window sills, in playhouses, even in flower boxes. Once found and enjoyed the game calls for them to be photographed and hidden again for others to find.

Buckhannon rocks Melinda Wells

With little or no money involved everyone can join in the fun. #HeartofWVRocks  is a Facebook group started in Dec of 2017 to share in a crazy idea of painted rocks that would be hidden and found by total strangers and then hash tagged and posted on Facebook to show off the stones and who has found them. The idea was taken from a woman buy the name Kathy Cobb who started Western WV rocks and set up rules/ guidelines for making the rocks and how to post the images. The instructions explain how each stone should include a message with the Heart of WV Rocks Facebook page name and the info about how to play ( find, pic, hide) and a hashtag of the maker so they want to try to keep track of the stones. IMG_0015

The rules of the game can be found at the above link, and cover a large portion of the questions that hiders and finders may have. Each stone is unique and the makers hash tags of makers are just as interesting as the rocks sometimes. The below stone was made by #mommawrocks and  she made several rocks that she posted photos of. Christopher and I found one the same day as she hid it…. actually within hours. The chances of finding one of her 6 rocks in the whole county within hours of placement on a random chance that we would play and re-post a photo of the rock so she could see it is mind-boggling.

Christopher and I found our first rock by accident. I needed to stop at the local library to drop off a book and Christopher wanted to play for a minute under a large tree in the library yard. So when we returned to the yard he squealed with excitement that he had found a lovely watermelon painted rock in the crotch of an old tree. The back of the rock had the instructions to, Enjoy the find, Take Picture, Post to FB, Then hide. So we did, as you can see the rock found a new home under the leaves of a flower. This lead us to looking for more stones with the thought that if we found 2 or 3, it would be wonderful.

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Re-hidden water mellon rock .

We found 4 more at the Libaray and felt  pretty good about that amount. We had plans to play at the park and found 5 more while Christopher ran all through the park. Then off to an ice cream shop where Christopher with the an ice cream cone in hand found another. So, the day continued all around Lewis county with 13 stones found in just 3 hours, ending with this last stone found at a retail store.

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Tree man stone found at Tractor Supply in Weston West Virginia June 30 2017

The artistry and creativity of each stone makes this project a living work of art. Each stone is an individual and was created with love. Finding the stones is exciting not only to children but for people of all ages. I found myself smiling big, as I found my own stones along  a path near a creek. I chose to hide my stones miles from where we found them because they needed to travel and see more of my mountain community. For those few minutes I was a child again, playing with my son, feeling the same excitement and adventure that you only have when it is the hot summer of elementary school and you are always on the look out for some thing new. I loved that we bought nothing, sold nothing and left everything except the memory of the Heart of WV Rocks.

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#Roys Rock 13 Don’t Stop Rock

As student of the arts and a board member of a regional arts organisation, I am thrilled at this grassroots art experience. This is the reason we all love the arts, from the lovely creative expression in making the rocks, to the thrill of hiding them, to the joy of being surprised at each new pattern found on the rocks. The HeartofWVRocks project brings  us all together to see the joy of just a painted rock.

This free game is so much better for all of us then those designed on our phones. We spend time outside, we met others who are also looking for the rocks, we found beauty, received blessings from total strangers and felt the joy of finding a hidden treasure. It is this Joy that is magic. In a world full of turmoil, confusion and hatred, I am thankful to be looking for hidden treasure in one of our countries hardest hit states. North Central West Virginia strives to continue to bring people together because Mountaineers never really lose hope. We never forget to share what we value the most, families, friends and our neighbors. Even when it looks like there is no light at the end our states tunnel, We find joy, friendship, creativity in the very smallest of things like a little painted stone. Thank you to everyone who took time to paint a rock for my son and I to find. You made my day full of beauty, friendship, and excitement.IMG_0011

Categories: Art, Christopher, collections, DIY projects, family fun, Lewis County, nostalgic, public art, trends, West Virginia artists, Weston | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Elkins Main Street Creates a Heritage Quilt Block Trail

Following in the same tradition as Barn Quilt Trails of other rural counties, Elkins Main Street begins the process of creating their own Heritage Quilt Block Trail. Located within the downtown historic district of Elkins, West Virginia, community groups come together to support public art and beautification.

With guidance from the Pocahontas County Arts Counsel, The Pen2Paper.org web site “How to Make a Barn Quilt” and many local artist and supporters, we have gathered the best information possible on how to build our own quilt block murals. The four large 8X8 foot painted panels represent 4 traditional quilt patterns used in Appalachian quilts of the area. The large panels will be mounted on the outside of downtown buildings, have an interpretive  map made up of other quilt blocks locations and tell the story of the historical significance of each pattern when all four are completed.

The patterns painted on the blocks represent things that are commonly found in West Virginia and bring to mind the beauty and tradition of quilt making in our local history. The first pattern that is now finished is the “Maple Leaf” pattern.  This brightly colored quilt block will be the first to be installed in the downtown. It will be proudly displayed on the brickwork of the Elkins YMCA. Working on these panels we have members of the local Generation Randolph business development group, service members from AmeriCorps,  Mountain Arts District members and a team from Youthbuild who all work together to prepare and paint the 8 foot X 8 foot panels.AmeriCrops working on Hertiage Quilt Block Panels

Service Members of AmeriCorps: Dominic Piacentini, Molly Greenhouse, Kate Sammons and JoLynn Powers

The second pattern is the traditional pattern of the “Log Cabin”, with the center being bright red to symbolize the heart of every home. It is the most common pattern of all the ones we are making for the trail.

The Third pattern is the Pine Tree that students at Youth Build, a local technical school, are taking on a large portion of the painting as part of their training.

The fourth and final pattern is the “West Virginia Star” with bold Blue and Gold Coloring.

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Mountain Arts District members Anne Beardslee, Josie Cuda, Frank Cuda and Dominic Piacentini

The Heritage Quilt Block Trail of Elkins will add a warm, friendly feel to downtown that will encourage people to spend more time in the area.The trail is also a way for the public to get involved in making the town more beautiful, remind the public of our unique history and enjoy art in a public setting.

As the project finishes up and the murals are mounted on buildings around downtown, I hope to document their final placement.I hope to do a presentation with photos and Powerpoint about what we have learned, what we did right and wrong, and how it affects the people of Elkins. Maybe making a small statement about the power of art and how it can bring a community together.

Categories: AmeriCorps, Art, community service, DIY projects, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, public art, quilts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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