By M.K. Luther - firstname.lastname@example.org
MT. JACKSON -- When the Bowman-Shannon Cultural Arts Center officially opened its doors on Saturday, it welcomed the community to the local art world and a family back to its homeplace.
The new center is located at the historic 1920s Craftsmen-style house originally built by prominent Mt. Jackson resident C.M. Shannon.
The center, at 5998 Main Street, will now be the base for The Art Group Gallery, which previously rented space just down the street.
The center boasts spacious gallery rooms in the Craftsmen-style house, with an art supply retail store, art education room, resource library, available studio space and a pottery studio in the basement.
As the public filled the house to view the galleries and art collections, members of the Shannon family also came to revisit their ancestral home.
"I think it is fabulous," said grandson Randy Shannon, who came from Portsmouth to take part in the grand opening. "I just wish my grandfather and all my aunts and uncles were here now to see this because they loved the arts.
"They are actually preserving the heritage here of what happened with the Shannons ... of both the Bowmans and the Shannons and all they did for the town of Mt. Jackson," he said.
For Jennifer Myers Patel, whose father Robert Shannon Myers grew up in the house, the opening gave her a second chance to visit the home. Patel traveled from Roanoke with her almost 2-year-old son Nikhil Shannon Patel to see what had once been the "social center" of the Mt. Jackson community be reborn as an arts center.
"This is fantastic," Patel said. "It is what I wished was here when I grew up here."
Saturday's grand opening also offered guests food from local vendors such as Valley Pig Pickin' barbecue, Strite's Donuts and Lucas Roasting Co., a wine tasting by Crooked Run Cellars and live music, as well as free ice cream and balloons for children.
"This is an unbelievable facility, they have so much more space and the displays are beautiful," said Tamara Moore, a guest from Edinburg. "I think it will be a great opportunity for the community to experience art in many different ways."
"There are so many different types of media here -- from pottery to drawing to watercolor and textiles and crafts," Moore said.
"It is empowerment -- that is what it is to me," said volunteer Alice Farling about The Art Group Gallery's relocation the cultural center.
The gallery started using the space in June, bringing in the first round of children to use the new facilities for a 10-week summer art program, Farling said.
"They love it -- they were so excited," Farling said.
The ample space in the cultural center allowed for close to 20 children to be accommodated in one summer program, Farling said. The children have also planted a salsa garden on the property and are making hand-painted rocks available for donations toward an outdoor picnic table for their projects.
"Put children around something colorful and they will make something out of it," Farling said.