‘Forged by Steel’ exhibit set to be unveiled

A portion of the Weirton steel mill rises up behind homes in downtown Weirton. The structure is visible from much of downtown and has framed the Weirton skyline for decades. The "Weirton — The City Forged by Steel" art exhibit and competition will open Jan. 20 at the Summit Art Gallery. -- Photo by Dennis Jones

WEIRTON — The works of 24 artists capturing the history of Weirton’s industrial past will be unveiled Jan. 20 as part of the “Weirton — The City Forged by Steel” exhibition and awards ceremony.

The event will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Summit Art Gallery, 3393 Main St., Weirton. It is open to the public.

The competition and exhibit were organized as a way to pay tribute to the impact of the local steel mill on the Weirton community and its residents.

“We are excited to bring so many top-tier artists together to capture our changing downtown,” said Alecia Ford, Forged by Steel Show chair. “Our industrial partners, including Frontier Group and ArcelorMittal, are transforming our city through bricks and mortar, but they are also engaging with our community to revive and celebrate the arts.”

With more than 40 pieces, participating artists will include Dale Biesecker, Follansbee; Sara Cottingham, Morgantown; William Dailey, Weirton; Scott Dalrymple, Manchester, NY; Jeanne D’Anniballe, Steubenville, OH; Lindsey Fair, Weirton; Brian Fencl, Wheeling; Stephen Glykas, Weirton; Elissa Greathouse, Chester; Bernard Hartman, Industry, PA; Kimberly Heubel, Weirton; Gina Judy, Richmond, OH; Stephen Opet, Fayetteville, NC; Rich Pantaleo, Monongahela, PA; Jessica Reger, Wheeling; Mark Rice, Weirton; Stephanie Severin, New Cumberland; Greg Siegwart; Wheeling; Michael Swartzmiller, New Cumberland; Debra Tobin, Ambridge, PA; James Tobin, Ambridge, PA; Gerald Van Scyoc, Steubenville; Jim Watson, Steubenville, OH; and Gregg Webster, New Cumberland.

Art will include a variety of media, with oils, acrylic, watercolor and mixed media represented.

A $500 best of show prize will be presented at the exhibit’s grand opening, along with first- and second-place prizes in six categories.

Michael McKowen, director of exhibitions for the Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center, will serve as the juror for the event. A native West Virginian, McKowen has more than 25 years of experience working as a professional designer and artisan for theater, film, and events across the country. He earned his Master of Fine Arts from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and trained in painting and illustration at Parson’s School of Design and the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

A total of $2,300 in prizes will be awarded as part of the event, thanks to a $1,000 sponsorship by the Frontier Group of Companies, a $500 donation from ArcelorMittal, and $200 donations from GoGreen, Amerilube and the Renaissance Weirton Corp. The Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau will provide refreshments for the evening’s events.

“We are proud to be a part of this event to honor Weirton’s industrial heritage through art,” said David Franjoine, CEO of the Frontier Group of Companies. “The removal of the BOP and blast furnaces are going to create great opportunities for a new chapter in downtown Weirton. Frontier is excited to see arts organizations joining in the revitalization.”

It was the Frontier Group of Companies’ purchase of a large swath of the ArcelorMittal property that inspired the “Weirton — The City Forged by Steel” competition. Once the sale was final, much of the former Weirton Steel property, including the BOP and blast furnaces, were scheduled for demolition.

“The contest was created to reflect the impact of the mill on the community, our history and the coming changes to the city’s skyline,” said Mayor Harold Miller, chair of the Weirton Renaissance Corp. “It will be exciting to see our downtown preserved by works from artists from throughout the region.”

The juried competition was open to all artists 18 years of age and over, inviting them to highlight the impact of the steel mill on the community in its size, operation and history.

The exhibit will also include photos of the mill shot by local photographer Salene Mazur Kraemer, and some historic Weirton Steel pieces provided by the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center.

Following the grand opening and awards ceremony, the exhibit will run at the Summit Art Gallery through March 23.