Oglebay Institute’s School of Dance Grad Returns for Nutcracker, and to Inspire

By Laura Jackson Roberts

Once again, it’s The Nutcracker season at Oglebay Institute. Everyone knows the show, the music, and every year little girls wonder what it feels like to put on a dancer’s shoes and step into the role of a sugar plum fairy. But most of us, myself included, never pass the point of wistful imagination. It’s a fantasy we have, for a moment, as children.

IMG_6686At Oglebay Institute’s School of Dance, it’s not a fantasy. A group of talented young dancers annually perform the iconic ballet for the holiday season. And while I could write about the magic of the show, and the beautiful costumes, I’d rather write about the work that it takes to be a dancer, the road that isn’t easy or glamorous.

OI will present The Nutcracker at the Mansion Museum and Towngate Theater this Christmas season, and two esteemed program grads will return for the December 26th and 27th performances: Michael Morris of WVU and Kalista “J’lyse” Kafana of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School.

I met J’lyse when she was seven years old. My son, Andy, was two, and he adored her. What I didn’t know at the time was that J’lyse was already well on her way to becoming a serious dancer. Cheryl Pompeo, director of Oglebay Institute’s School of Dance, remembers J’lyse as a toddler. “When she was little, we didn’t take babies here. Ballet didn’t start until you were six. But she wanted to dance.” Pompeo gave J’lyse a small part in a performance, and since that day, J’lyse’s feet haven’t left the dance floor.

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J’lyse Kafana backstage at PBT’s “The Nutcracker.”

She danced at Oglebay Institute for years, and at age 14 was accepted into PBT’s Pre-Professional Division, a rare honor. The current OI dance students all know J’lyse, and not just because her mother, Miss Kim, teaches there. They know her story. She’s living proof that they too can reach for their dreams. I asked J’lyse about her journey from the Ohio Valley to the elite Pittsburgh dance school. “It doesn’t feel like I’ve changed,” she tells me. Indeed, she seems like the same young girl who used to babysit my kids, who gave them horsey rides and taught them handstands.

If she’s living her dream, her success nevertheless comes with conditions. “Most people my age want to have a normal high school life. I guess that’s the hardest part about it—being cyber-schooled, and you don’t really get to go out with your friends a lot because you’re in the studio a ton. But I love it, so it really doesn’t matter.”

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The Kafana Family in 2011 when J’lyse won a scholarship from the Russian Culture Now organization.

He also reminds his daughter that little dancer’s eyes are always watching. “You have to carry yourself in an appropriate manner. If she gets rejected, we tell her to take it as a positive. Never give up. As a parent, we try to help guide her as much as we can. The rest is up to her. We can get her from Point A to Point B but what she does from Point B on is all up to her.”

Pompeo conveys to me just how intense J’lyse’s journey has been. “You have to have the drive. You have to have the love in your heart. You can’t be sick. You can’t take [just] an hour class…it’s an every-day commitment.” A young dancer’s life is also inextricably tied to the efforts of his or her parents. “Do you want to drive her to Pittsburgh, or Columbus, or Cleveland every day? It’s hard,” Pompeo says. J’lyse’s parents drive her to and from Pittsburgh every day, putting over 100,000 miles on their car per year.

“I have lucky parents,” she quips.

Pompeo adds, “It’s like the Olympics. But to say that you dance with the Pittsburgh Ballet? To say that you’re in the corps? It’s worth every cent. It’s worth every blister, every drop of blood, sweat, and tear.”

J’lyse has paved the way for other young dancers, and they want to follow in her footsteps. The little girls look up to her, and she can relate to that, recalling how she used to look up to her Nutcracker partner, Michael Morris. Now she’ll share the stage with him this Christmas.

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Pompeo realizes that Wheeling is a small town, but she knows how strong OI’s dance program is. More importantly, she believes that her students are learning what’s really important, and building a foundation here, while also encouraging them to spread their wings when the time comes. “We can only take you so far. Our all-star dancers [must] go and make a life for themselves. You’re not going to leave Wheeling, West Virginia and go to New York City. There’s got to be stepping stones along the way and we try to guide them there. Our kids are talented. But they also know that OI has their back, and we give them all the support they need to get to the next level. And I think that’s a plus on our side.”

Mr. Jay smiles at his daughter. “Oglebay Institute was the foundation. The stepping stone. You never forget where you came from. If it wasn’t for Miss Cheryl, and Miss Kristen, and Miss Kathleen and all of the teachers over the years that she’s been here” (“And my mom!” J’lyse interjects) “she wouldn’t be where she is. We couldn’t be more appreciative. This is where it all started for her.”

Pompeo looks at J’lyse. “To know that two of your own did it? That’s cool.”

So what can a parent expect when their young dancer lands a role in Oglebay Institute’s The Nutcracker? Parental involvement. It’s key. This show doesn’t just magically appear on the stage at the Mansion Museum or Towngate Theater. I live near the School of Dance; I see the cars parked at all hours, the parents carrying bags and shoes as their children wear a groove in the pavement to the door. I see lights on, late at night, as dancers continue to practice long after I’ve settled in for the evening. It’s a commitment, and Pompeo and her fellow instructors couldn’t put on the show without the help of the parents, who volunteer their time and efforts every year.

“We have eleven shows,” she says. “That’s a lot for young kids. It’s a lot to give up every weekend at Christmas. And both days after Christmas a lot of families don’t travel anymore because the kids have to dance.”

Miss Kim is volunteering at PBT the day I speak to J’lyse, as parents are expected to do. Mr. Jay routinely heads up a dad-squad, working on sets. He’s chauffeured guest instructors around town. In fact, he’s only seen J’lyse perform from the audience four times, because he’s always working backstage. It’s part of the deal, and he wouldn’t trade it for the world.

J’lyse is achieving her dreams, and she’s working harder than any 16-year-old I’ve ever met. She’s both humble about her achievements and excited about her future. “A dancer’s life is short,” she says. “You have to take every opportunity. You have to enjoy every moment.”

The School of Dance looks forward to sharing The Nutcracker with the Ohio Valley over the holiday season. Pompeo’s students may take J’lyse, and Michael Morris, as living proof that they can achieve their own success with the help of dedicated teachers and supportive parents.

“I don’t know that people realize the magnitude of the talent that has come through these doors,” Pompeo muses. “Here we are, in little old Wheeling.”

IMG_6544Oglebay Institute’s School of Dance presents “The Nutcracker” at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, December 20 at the Mansion Museum; 7 p.m. Saturday, December 26 at Towngate Theatre and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, December 27 at Towngate.. For tickets call 304-242-7700 or visit www.oionline.com.

 

 

Adventures at Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Center: Replacing Your Child’s Screen Time with Green Time

By Laura Roberts

Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Environmental Education Center has come a long way since my days in the 1980s as a nature camper at its former iteration, the A.B. Brooks Nature Center, but its mission remains the same: environmental education.

It’s a unique local resource for adults and schoolchildren alike, and the staff offer a variety of weekend programs for the nature-loving family. We are that nature-loving family, but sometimes we forget this, especially when we get comfortable in our world of electronics. Outdoor play has been shown to reduce stress levels in children, improving everything from academic performance to physical health. Nature wards off anxiety, depression, and obesity.

Today’s children spend, on average, only 30 minutes outside and more than seven hours in front of a screen. With this in mind, my husband and I recently decided that it was time to take the tablets away and get our guys Owl Program_2015_2back outside, and I’m not going to lie, they didn’t like it at first. Their imaginations were stunted, and several weeks passed before they could readily entertain themselves by digging a hole or climbing a tree. But they did recover from tablet fever, and I’ve enlisted the Schrader Center to help keep the love of nature roaring within them.

On Saturday, October 24th, I took Andy and Ben to “Mythbusting Nature: Outrageously Awesome Owls”, and it didn’t disappoint.

Owl Program_Ken Dague_2015_1Mr. Ken Dague, who has just returned from living and working in Australia, led the event, which was attended by both locals and out-of-towners. He’s a patient teacher. While the other children sat in their chairs and answered questions with the eager raise of a hand, mine rolled around on the floor, engaged but full of weekend energy. Ken, however, kept their focus as he taught them about the four owls of the Ohio Valley: the Barn, Screech, Barred, and Great-Horned owls. We practiced owl calls and talked about the birds’ silent flight. The boys were eager to learn what makes owls so unique, but the highlight, for them, was dissecting the owl pellets, or, as Ben shouted at the top of his lungs, “OWL BARF!”

Ken taught us that owls vomit up the indigestible contents of their meals. In little kid terms, this means an opportunity to paw through bird yak and uncover mouse skulls, vole shoulders, and rat jaws. No worries, parents, it’s sanitized and educational, and I got pretty darn excited myself when I uncovered a tiny pelvic bone. Andy proudly brought his skeletal findings Owl Program_2015_1home, and Ben spent the following week perfecting his ear-piercing barn owl screech.

Robin Lee, one of the educators at Schrader, visited Ben and Andy’s school the following week, and took the time to email me. “Ben was so excited to share with me about the owls,” she said, and invited us to the next Schrader event, the Nature Scavenger Hunt. These hunts are free and open to the public, and Oglebay Institute hosts them monthly. The November theme was all about birds, owls included. Another great way to spend a Saturday out of doors.

The scavenger hunt sent us out onto the trails with a list of items to find and a collection bag. First on the list? Find a berry. Then, find something red. Then, something yellow. Find a thorn. Listen for a bird. Fall down theatrically in a mud puddle. Drop a rock on your foot. Rip your pants. Trip your brother.

My boys did it all, and I let them walk a hundred feet ahead of me, so they could take their time and open their eyes to nature’s offerings without a maternal hand directing their focus. We hiked to the waterfall and to Camp Russell. We did yoga on a fallen log and found a woolly bear caterpillar who would someday grow up to be a tiger moth.

Ben gave it a kiss.

Back at Schrader, we drank hot chocolate and opened our collection bag to examine our treasures.

“Mommy,” Ben said, as we pulled out a red sweet gum leaf. “I found this where Andy climbed the hill and I set off that landslide, and we smelled that awesome hemlock tree. Remember?”

Andy looked up from the thorn branch he was poking. “That was great. Schrader CenterCan we come back next week and do it again?”

The next Nature Scavenger Hunt at the Schrader Center will be held Saturday, December 5, from 12pm to 4pm. Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Environmental Education Center is located in Oglebay Resort.

*Please do not encourage your children to put their mouths on caterpillars, as some can sting or cause an allergic reaction.

We’re All in This Together. Shop Local and Support Your Local Artisans.

By Laura Jackson Roberts

Shopping local is a big deal in Wheeling. We take pride in our entrepreneurs and artisans, and for the next six weeks, Oglebay Institute is offering a chance to support them with the Holiday Art Show and Sale, sponsored by United Bank. Until December 31, both the Stifel Fine Arts Center and the Schrader Environmental Education Center will host this unique holiday event for those looking for an alternative to traditional retail shopping.

I admit that I was under the impression the show would feature mainly wreaths, cookie-scented candles, and stockings shaped like rubenesque reindeer. When I visited opening night at both the Stifel and Schrader Centers, I was instead surprised to see a variety of high-quality arts and crafts

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Artwork by Nancy Tirone.

 

including jewelry, paintings, photography, ceramics, and food. You will indeed find beautiful Christmas pieces, but most tables showcase the kind of crafts you might see at the Oglebay Institute Artists’ and Gourmet Market at Oglebayfest, and I recognized several of the artisans’ work from the fall festival. I also recognized the unmistakable baked goods of Whisk by Avenue Eats, who catered both events and provided me with me yet another opportunity to indulge myself at an OI event.

At Stifel I got into immediate trouble at Andrea Cowan’s table, where I was

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Scarves and homemade baked goods by Andrea Cowen.

 

joyfully overwhelmed by the variety of scarves and warm headbands in every color. My blogging responsibilities played second fiddle to a snatching up a beautifully knit pink headband before the crowds arrived. DW & Co. Designs crafts bracelets with Greek and Italian leathers, and I was happy to recognize Sketches by Anne (Foreman); she does pet portraits and recently painted my German Shepherd. She offers both prints and note cards.

Sue Smith’s beautiful bird paintings looked quite at home at the Schrader Center next to Lippencott Alpaca’s woolly display (alpaca long johns, anyone?), and I found it difficult to choose between Family Roots Farm’s

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Dressings, sauces and mixes by Appalachian Mountain Specialty.

maple syrup and the ramp dressing by Appalachian Mountain Specialty Foods. So I didn’t. I bought both.

Dozens of artisans are participating this year. “Different artists and merchandise are featured at each location,” Oglebay Institute Director of Marketing Misty Klug said. “The selection is fantastic. The atmosphere is relaxed and festive, and holiday shopping dollars spent at the show stay in our local economy. Loyal attendees come ready to buy each year, knowing they can find one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone on their list. The ‘Buy Local’ concept is expanding to more than just meats and produce. People seem eager to support this

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Three generations shopping at Oglebay Institute’s Holiday Art Show and Sale.

philosophy in other aspects of their shopping, which is certainly good news for our local artisans.”

Stifel Director Rick Morgan informed me that the event is juried this year. “The idea was to try to keep it so that we didn’t have a similar product. We have a little bit more variety in the vendors this year.” He also mentioned that out-of-towners staying at Oglebay will enjoy the convenience of the Schrader Center’s shopping experience without having to leave the park.

November 28 is Small Business Saturday, a day devoted to supporting your community by shopping here in town. Small business owners are the ones who greet you at the door, and help you find what we’re looking for. They’re the ones who wrap your gifts and tell you to enjoy your day. You see them in the grocery store, and in church, and in the pickup line at

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OI staff members Rick Morgan and Kala Bassa.

school. I love our town, because these people recognize my face and ask me about my kids. Small businesses open early and close late, and do it again the next day, because Wheeling is home, and they want it to thrive.

Some of us go crazy for Christmas, while others are a bit reserved about the commercialization of the holidays. I think there’s a fine line between finding our holiday spirit and trampling it with retail madness. For me, Christmas is a time to reflect upon my family and our traditions, and as a sixth-generation Wheeling resident, it means so much to me to participate in a true local experience, where shoppers treat each other with kindness. These artists add such life to our culture here, and I’m so happy to support them as they do me, and each other.

We’re all in this together, Wheeling. ‘Tis the season.

On Small Business Saturday, November 28, shoppers can visit the Holiday SS_Logo_Clean_BlueArt Show and Sale from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Stifel Fine Arts Center, 1330 National Road, and 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. at the Schrader Environmental Education Center in Oglebay Resort. The Oglebay Institute Holiday Art Show & Sale continues through December 31, 2015. Admission is free.

The Bumbling Artist Attends Girls’ Night Wreath-Making Workshop at OI

By Laura Jackson Roberts

I stink at arts and crafts.

Lots of people say that, but I offer you the admission in the spirit of frankness. I’m terrible. In elementary school, I glued myself to a desk. In college, my clay pot exploded in the kiln, taking several of the more talented students’ pieces with it. The professor gave me a C out of sheer pity.

painting_classOglebay Institute offers a wide array of classes from fine art and traditional crafts to classes for those who just like to get their inner Pinterest on, and even though I live a few houses up from Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center, my fear of embarrassment has kept me from signing up for classes for years. Every season, I look at the offerings and get excited when I see stained glass, watercolors, and black and white photography until my inner art-buffoon quickly reminds me about the time I got trapped in a dark-room, and I chicken out.

However, I’m your Oglebay Institute blogger, and it’s my job to try these GNA Halloween Wreath_2015experiences on and see how they fit so that you can do the same thing. I’ve agreed to bumble through the class to give you the courage, perhaps, to do the same.

It’s October 8 at Stifel. I’m already feeling like a putz, not just because I have no talent but also because my two girlfriends can’t make it tonight. Will I have to sit by myself and be the awkward weirdo in the corner? I ask a group if they would mind my joining them. “Have some wine!” they chorus, and quite easily, I’ve been adopted by these lovely women, who are a group of family, friends, and co-workers enjoying a night out. At the front of the room, Ye Olde Alpha has provided appetizers, including chicken skewers, bruschetta, and chips and dip. Attendees have brought their own wine.

Instructor Rachel Shipley is an art teacher for Ohio County schools, and

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Instructor Rachel Shipley guides students through various arts and crafts projects.

she’s provided the raw materials for this Halloween wreath-making endeavor: grapevine wreaths, cobwebs, sparkly-bendy things, spiders … anything we might need. I ask her about her method, which seems simple and fun. She says, “I put everything out and then people automatically start to put it together and socialize without kids.” I think the without kids part proves to be the key. Even I can bumble my way through this—it’s idiot-proof.

Well, almost.

Rachel issues a friendly warning about the glue guns. “They will singe your skin.” She’s not kidding—somehow I’ve already glued my forefinger to my thumb. Pretending I’m licking guacamole off my hand, I gnaw them apart. Rachel comes over to our table to give us a bow‑making demonstration, which involves pinching the bow as hard as you can until your hand complains. “When your fingers start to burn, that’s when you know you’re doing the right thing,” she explains, as she produces a perfect bow. Then she gives us a few sage words of advice: “Don’t fight the ribbon.” Maybe that’s my problem: I’m not taking the Zen approach. Rather than creating a Halloween wreath, perhaps I should let the wreath create me.

Or, I could just hot glue this heck out of this thing and hope it holds together until November 1st.

The ladies at the next table get really excited when they attend Girls’ Art Night. Rachel warns me that they’re “the rowdy group,” and they always bring mimosas. Naturally, I want to meet these mimosa people. They rattle off a lengthy list of events they’ve attended: fall wreaths, seashell wreaths, woodburning, Christmas cards.

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Students create cooper bracelets in the jewelry making classes at the Stifel Fine Arts Center.

 

Oglebay Institute offers an arts and crafts night at least once a month, and the projects often correspond to the season.

After a glass of wine, I decide that my wreath needs to be able to survive a microburst, so I attach every leaf, every web, and every spider leg to the grapevine, and then pour the rest of the melted glue stick around for good measure. I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying myself, and how easy Rachel makes this process. It’s not about skill; it’s about fun, and by the end we’re all so chatty that nobody pays any attention to my artistic talent, or lack thereof.

At home, I put my wreath on the front door. The poor mailman had to look at that thing for over three weeks.

girls_night_artOglebay Institute offers another Girls’ Art Night – Christmas Wreath Workshop on December 3 at 6:30pm. A new season of workshops as well as six and eight week classes begins in January. Topics include watercolor painting, oil painting, handmade greeting cards, wood burning, furniture refinishing, stained glass, jewelry making and more. Visit OIonline.com for the class schedule.

(Note: The author enjoyed the program so much that she came back for more, attending a Christmas Wreath Workshop November 12. It wasn’t even a blog assignment! Way to go, Laura!)

 

 

OI Brings Theater to Local Schools: Travelling Children’s Show Entertains and Inspires

By Misty Klug

Rumpelstiltskin_2015_ Madison School 12Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre takes its show on the road to bring inspiration and enrichment to children in Ohio Valley schools.

Each year, Towngate Theatre director Tim Thompson puts together a cast of actors who stage a theatrical production based on a classic children’s story. The production travels to area schools, providing access to performing arts and unique learning opportunities for students and teachers.

This year’s play selection is “Rumpelstiltskin,” a familiar story based on the Brothers Grimm tale. The program includes a 45-minute show followed by a Q & A session with the cast. In advance of the program, teachers are provided with study guides to incorporate lessons into their curriculum and prepare students for the experience. In 2015 the production traveled to 15 schools in four counties – Ohio, Marshall and Brooke in West Virginia and Belmont County in Ohio.Rumpelstiltskin_2015_ Madison School 11

The show is fast-paced, full of action and includes plenty of audience participation. Children in the audience are assigned “roles.” Some will portray sheep, cows, woodchoppers or townspeople, who respond to cues during the play.

While the shows are always fun for the kids, the goals and benefits of the program are far from just fun and games.

“Our shows are designed to be entertaining and compelling for young children, but they must also impart a moral or lesson,” Thompson said. “Some of the lessons in ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ include the dangers of being greedy, the consequences of lying and the importance of making good choices.”

In addition to teaching life lessons, the program also promotes literacy and stimulates creative thinking.

Thompson said study after study has shown that children who are exposed to and are active in the arts usually do better Take Kids to the Theateracademically, socially and civically. “After all my years teaching, acting and directing, I know for certain that theater makes kids smarter, braver human beings.”

He said that the performing arts promote cooperation and working together for a common goal, enhance problem-solving and critical thinking skills, teach students to be active listeners and how to use spoken, written and visual language to communicate.

“Live theatre ignites a child’s imagination and instills a passion for dreaming. The arts teach lessons beyond facts, celebrate multiple perspectives and illustrate how problems can have more than one solution.”

Rumpelstiltskin_2015_ Madison School 6For many of the students in the audiences, OI’s traveling children’s show is their first theater experience.

“We are thrilled to introduce as many children as we can to the joy of theater. Sometimes it is that one experience that ignites a passion and a lifelong appreciation for the arts. This may be their first theater experience, but our hope, our goal, is that it won’t be their last.”

In an effort to engage more children and families in theater, a public performance of “Rumpelstiltskin” takes place at 3 p.m. this Saturday, November 7 at Towngate. Tickets are just $8. Everyone is welcome.

The traveling children’s show is only one way that Oglebay Institute brings performing arts opportunities to area youth. A children’s theater season takes place annually at Towngate Theatre. Performing arts classes, workshops and camps are offered year-round. Educational outreach and residency programs are also available, where arts educators are placed in schools to work with students over an extended period of time.

A Resource for Families: Schrader Center Nature Programs Build Early Science Skills

Butterfly Nets_Nature Day Camp

By Misty Klug

Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Environmental Education Center is committed to bringing families together to learn about the natural world and piquing children’s interests in science and nature.

One of the ways this mission is fulfilled is through year-round family and youth programs on a variety of topics that nurture the natural curiosity of children. Whether the topic is bird migration, hibernation, tree identification, insects, the water cycle, animal adaptations or native snakes and reptiles, programs are designed to help small children understand big concepts.

“We use creative teaching methods to help children conceptualize, understand and retain scientific information. The programs are fun but also help build early science skills and a lifelong appreciation of the natural world,” Schrader Center director Alice Eastman explained.

She said that children must see, move and do in order to understand a concept. “You can’t just explain it to them. They need to do something in order to remember it. Almost every class we have involves hands-on doing,” she said.

Nuthatch in Fly with the Birds Marshall Co.

In the Schrader Center’s “Great Migration Game” kids pretend to be birds and follow a migration route on a gigantic outdoor “game board,” learning about the patterns and challenges of migration.

For example, in the preschool program “From Bees to Butter” children wear costumes and hats to learn the different roles of honey bees in the hive– the nurse, the worker, the queen, the drone, etc. In “Fly with the Birds,” kids play the “Great Migration Game,” where they pretend to be a bird and follow a migration route on a gigantic outdoor “game board,” learning about the patterns and challenges of migration and how choices made, weather and habitat can affect the fate of individual birds or an entire flock. Other programs take kids to the trails and the creek where they take soil temperature and test water. Eastman said the Schrader Center recently purchased an EnviroScape, a portable, scaled-down landform model that enables students to visually learn about the water cycle, watersheds and storm water runoff.

“These interpretive experiences initiate, reinforce and extend children’s connection to nature. Engaging kids in inquiry-based learning improves problem solving skills and encourages natural discovery.”

Cameron 4th Exploring Ecosystems

Schrader Center educators can often be found taking groups of kids to the trails and creeks to discover and explore ecosystems.

She added that in addition to the educational benefits, the Schrader’s nature programs provide opportunities for children to socialize with other kids outside of a traditional classroom setting and for parents to meet and connect with other parents.

“The Schrader Center is a resource for families. We love helping families get outside, learn about nature and spend quality time together. We want kids to have fun and think it’s cool to play outside, and we want parents to gain the know-how to encourage nature play at home.”

articles_2The next family nature program on the schedule is “Mythbusting Nature: Outrageously Awesome Owls.” It takes place from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, October 24 at the Schrader Center and explores the uncommon biology of owls and their amazing adaptations.

“Like other nocturnal animals, owls are often surrounded by myth and misconception. In this program, our naturalists will dispel myths about these ‘spooky’ creatures,” Eastman explained.

Robin Lee_Owl Program_2015

Nature educator Robin Lee will teach “Mythbusting Nature: Outrageously Awesome Owls” on Saturday, October 24. She is pictured with a Barred Owl on display in the Schrader Center. Barred Owls are best known as hoot owls because of their distinctive calls.

She said participants will learn the importance of these animals on prey populations and dissect owl pellets to identify the bones of the small mammals and birds they eat. The program is designed for children in first grade and up. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Another program titled “Moose Tails” takes place from 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, November 7 and includes moose stories, nature lessons and hands-on crafts.

Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Environmental Center is located in Oglebay Resort. For more information about the Center and its programs, call 304-242-6855 or visit www.oionline.com.

The Bumbling Wine-Drinker: Oglebay Institute Hosts “The Art of Wine”

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By Laura Jackson Roberts

For a blogger, there’s really no finer assignment than a wine tasting, a confluence of culture and camaraderie, flavor and food. It’s a celebration of senses, a sip of sultry, a demure evening with music and civility.

I know you’re not buying this. I really just went there for the wine.

On Friday September 18, Oglebay Institute held “The Art of Wine” on the porch at the Stifel Fine Arts Center. As the OI blogger, it was my required duty to document this event. I left my husband with the kids and invited my father because he loves a fine grape, and I needed a night off.

STIFEL

OI’s Stifel Fine Arts Center on National Road in Wheeling is a public arts center and art gallery and also serves as a venue for wine tasting, beer tasting and culinary events throughout the year.

6:30pm. Roger Hoard provides the music for the evening. The gathering is small and cozy, and as soon as we find our table, our wine arrives. “But I thought this was a wine tasting,” I say, as the volunteer fills my glass. She chuckles and tells me to really take my time and savor this Dreaming Tree No.7 Pinot Grigio. So I do as I’m told—it’d be impossible not to enjoy this wine on a warm evening. I talk to an acquaintance who regularly attends these OI events. “It’s nice,” she says. “It’s a date night for us. I relish not having to cook.”

The ladies sitting next to us have been here before too. They echo the sentiment about having a night out. I see some couples and several small groups of friends and families.

6:55pm. Ye Olde Alpha provides the hors d’oeuvres. I pile an embarrassing portion of butternut squash risotto onto my plate and plop a roasted Thai Chile chicken leg on top of it. I toss on a few shrimp and a blob of Sriracha mayo for garnish. At the table, I’m introduced to a generous glass of Crucero Chardonnay. It’s very dry and tasty.

6:56pm. I plow through the entire plate of hors d’oeuvres before I notice the card on the table telling me which food should be paired with each wine. Oh no—I’ve scarfed everything. I’ll just have to go back for more and do it correctly. Rookie mistake. Piling my plate again, I note that the risotto goes with the Chardonnay. Once I slow down, I can taste the distinct flavors.

Rick with Wine

Rick Morgan, director of the Stifel Fine Arts Center, organizes and hosts both OI’s Art of Wine and Art and Ale series.

I talk with Rick Morgan, Stifel Fine Arts Center director. He tells me how much he enjoys these gatherings. In the past, the entertainment has been provided by a watercolor artist, and a comedian, though tonight’s background music complements the mellow atmosphere perfectly. He suggests I attend the upcoming beer tasting-improv night (Art & Ale with Comedy, October 16), and implies that the combination will encourage anyone who wants to try something new. Later in October, the Stifel Fine Arts Center will host Tapas Tasting Featuring Chef Tom McCardle (10/23).

As I return to my seat, I see all of tonight’s wines are available for purchase. If we like it, we can bring it home. I work my way through the rest of my Chardonnay.

7:26pm. Time to taste the reds. The volunteer tells me the Joel Gott Red Blend is a “sipping wine.” I sip slowly and nibble the pork belly polenta with roasted red peppers. Nibble and sip. My dad implies that I’m a cheap date.

Time, undetermined. The second red is a Siegel Reserve Cabernet from Chile. This wine is my favorite; I love Chilean reds. It’s dry and robust, and it’s paired with a grilled sirloin with goat cheese and guasacaca. When the dessert wine arrives—a Belle Bolle Peach Moscato—I ask for just a splash. I don’t usually care for sweet wines, but this is a truly lovely finish. I’ve made it.

There’s an order form on the table, and all of the wine selections are reasonably priced, for those who like what they’ve tasted. I certainly do. I live nearby, and as I walk home, I review my notes in the street light. I see the phrases, “Keep on sipping,” and “Why am I holding two forks?”

Clearly, I’m a shoo-in for the beer-comedy event.

For a calendar of events like the wine and beer tastings, please visit www.oionline.com.