Outdoor enthusiasts are familiar with the area around Morgantown, W.Va., with its whitewater rafting on the Cheat River and Upper Youghiogheny, biking along the 48 miles of the Mon River Trail System (which includes 8 miles of paved trails within the city), and hiking and rock climbing at Coopers Rock State Forest.
It is known as a sports paradise, and is not only home to the University of West Virginia Mountaineers, but also to the West Virginia Black Bears, a Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sitting outside in the Monongalia County stadium, which was voted Ballpark Digest’s Short Season A’s Best Ballpark, you might not realize that the town also has an impressive arts scene.
The Art Museum of West Virginia University, after a decade of planning, opened to the public in August 2015. The museum, located on the Evansdale campus, is a two-story, light-filled space that wows you when you first walk inside. Entering the Plevin Lobby, you are greeted by a massive, floor-to-ceiling, red, black, and white painting by twin brothers Raoul and Davide Perré, better known as How and Nosm, that has been called “the archetype of the ‘wow’ mural.”
Designed specifically for this space by the artists, who are known for large-scale graffiti murals throughout the world, the work, Present Moment, commands a viewer’s attention and sets the stage for some very original artwork and exhibitions in the rest of the space.
Insider tip: Parking at the university can be difficult, so you might want to ride the PRT, or Personal Rapid Transit, around campus.
I was particularly impressed by the range of folk art displayed in the John and Ruth McGee Gallery, which showcased the work and provided profiles of self-taught artists from Appalachia, including Charlie Lucas, Minnie Adkins, Shields Landon, Noah Kinney, and others. Visual Conversations: Looking and Listening, an exhibit in the upstairs gallery, was also impressive in its ability to merge conflicting styles and themes, including modernism, landscapes, portraits, and contemporary art, in a way that one could see the interconnectedness between the works.
I chose to round out the day with a visit to Black Bear Burritos, where you can enjoy a wide range of ethnic food and live musical performances. Relaxing after a day spent appreciating West Virginia art by listening to Charles Godwin, an “Appalachian troubadour” and talented West Virginia-based singer/songwriter, was the perfect way to cap off a visit to a town that offers a little bit of everything for every kind of interest.
For more information:
Morgantown Tourism: tourmorgantown.com