MORGANTOWN — The city of Morgantown is in the process of establishing an overarching arts commission, spelling changes for the leadership structure of two city attractions.
Morgantown City Council asked city administration to prepare an ordinance that would sunset the Morgantown History Museum Commission and Metropolitan Theatre Commission in service of a new Morgantown Cultural Arts Commission.
Vincent Kitch, the city’s director of arts and cultural development, recommended two members from the Met and museum commissions be included as part of the initial 10-person, city council-appointed cultural arts advisory body.
Kitch said both the theater and museum commissions voted in favor of the restructuring creating the new, broader commission. Ending the theater and museum commissions in the process was one of four options provided to council and the one recommended by Kitch.
“I’ve been working in government-based arts and culture over 25 years and I’ve worked in cities of all sizes, and in every position I’ve had, I’ve worked with some sort of arts commission … as sort of the primary advisory board to the city,” he said. “I do believe Morgantown could benefit from the creation of an overarching arts commission that could take on some of these new ideas and expansion.”
If instituted, the Morgantown Cultural Arts Commission would advise the director of arts and cultural development, the city manager’s office and city council on all things arts and culture, including rules, regulations, policies and budgetary matters pertaining to arts and culture development department programs, services and facilities as well as public outreach and the development and placement of public art.
The Met Theatre falls under Kitch’s department while the Morgantown History Museum falls under the auspices of BOPARC. Part of this move would bring the museum alongside the theater under the department of arts and cultural development.
The theater had a pre-COVID 2021 budget of just under $291,000. BOPARC Director Melissa Wiles said the museum, located on Kirk Street, operates on just about $35,000 a year.
Kitch said the 501c-3 Friends of the Museum group has been critical to the mission of the museum and will continue to be so — but they could use some help.
“It’s not about throwing the baby out with the bath water, certainly. It’s about creating a commission that can deal with a broader spectrum of things, but then also help support the museum so they can do what they do and do it better,” he said.
While council was in support of the move, multiple members expressed a fear of alienating the volunteers who have made these institutions a labor of love over the years.
Mayor Ron Dulaney represents council on the museum commission.
“The museum wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for those folks who work so hard, selflessly, on it. I think especially Pamela Ball has been pivotal. The museum has benefited from a sense of ownership and I think we want to be careful to not undermine the way the folks on the commission feel,” Dulaney said. “I think we also need to be prepared to provide more financial support to the museum as a council and as a city if we want it to grow and flourish and live beyond the individuals who are really doing all the work.”