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Sen. Joe Manchin talks jobs, money and funding the arts

By Staff | Jan 26, 2011

As part of an ongoing listening tour around West Virginia, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin visited the Parkersburg Art Center recently to tour the facility and learn about its programs.

Members of the art center’s staff, board of trustees and business leaders who support programs at the center met with Manchin as part of his two-week “Call for Common Sense” tour.

Manchin is serving the remainder of the unexpired term caused when Sen. Robert C. Byrd died in June. He won a special election in November for the term that expires in 2012, giving up his seat as governor to take the new position. Over the last week, he has been involved in more than two dozen town hall-style meetings, briefings and tours around the state.

“We are very excited to have him here,” Geni Astorg, chairman of the art center’s board of trustees, said. “Numerous times when the senator was the governor, we tried to get him here just to see what we are, what we do for the community and what we have to offer. His schedule never permitted that, so we’re just elated to have him here,” she said.

During remarks to those gathered in the art center’s Whitlatch Gallery, Manchin said his goal in Washington will be to do the same thing officials did in West Virginia to keep the state on a sound financial footing at a time when many other states are reeling.

He said he doesn’t want to cut for the sake of cutting, but wants to set priorities and work from there to bring the nation’s spending under control.

“You have to make adjustments, live within your means and have a vision of how you get yourself out of the hole you might have dug. That’s what they expect us to do in Washington and that’s the approach I’m going to take. We did it in West Virginia, we’re still holding our own here in the state and I think we will continue to as long as common sense is followed,” Manchin said.

Manchin said he believes the arts should be among those priorities and will work with programs like the art center to address the issues faced by the arts community.

“Someone once said ‘Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time’ and I think truer words have never been said,” he said. “It really allows you to find out who you are to lose yourself in the expression of art, the beauty of art and just the whole approach that we take,” Manchin said.

At a question from Manchin about what his office can do to help, Astorg said the art center’s board is always looking at future sustainability and how the art center can be made totally self-supporting. It operates now through grant funding, fund-raising and support from the local community and businesses, she said.

Manchin said his office will always be ready to help the art center and its board find sources of support, such as funding and grants. He introduced members of his staff to the trustees and others in attendance at the event.

“What we can be is a connector, we’re a facilitator. If my office is working the way it should be working, we should be able to facilitate you with every opportunity there is out there,” he said.