Artsbridge’s annual Arts Encounter program for middles school students will look different this year. Artbridge is taking three arts presenters to the local middle schools instead of bringing the students downtown to their location. This year’s participating schools include: Edison, Blennerhassett, Hamilton, VanDevender, and Jackson Middle Schools in Wood County, and Belpre Middle School in Washington County.

The arts presenters this year will be Mary J. Ayson-Lemon, Brent Null, and Suzy Gunter. Lemon is the owner of Watering Can Art Studio located in the Grand Central Mall and she will conduct a two hour pottery workshop at each school. She is bringing her pottery wheel to give students the opportunity to experience throwing pottery on a wheel. Brent Null has directed and performed in many productions at the Actors Guild of Parkersburg. Null will be conducting a two hour theatre workshop with students. Suzy Gunter is the owner/director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Ballet Company. Gunter will be teaching a workshop on choreography and dance performance.

In previous years, schools participating in Arts Encounter bussed their students to downtown Parkersburg for a full day. They would spend the morning watching a live performance at the Actors Guild and learning about what goes into a theatrical production. The students would then have lunch at Artsbridge and make their way to the Parkersburg Art Center for the afternoon where they would create art and explore the gallery.

Artsbridge’s Arts Encounter program was created specifically for middle school students. Artsbridge leaves it up to the art teachers at each school to select up to twenty students whom they feel would benefit the most from the program. Keeping the groups under twenty students allows the organization to keep it a very interactive, hands-on experience. As with all programming that has been adapted to keep with the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines, Artsbridge will move forward keeping the components that work best from both program models.

Their Arts Education programs such as Arts Encounter are funded in part by grant from the Ohio Arts Council, the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, Spartan Foundation, McDonough Foundation, PARS Foundation, and by donations from individual donors and private businesses.