‘Hometown Teams' to visit six WV venues - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

‘Hometown Teams' to visit six WV venues

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PARKERSBURG, WV -

Striking watercolor paintings and profound pottery have been temporarily replaced by a rowing oar, autographed baseballs and a cleat once worn by Olympic track star Jesse Owens at the Parkersburg Art Center.

Director Abby Hayhurst isn't upset that sports equipment is taking the spotlight at the downtown Parkersburg venue. Quite to the contrary, she's elated to showcase athletes, team mascots and marching bands. 

"We're primarily an art museum and a center for art education," Hayhurst said of the center, which has been recognized among West Virginia's "55 Good Things" by The State Journal. "Every now and then it's great for us to bring in an exhibit that will appeal to a broader base."

Parkersburg is the first of six West Virginia communities to host "Hometown Teams," a traveling exhibit of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum on Main Street program. After being displayed here through March 15, the exhibit will travel to sites in the Larry Joe Harless Community Center in Gilbert (March 22 – May 3), the Preston County Sports Museum in Rowlesburg (May 11 – June 21), Randolph County Community Arts Center in Elkins (June 29 – Aug. 9), Weirton Area Museum & Cultural Center (Aug. 17 – Sept. 27) and Morgantown History Museum (Oct. 5 – Nov. 15).

Hayhurst is well aware of the popularity of Parkersburg's sports. With 200 state championships 
accumulated between the city's three high schools, Parkersburg was the national runner-up in ESPN's 2008 Title Town competition.

What does she hope to gain from transforming the center's lobby into a makeshift trophy case?

"Selfishly, I hope that a number of (visitors) have discovered the Parkersburg Art Center and the programs that we have to offer," she said. "Unselfishly, I hope that they rediscover the fact that we have a rich history and, to a great extent, that history has grown through sports."

Layout of the large exhibit consists of the Smithsonian components in the center surrounded by regional displays from the high schools of Wood and neighboring counties. It includes a section highlighting the Ohio Valley Redcoats, Parkersburg's venture into minor league baseball in the 1990s, and several poster-sized photographs of teams from the early 1900s that were sponsored by area industries.

It's the historical aspect that intrigues Marketing Director Marcia Ritchie, who has experience coaching high school soccer complimenting her background in the arts.

"It's interesting to see the way businesses in the communities supported the people and what they did to bring everybody together," said Ritchie, who grew up in the industrial city of Weirton.

The traveling exhibit was made possible by the West Virginia Humanities Council.

Marshall University professor Kathie Williams served as an advisor for the project. She teaches sports history at MU and is president of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association popularized by the movie "A League of Their Own."

Robbie Davis is project director with the Smithsonian Institution. 

"Sports are a big part of what we do and who we are," he said in a release. "Hometown sports can be more than just games, they can become cultural touchstones with the ability to unite us and shape our values."

Hours at the Parkersburg Art Center will be from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment. Call 304-485-3859 for information.