The Road Upstairs at the RiffRaff Arts
Collective in Princeton, West Virginia
(Image from the Collective's website)
Princeton, West Virginia is just up the road from my home town of Bluefield. It is a county seat, named after Princeton, New Jersey (where our county's namesake, General Hugh Mercer, died during the Revolutionary War) and a bunch of my friends and I almost kinda' sorta' didn't but almost did get in a fight there, in the parking lot of the Taco Bell. You know. During the '90s. In the "high school."
Anyway, Princeton is now the home of something special that I wanted to share with you - the RiffRaff Arts Collective. What is, you're asking, the RiffRaff Arts Collective? Well, it is a collective of artists of all genre - performance, musical, literary, visual, the whole nine yards. You know, I could go on and on, but why don't I just through up an excerpt from the About Us page. Ahem:
The RiffRaff Arts Collective, located at 865-869 Mercer St. in downtown Princeton, West Virginia, is a massive space where the collective vision of a few highly driven artists is realized. Within the 12,000 sq. ft. building exists "The Room Upstairs," a brand new performance venue and classroom space on the 3rd floor, an art gallery and the offices of LLyniuM entertainment and Through My Eyes Photography & Design on the 1st floor and 5 newly renovated artist studio/office spaces on the 2nd floor. Core artists Robert Blankenship and Lori McKinney find their home in this multipurpose creative zone, producing new works, doing business, hosting performances and working with local artists like Dina Brown, Rich Miller, Cori Pennell and Jeff Mills on cooperative projects. Mills, Miller, Brown, Pennell, Dale Edwards and Ellis Wilborn helped the construction faze go smoothly. The bulk of the renovations of this century-old building have been done by the artists, led by Blankenship, since March 2006. Now, as the new year starts rolling, the full scale of this colossal project is ready to be realized. The gallery storefront on the first floor is scheduled for its GRAND OPENING March 23, and will house the fine art of Blankenship along with others like Miller, Mills, Brown and Pennell, displaying paintings, photography, jewelry, original clothing designs, furniture, woodwork and other original art. Blankenship's arsenal of works includes photography, paintings, and other functional art. His business Through My Eyes Photography & Design offers graphic design including logos, websites, posters, CD covers, shirts for bands, brochures and much more. TME also offers interior design and custom photography. Dina Brown's pottery business and painting studio now inhabit the first office space on the second floor. Local artist Maggie Meehan finds a home studio in the space next door. The other three office spaces remain open; ideas for occupants have been a yoga center, which could house classes in the beautiful ballroom upstairs, healing arts professionals, and of course, artists of any medium. There is an application process; one can call the RiffRaff for details. The Room Upstairs provides a home for LLyniuM entertainment, Blankenship and McKinney's production company, which has been producing events in the region for over three years now. The Room Upstairs is a newly restored ballroom with refinished wood floors, pressed tin ceilings, a stage, and comfortable couches and chairs for guests. LLyniuM entertainment will now have a home venue in which to host its programs. On October 23, they presented their first program in the Room Upstairs: Raquy and the Cavemen, from Brooklyn, NY -via- Israel and it was a smashing success. Monday 11/6 marked the first Monday night OPEN STAGE night to a great audience with some top quality musicians. This event continues every Monday night from 7-11pm. This evening includes music, dance, poetry, and any other type of performance art. There is a cover charge of $3, $2 for performers. Complimentary food, coffee and soda are served each week. Upcoming events will include original stage productions, music and dance performances and classes.Impressive for a little town in southern West Virginia, eh? Good work RRAC (or is it RAC?) . . . I'll be stopping by soon.