Interview with ArtSpring Program Coordinator
Erika May has been an integral figure in the Tucker County arts community for many years as a resident, a talented musician, and avid arts supporter. The ArtSpring organization is very excited to infuse here energy and passion for the arts into the short and long term goals of ArtSpring. Her work as Program Coordinator will increase the services that ArtSpring will provide to local artists and citizens. Her work prior to becoming Program Coordinator has been focused on positing the arts as a catalyst for community development between the non-arts sector and innovative, creative thinkers. EMay believes that for a city or town to be truly sustainable arts must be central to future development. The following interview is an attempt to further outline a vision for the artist’s role in Tucker County, the background that instilled this passion within Emay, and the larger goals of ArtSpring expanding its presence within Tucker County.
What is the place you call your artistic home?
I grew up in the 90's in Boston, with piano players and performance artists always within sight. I'm sure that my love for music and the arts were fostered at this early age, where rock radio and live music were thriving and the arts infused into every aspect of culture. I worked at a few amazing record stores, attended weekly open mics, and was able to attend incredible live concerts and theatrical performances. Arts education in my schools was very strong and played an equally important role in my personal development.
When I moved to Pittsburgh to study Art at Carnegie Mellon, I became interested in the intimate pockets of world music, dance, poetry and theater that were thriving on- and off-campus. Upon graduating, I co-founded a live music venue which acted as a performance space for local and touring artists, a cultural and community hub, and a retail outlet for music and crafts.
During my time in Pittsburgh, I worked for a radio program called ‘The Saturday Light Brigade’,participated in Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and supported performing arts organizations including Three Rivers Arts Festival and Pittsburgh International Children's Theater Festival and New Hazlett Theater. I find incredible joy in helping other artists achieve their creative dreams, and I was able to do so at a high frequency by being behind-the-scenes. In my own practice, I founded and performed with Idoor Dance Company, Steel Town Fire and Between Liberties, dance and musical groups who received local and national acclaim.
The arts scene in Pittsburgh truly instilled in me the wonder of the creative process, the uniqueness of each artist's voice, and the power of the arts to bring life and revitalization to communities. It was an exciting time to be in the wings and on stage, and I learned so much from my time there.
Moving to West Virginia has given me time to focus on my songwriting and musical endeavors. I’m encouraged and energized by the creative communities here, and am proud to call these mountains my home.
How/when did you find yourself in Tucker County?
I became involved with Ben McKean, proprietor of Honey River Meadery in Dryfork, and moved south of Canaan Valley to Healthberry Farm in 2013.It was a hard decision to leave Pittsburgh, but the lifestyle has proven to be a perfect fit for me.
Initially, I was enchanted by the world-class music at The Purple Fiddle, cross-country skiing at Whitegrass, gems of art at White Room, the undeniable appeal of Ben's Old Loom Barn, top-notch yoga class at Pendleton Point, boating on the premier whitewater, hiking and biking on the elaborate trail systems, and spending time with the genuine and authentic people I now call dear friends. Plus, I’m still close enough to Pittsburgh to still call it my metropolitan hub, and I visit to work and play regularly.
What is the role that you envision ArtSpring playing in the future development and enhancement of the Tucker County art scene?
In essence, our mission is to serve as a doorway between the arts of Tucker County and the broader world. ArtSpring will continue to do this by presenting arts and events like our festival. We are also aiming to develop a digital portal, a physical location, and deepen services to elevate our working artists and promote our unique community to tourists regionally and nationally. We will develop ways to assist local artists with acquiring the necessary resources to create, share and make a living from their work. Finally, we hope to draw acclaimed artists to collaborate, create and present their work in our community in order to develop public engagement, appreciation and attention to the arts.
It is critical for us to facilitate, encourage and support the arts on every level. This includes fostering arts education and appreciation in youth, supporting and creating environments for practicing artists to thrive, and serving retired and elderly artists.By leveraging the creative assets in our community, we can develop connections, deepen personal and cultural identity, and increase communication within our diverse community and with the broader human world. This is art's highest purpose, my deepest passion, and a need that ArtSpring is uniquely suited to fill in Tucker County.
What initially excited you (drew you) to take on the position as ArtSpring Program Coordinator?
The position is a perfect match for my interests and experience. I am passionate about supporting all art forms, which includes supporting individual artists' business and creative practices, as well as encouraging public engagement, education and outreach. My love of the live arts experience and my experience in major festivals will be a benefit to the growth and development of the ArtSpring Festival as well as the future of arts programming in Tucker County. Ultimately, this position allows me to funnel my passions into service for my home community. I could not be more pleased to join ArtSpring at this critical juncture.