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“Is there any way to un-hitch from this broken economy?”

Beth Reese started to listen to the young people who interned at her family farm in Hampshire County. They wanted what we all want and can’t seem to find anymore: to somehow make a living, while also making a life.

The River House is a multi-generational arts space and cafe in Capon Bridge. “Arts, music, and artisan food,” summarized Beth, who joined with her husband and local artists to launch it out of a historic but abandoned building less than 2 years ago.

When we arrived at 3pm on a Saturday, the place was bustling. A flyer on our table boasted 9 performances and arts activities happening that weekend. During their first open mic, a local performer looked out over the standing room only crowd: “Who are all these people? I thought I knew everyone in town!”

Imagine an industry that unites communities, attracts visitors, and requires little capital.

Imagine if this same industry were native to West Virginia, and the more we invested in it, the more beautiful our state became.

Imagine if this industry were largely impenetrable to out-of-state monopolies.

Imagine an industry that could inspire young adults to stay here.

Imagine an industry that is growing. 

That industry is the arts. Our state has tried to choke it—with no more cabinet secretary, no more film office, and erasure from too many of our schools.

Still, it breathes… at the River House in Hampshire, the Purple Fiddle in Tucker, and the Old Brick Playhouse in Randolph. It breathes in Point Pleasant and Princeton and Grafton and Shepherdstown and Lewisburg — and a thousand places in between.

We deserve an economy where all of us have enough to live on, not just with dignity, but also with beauty and community. We will make West Virginia the first state in the country to choose local artists over out-of-state monopolies.