The Marshall Artists Series has been a pillar of the Huntington arts and culture scene for over 80 years. Each year they bring around 25 cultural events to the stage of the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center and other local venues. Past highlights have included evenings with the legendary Tony Bennett, famed comedians Martin Short and Steve Martin, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, lecturer Doris Kearns Goodwin, as well as touring Broadway productions of Chicago, Cats and others.
Music and theatre like those hosted by the Marshall Artists Series are popular with Woodlands residents. Experiencing a moving work with a friend can be a great way to bond. Group outings are regularly arranged including two performances this month. All of the events are within a short distance of the community, so many residents attend even more often.
The series began in 1936 as an initiative of Marshall University. The mission was to create professional cultural opportunities outside of the classroom for university students and serve as an economic development tool for the university and surrounding community. Since it began, it’s blossomed into one of the leading purveyors of live performances in Huntington. The Marshall Artists Series presents performances from national and international artists, student performances, as well as curated special event festivals. The series upholds its mission by making programming free to all students at Marshall University. Through field trips coordinated with tri-state area schools, the series is also able to bring the magic of theatre to children.
Huntington is rich in arts and culture due in part to the School of Music and the illustrious School of Art and Design at Marshall University. Their two galleries: Charles W. and Norma C. Carrol and Birke Art are located downtown and give students spaces to showcase their work alongside other local and international artists.
“There’s a high level of interest in all types of art in our area,” says Penny Watkins, the executive director of the Marshall Artists Series.
“To add to that, there have been a number of new venues built that are very art-specific. Right here at Marshall, we have the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center which has multiple performance spaces for students majoring in theatre. It has the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre, a 500+ seat theater and plenty of lab spaces for students and the public to use for developing new work,” adds marketing director Angela Jones.
“Visual art is prominent here too.” Penny followed up, “There’s a new visual art center downtown in what used to be in the old Stone & Thomas department store building. It’s beautiful as an academic space and offers another venue for student work to be seen. And of course, there’s the Huntington Museum of Art and plenty of live music venues too,” says Penny Watkins.
Woodlands residents feel good about supporting the arts because they know the positive impacts it has for the Huntington community as a whole. Marshall Artists Series tickets can be purchased individually or through subscription packages. Many Woodlands residents are subscribers, or regular attendees. The cool spaces the events take place around downtown Huntington make for wonderful occasions to anticipate.
One couple, the Wuchers, both professors emeritus of Marshall and ten-year Woodlands residents, have loved the program. Not only are they subscribers, but they’re also donors. A large part of the funding comes from community members just like Tori and David Wucher. They’ve gotten to meet some exciting performers over the years like Ed Asner and Mandy Patinkin at patron receptions.
“The variety of shows offered is a good value. When we were working, we didn’t always have time for cultural experiences. Now we can focus on what we love to do since we’re both retired. If we aren’t traveling or visiting our grandchildren, we are attending all the Marshall Artists Series performances we can. We’ve always loved seeing Broadway shows in New York, so it’s nice to have an option here in Huntington to continue enjoying this type of cultural experience. The best part is the Woodlands van provides transportation to all the shows for a nominal fee,” says Tori.
There’s been a renewed appreciation for live performance which creates more opportunities for social engagement. Intergenerational mingling at performances fosters diversity and shared emotional experiences.
“Live performances keep us from feeling lonely. Everyone needs stimulating events in their lives as well as to connect intellectually with others and engage. We have loyal Woodlands residents who attend almost everything because they need to feed their souls,” says Penny Watkins.
Another Woodlands resident has been a subscriber for over 60 years. Her children now use her seats, but she fondly remembers the tradition of getting dressed up and going to a show at the ornate Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. Built in 1928, the theater has served as a great host to the Marshall Artists Series, as most of its events take place there.
Last year the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center hosted an international film fest where they showed a selection of the best independent films released in 2022. Titles included the hit Norwegian comedy The Worst Person in the World and the documentary Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story.
When it comes to bringing neighbors together through art, the Marshall Artists Series has it covered. The team in charge of booking events for the organization pays close attention to what programming is popular with subscribers and attendees and tries to create a good mix to satisfy everyone.
Though Woodlands residents will find plenty of opportunities on campus to connect through art and live performance, The Marshall Artists Series is another program the community is proud to support. It’s not just Huntington though, West Virginia is an artist’s haven in Appalachia. For those who enjoy the bustling activity of a big city, with a small-town feel, consider retirement at Woodlands in Huntington. Call 304-697-1620 now to get more information and schedule your visit.