Councilman Believes the Art/Culture Emphasis Will “Transform” Downtown Huntington into a Cultural Hub

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Louisville in the 20s
Louisville in the 20s

Huntington councilman Steve Williams has an optimistic gleam in his eye and an upbeat stance in his voice.

He’s excited about the city’s future and particularly the recently announced town and gown projects that bring additional athletic facilities to campus and renovation of the former Anderson Newcomb (Stone & Thomas) seven story building across from Pullman Square.

The decision by MU to bring the fine arts downtown will have a similar impact to the behind the scenes effort to persuade the community college to choose downtown. Instead, they selected the former Ashland Coal location on 5th Street Road for their transformation into Mount West.

Comparing the prospect for downtown Huntington to historic districts in Louisville, Ky., Williams believes missing out on the interstate through downtown now could be seen as a blessing in disguise, though the wait has been decades coming.

“This will transform downtown Huntington,” Williams said. “We can use the interstate built outside the city as a positive. It has enabled us to create a unique cultural and architectural environment downtown.”

The Wolfe Administration has continued an effort to re-brand the downtown section as an inclusive destination for young, creative professionals which began in the Felinton administration. That goal equates with the growth of the Old Louisville and the downtown riverfront, as Williams remarked, “it has the feel of Louisville.”

One of that city’s largest festivals --- Forecastle --- celebrates music, art and activism. It has been named one of the Top 101 Things to Do in America and one of the Top 15 outdoor festivals by Outdoor Magazine.

From their website, Forecastle is described as the event where the Midwest connects®. The goal has been merging entertainment with education and Forecastle symposium of sights, sounds and environmental unites the creative and activist communities of the Midwest.

However, Williams , referring back to the interstate, notes that visitors to Louisville creative mecca contend with the rush of interstate traffic, exits, and concrete bridges carrying cars and trucks overhead.

Public art itself equates to a “destination draw that bring people,” Williams remarked, adding he anticipates revitalization, unique beauty and atmosphere.

“We’ve done an awful lot of preparation, now, it’s time for us to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Referring to the athletic complexes announced by Marshall, he told people not to be disappointed at the lack of a baseball stadium in the plans. The former Marshall athlete explained that the institution had to improve on Title IX “obligations.” These relate to providing equal facilities and opportunities in women’s sports. “Title XI obligations outweighed the urgency of the baseball stadium,” Williams said.

Not to be disheartened, he said, women’s sports facilities will be upgraded then the field of dreams will come. Meantime, “we’ll use the soccer field to attract interscholastic tournaments and regional soccer tournaments.”