Add colorful arts and culture on those long frosty winter days

Warm those long, frosty winter days with colorful arts and culture. Head south! Inspiration and creativity await you inside Southern West Virginia.

Art therapy

Snowy landscapes only go so far. After a while, you need color—great big splashes of it. Fortunately, there’s no need to wait for spring. Paintings and sculptures are blooming right now!

Lewisburg galleries
The time-worn historic district is an open exhibit itself. Striped awnings, gardens, and noble brickwork buildings line the blocks. Cheerful boutiques follow your footsteps. Atmospheric and grand, Lewisburg has a patina that only centuries can produce.

But more than that, the city has a thriving arts scene. Lewisburg’s crown jewel is none other than Carnegie Hall. Only three others exist like it, including one in New York. Built in 1902, the performance center keeps a full calendar all year. Art is always on display, too. In fact, Carnegie Hall has three galleries and changing exhibits, which you can view for free.

Harmony Ridge Gallery is just down the street. It’s a bright, attractive space with all sorts of finery: pottery, jewelry, woodwork, even garden art. Harmony Ridge keeps things upbeat with whimsical finds, too. Some pieces are downright humorous. Keep your eyes peeled for goofy animal sculptures and stationary. The wine bar is another inspirational touch. Sip while you shop!

There’s also the Cooper Gallery, which focuses on paintings and sculptures. Styles range from abstract to realistic. Regardless of which you prefer, the gallery is well curated. There are blocky, bright acrylic pieces by Max Hayslette; organic Shona stone figures; and luminous West Virginia landscapes by Lynn Boggess, a Mountain State native. The latter is known for his innovative palette knife technique. Using textural dabs, he creates amazingly realistic but impressionistic scenery—often done in a day, too!

Bluefield and Princeton galleries
Mercer County’s certified arts towns have distinct personalities. Some have offbeat co-ops while others have traditional galleries.

If you only have time for a city or two, head to Bluefield. Among other things, it’s home to Hal Brainerd, a nationally recognized photographer. His nature shots are especially stunning. He captures mountain panoramas, frozen cascades, and intimate animal studies. Care to have a look? Brainerd Gallery is open Tuesday-Friday. You can also visit on Saturdays by appointment.

The Bluefield Arts Center is the city’s creative hub. Housed in a stately neoclassical building, it features several exhibits and a restaurant. You’ll find photos by Hal Brainerd, glasswork, paintings, and more! Gallery genres change throughout the year. The Bluefield Arts Center has art classes as well. If you get inspired, sign up for pottery or painting.

Princeton is another certified arts community. Scrappy and experimental, it has a strong grassroots vibe. Case in point: The RiffRaff Arts Collective. Creative types—from dancers to musicians and crocheters—work in the rambling building. They also host regular events. Open Stage Night for example, is every Monday. There’s also Free Tea Tuesday. Browse the shop, sip something hot, and get a complimentary tea bag with any purchase!

Holler: Contemporary Art Gallery is the latest Princeton arrival. The little building focuses solely on Appalachian creativity, which changes with every exhibit. Previous displays have included wirework sculptures and manipulated photos. Holler also has a studio for art lessons and figure studies.

Craving even more creativity? Southern West Virginia has extra helpings of art galleries.

On stage

Live performances are striking for their impermanence. They form immediately before disappearing, never to be repeated. It’s an experience that’s pretty rare in today’s digital world.

For an evening of culture, head to Lewisburg’s Carnegie Hall. Performances are its forte. One of the best is the Ivy Terrace Concert Series; they’re free summer shows held on the lawn. Other performances range from Broadway acts to storytelling. Carnegie Hall has creative events, too. A fantasy costume fundraiser, free piano concerts, and film series are just some of the programs available. It’s always worth checking their calendar to see what’s playing.

Lewisburg is also home to Greenbrier Valley Theatre. Professional actors enact anything from Shakespeare classics to modern plays. Something shows every month. In between, the theatre occasionally has simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera,  lectures, and workshops. 

Princeton’s Chuck Mathena Center is another cultural outlet. The state-of-the-art performance hall welcomes travelling acts from around the world. Look forward to Russian ballet, bluegrass stars, interactive shows, and more! As a bonus, some plays have pre-show dinners.

No mention of shows can do without the Ritz Theater. Located in Hinton, the 1929 hall evokes Art Deco glamor. Not many cinemas have balcony seating and jazzy wall sconces! Now fully restored, the Ritz has modern sound systems, staging, and screens. A single current movie shows at a time. Between films, the crew organizes special events like choruses, classical music tributes, and Oscar Film Festival viewings.

Looking for an encore performance? Southern West Virginia has even more theaters. Enjoy the show!