Stephen Smith posterized - art

Investing in the Arts

Investing in the Arts

What WV Can’t Wait For

West Virginia will be the best place in America for public art, artists, arts education, and people who cherish art in all its forms. We have a strong Department of Arts, Culture and History; we want to give it the resources and freedom to cement West Virginia’s status as a national leader in the arts.


What We’re Up Against

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.

Our Plan

  1. Launch 100 Public Arts Projects per year. Through the Mountaineer Service Corps, we will invest in 50 public art projects and 50 artists each year ($40,000 each). These could include fellowships for authors and playwrights, youth arts programs in schools, master artists partnering with schools, mass public art pieces, complete streets projects for small towns, etc.
  2. Provide start-up capital for 200 artists. Via our Small Business Revolution, we will invest $25,000 in start-up capital in 200 crafters, artists, artisans, musicians, writers, filmmakers, and others—as well as provide grant writing assistance.
  3. Launch 50 Arts Apprenticeships. As a part of the Mountaineer Service Corps, we will start a robust arts apprenticeship program with the goals of:
    • Keeping West Virginia crafters and artists in-state, and attracting out-of-state artists to make a life here;
    • Making West Virginia a destination for crafters, artists, and the creative economy.To ensure the success of the project, we will:
    • Develop partnerships with existing state organizations, educational institutions, nonprofits, and individual artisans.
    • Identify master craftsmen who want to teach and match them with people interested in learning their art.
    • The details of each individual program will be worked out in advance between the Director, Apprentice and the Master Craftsman keeping in mind the individual needs of the working of the craft, the location and the distance of the studio and the apprentice.
    • Each apprentice should be granted the opportunity to continue for multiple years or sufficient time to achieve proficiency.
  4. Incorporate the arts into every facet of public life, starting with economic development.
    • Create a “percent for art” policy, as many states and cities have done. This would create an expectation that new, large business development would be expected to set-aside 1% of the value of the project for arts and culture (which could include public art, local art, etc.).
    • Support a state arts tax credit for using local artists and crafters in construction projects or capital additions on tangible assets.
    • Support the art and service of local journalism by directing state departments to make ad purchases in local papers offering public services or explaining how to access benefits.
    • Re-open the WV film office as an independent office within the Department of Commerce.
    • Support the restoration of local music venues like the Delbarton Opry House and the Pocahontas County Opera House.
    • Encourage all state agencies, such as the WV Department of Tourism and the WV Commerce Department, to use local artists and design agencies in marketing efforts. Give extra points in the bidding process for use of West Virginia artists or design firms.
    • Work with the heads of each agency to incorporate the arts into their strategic plans (i.e. the benefits of art therapy in substance use disorder treatment in DHHR, public art in the Department of Commerce, complete streets in the Division of Highways, etc.).
    • Develop sound criteria for what is “local” for the purposes of awarding tax credits and marketing contracts. For instance, a firm headquartered in another state that organizes to have a single employee nominally located at a “West Virginia branch” in order to be a part of the bidding process merely undermines the efforts to support genuinely local talent.
  5. Prioritize Arts Education in Schools. In our Education Plan, we outline our goal of shifting dollars from testing to arts and other real-life skills and practices. We will also encourage our apprentices, masters, public arts teams, and art entrepreneurs to find ways to partner with the local public school as best they can.
    • In order to help West Virginians across the state access information, technology, and literacy service, increase financial support for libraries through the WV Library Commission.
    • We will identify one or more WV public colleges with fantastic arts programs, to expand into a pipeline for the arts businesses, apprenticeships, and public arts projects described above.
  6. Reinstate a Secretary of the Department of Arts, Culture and History to implement this plan. The Department of Arts, Culture, and History will lead the above efforts, but we also argue for the reinstatement of a cabinet-level position to ensure that the arts are not an afterthought. We will foster arts communities and initiatives across the state in communities of all sizes. Impacts will be wide ranging and produce public art projects, art education programs, craft/art shows, artists-in-residence programs, music/songwriting camps (like girls rock camps), local music festivals, and more.

How We Pay For It


$5 million –  Reinstating the WV Film Office and Secretary of Education and the Arts (paid for from the Big Box tax).

Other costs are already accounted for in other plans.


Every one of our New Deal plans was written by West Virginians.

  • Our volunteers asked 11,000 of their neighbors, “What would you do if you were Governor?”
  • Our candidates attended 197 Town Halls, taking notes in community centers, church basements, union halls, and small businesses.
  • Educators met after work to start sketching out their perfect school.
  • Nurses traded ideas on the picket line.
  • Our county and constituency captains ratified a first platform in the fall of 2019 and updated it in the spring of 2020 to reflect the current pandemic.

But the legacy of this New Deal dates back to John Brown and Mother Jones, to the United Mine Workers of America and the suffragettes, to the Poor People’s Movement and the CIO.

No one politician or slate of candidates can win this plan alone. We need you.

If you have an idea for how to make this plan stronger, or if you would like to lend a hand to win it, contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith at


Fund the Movement

This movement runs on people power, without a dime of corporate cash. Make your donation today. Or better yet, join the ranks of our monthly donors by selecting the box during check out! 

Join the Movement

We have hundreds of volunteers in every corner of the state, and a growing slate of candidates who will need our help in 2022. It will take 1,000 leaders not 1 to win a West Virginia that works for all of us.