Talent and imagination on display at Summers County Library’s Youth Art Show

By Jeffrey Kanode, RealWV

Blanketed in air-conditioning against last week’s oppressive heat, and tucked away a few blocks from the main buzz of activity of the West Virginia State Water Festival, the Summers County Public Library hosted it’s third annual Youth Art Show, giving budding artists under the age of eighteen a chance to introduce the world to their craft.

The ages of this year’s artists ranged from five to twelve years old. Pieces named “God’s Mercy,” “State Bird,” “Pinky Tulip,””Mothman,” “New River Gorge Bridge,” and “Mama’s Love” share space with many other untitled works, all hoping to catch the eyes and hearts of library patrons, and maybe just maybe, to snag a penny of approval. The public can vote on their favorite piece by taking a penny to the circulation desk.

Lena Richmond, the Youth and Outreach Coordinator of the library, believes this expression of art can widen a child’s imagination, and deepen their appreciation for education. “Creativity enhances a child’s learning,” Richmond said. “They can come in and be free.”

Summers County Public Library Assistant Director Sherry Gwinn and Youth Outreach Coordinator Lena Richmond. Photo by Jeffrey Kanode, RealWV.

In that spirit, the art show doesn’t stand alone as a summer event. The library also hosts “paint nights” periodically throughout the year. The library provides all the materials for the children to paint. With costs removed as an obstacle, Richmond hopes parents and guardians will be more likely to bring the children come to the library for these activities. “Art allows them to come in and be creative,” Richmond said. Once a child enters the library, they are more likely to come back to check out books, enjoy story times, and become a part of other programs.

The Summers County Library hosts a plethora of other activities for children, from “Little Learners” for children from birth to six years old, to game nights and play groups. The library also hosts holiday programs for every major holiday, like Halloween and Christmas. “We’ve made gingerbread houses at Christmas,” Richmond noted. “We do something special for the children and their family every holiday.” According to Richmond, the playgroup especially gives mothers a chance to interact with the children in a group environment.

Sherry Gwinn has worked at the Summers County Public Library for twenty-seven years. Today, she’s the Assistant Director. Gwinn expresses great love for her library, especially because of the way it reaches out to its community, especially to the children. “Working at the library means everything to me,” she said. “The library is my second home and our patrons are my second family.”

Gwinn grew up in Hinton; in other seasons of life she has left Hinton, but she always returns. The town, like the library, is home. Gwinn articulates gratitude for both Hinton and the public library standing amidst the town’s downtown. “Some places are a job,” she said. “You have to go. Working here, it’s more than a job. It’s an experience. When you live in a small town, you know everybody.”

The various activities for children the library hosts not only promotes a love of reading, learning, art and creativity in a child’s life. They also promote socialization and friendship. “We try to get the children to come into the library. We have different projects and activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The children can interact with each other,” Gwinn reflected. This assures that the fabric of small town life will continue into another generation.

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