HUNTINGTON This is not your typical antiques district storefront.
A peek into the window reveals an artwork in progress, remnants of a musical performance and a Welsh corgi napping.
The storefront, at 720 14th St. West, is Alias 14W, an experimental community art space.
While not a new concept, a grassroots shared venue is new to the Tri-State.
Alias 14W has been the site of a music series, independent concerts, arts and economic development workshops, art exhibits, book launches and open mic events.
The space is the brainchild of Chad Andrew Floyd, a lifelong Huntington resident with deep roots in the west end, also known as Central City. “My grandfather installed some of the first phone lines here,” he said, noting he lives in nearby Harveytown.
At one time, Central City was a thriving business center, a stopping point between Huntington and Kenova. Alias 14W resides where the Iola Theater was; the original exterior remains, although after the theater closed, the building served as a retail shop before being abandoned. Floyd said the building is undergoing renovations now but meanwhile is available for events.
“If you want to use the space and you will do all the work, it’s free,” Floyd said. “If you want us to do all the work, you can pay us.” The work would include setup, teardown, publicity and any other preparation needed for the event.
The space is a result of the West Huntington Revitalization project, the third initiative of Huntington’s America’s Best Communities revitalization plan. The plan includes not only beautification of the area, but
n connection to the Heartland Intermodal Gateway freight hub in Wayne County to create transportation, logistics and manufacturing opportunities in vacant buildings and lots on the West End;
n expansion of availability of healthy food sources in West Huntington to low-income families and seniors;
n and development of the former Corbin clothing factor as a Solar Training Institute to retrain workers.
Floyd, a 2017 graduate of Marshall University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, is driven by a passion for his home state and hometown
“We’re a jungle,” he said. “We’re beautiful and we’re worth protecting.”
He points to the history of the state to illustrate why West Virginia and other areas of Appalachia have fallen behind.
“Part of being Appalachian has been not taking advantage of opportunities because we have been taken advantage of,” he said, adding there is plenty of hope for change in a positive way.
“Appalachians are about family, taking care of each other, pride and craft and making something out of nothing,” he said. “We need to come into the modern era so we can be who we are.”
Floyd said he believes making opportunities for artists and creativity in the area will support business growth and prosperity, pointing to Princeton Renaissance Project on the other side of the state as a success story. The project gave birth to the Celebrate Princeton street fair, monthly First Friday celebrations, assorted arts activities and an improved dialogue about growth and progress in the community.
“I know West Huntington can do it, too, and art can be the catalyst,” Floyd said.
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