NEA grant, matching funds will pave way for future art initiatives at West Edge

HUNTINGTON — The National Endowment for the Arts has approved Coalfield Development, in partnership with the City of Huntington, for a grant in the amount of $100,000 through the Our Town Program.

Matched dollar for dollar by Coalfield, the work advances existing efforts to install public art and conduct programming throughout Huntington’s Westmoreland and West Huntington neighborhoods.

The Our Town grant, announced in May, will consist of three primary components: enabling Coalfield to create arts- and culture-oriented programming and activities for the community, continuing the development and utilization of artist workspaces at the West Edge Factory, and supporting the installation of up to four public art displays created by local artists. The project will be a collaborative effort involving residents, artists, community groups, the City of Huntington and Marshall University. 

Through these efforts, the Our Town grant will enable Coalfield to strengthen existing relationships while creating opportunities to uplift and empower the Westmoreland and West Huntington neighborhoods. By showcasing public art throughout these neighborhoods, Coalfield aims to shine a light on the past, present, and future of the community through an artistic and educational lens. 

Set to begin in the Summer of 2021, the project will be an extension of the City of Huntington’s NEA-sponsored 14th St. W. Arts & Culture District Plan project in 2019 that involved Coalfield Development, Heritage Farm Museum and Village and other creative allies. The 14th St. W. project resulted in a master plan to develop an arts and culture district in the West End that was completed in August 2020 and which also planned for public art and programming throughout the community and its gateways.

In addition to the art installations and programming, the grant will help enable Coalfield to continue transforming and activating the West Edge Factory building, where the team is headquartered.

Prior to being purchased by Coalfield and saved from condemnation, the building served as home to the Corbin Ltd. garment manufacturing company between the late 1950s and early 2000s. Since then, there have been significant efforts to restore and renovate portions of the formerly-vacant building. When completed, the West Edge Factory will become a hub for creative and entrepreneurial activities.

“The West Edge Factory serving as an arts and cultural hub for its surrounding neighborhoods has been part of the vision of our comprehensive, community-wide Huntington Innovation Project since its inception in 2014,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “The arts can have a profound impact on a community that ranges from restoring pride to beautification to building economic opportunities. I’m proud to see Coalfield Development working with so many community partners to carry out this vision.”

Several collaborators have been identified to help execute the project, including local artists Cat Pleska and Sassa Wilkes, RenewAll Inc. Executive Director Lauren Kemp, and Margaret Mary Layne, CEO of Layne Consulting. Opportunities for additional artist engagement will be announced in the future.

Pleska, an author, essayist, and historian who will be developing a multi-media exhibit of the history of the workers at the Corbin Factory, said she was pleased to see the West Edge’s historic roots preserved and displayed.

“I’m thrilled to continue working on the legacy that was the Corbin Coat Factory,” Pleska said. “Installing historical artifacts at the West Edge Factory pays homage to the hundreds who worked there for several decades and to the Corbin family who provided a meaningful and successful workplace for their employees for nearly 50 years.”

Wilkes, a painter and educator, said she was ecstatic to get involved. Several of Wilkes’ public art installations are currently displayed in neighboring communities in Cabell County.

“I am so excited to be a part of the NEA grant with the team that West Edge has put together,” Wilkes said. “This is such a creative, energetic group of people, and I can’t wait to see how we can use that energy to impact this community.”

Kemp, executive director of RenewAll Inc., shared the enthusiasm for achieving progress that builds on previous efforts.

“We are very excited to work with Coalfield Development creating a program to share our history and support local artists,” Kemp said. “This project complements the vision for the14th Street West District by strengthening the creative community and preserving the story of our shared heritage.”  

Layne, CEO of Layne Consulting and former Executive Director of the Huntington Museum of Art, said she looks forward to seeing the long-awaited project begin.

“This new grant will allow us to take the next step in fulfilling the dream of an arts and culture district in the western part of Huntington with the West Edge Factory, 14th St W and Heritage Farm as our arts and culture hubs,” Layne said. “Working with the residents and area artists to create public art will be so rewarding.”

Coalfield and the project team anticipate that public programs and calls for additional collaborators will take place later this summer. Through this grant, the Coalfield team looks forward to funding public arts, empowering artists and creatives in and around the Westmoreland and West End neighborhoods, and to creating a sustainable, supportive environment where current and future community artists can thrive.

For more information about the NEA grant or Coalfield Development Corporation, contact Nick Guertin at nguertin@coalfield-development.org.

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest
Share on email
Share in Email