Voices in song accompanied by the melody of instrumentalists, graceful moves of dancers, tangible talents of visual artists and actors’ comedic antics filled Myles Center for the Arts to celebrate the facility’s official dedication Thursday.

Appropriately named “A Celebration of the Arts,” the event paid tribute to Trustee Chair Emerita June Myles who fulfilled her vision of creating an inviting cultural center with a $6.7 million expansion of the building. The campus community, as well as members of the community at-large and special guests, gathered to mark the beginning of a new era in the arts for the Randolph County area.

“Undeniably I think the words of the day were creativity, community, commingling and cross fertilization,” Myles said. “It was a wonderful, joyous day. I could not help but think how much better it is to celebrate a dedication while you are alive and be able to see the joy it brings.”

Opened in January 2021, the extensive renovations feature a glass enclosed Senate Commons equipped with a state-of-the-art audio-visual system that includes five large screens, a media wall and a drop-down projector screen for presentations. A new elevator and balcony bridge make the entire building handicapped accessible at all levels. The stone and brick rotunda, which mirrors the structure at Madden Student Center, serves as the main entrance to the building.

Upgrades were also made to Myles Plaza. At the center stands “Discovery & Esprit,” a bronze sculpture of a young couple dancing. The artist who created the work, James “Jimmy” Grashow, got his first look at the piece anchored in its new home.

“I wish I could express how I feel,” Grashow said. “It’s like raising a successful child. It reminds me of the stories of someone raising a lion cub and you let it go free. Then one day you go out into the wild and it comes out and embraces you.”

A woodcut artist, Grashow is well-known for his sculptures and large-scale installations such as cities, fountains and menageries made of cardboard. He used the same treatment for the dancers and then had the work cast in bronze.

During the celebration, Grashow presented a demonstration and talk while constructing a dog and fish using only cardboard, a utility knife and a glue gun. In creating art, he advised the group to not be afraid to fail and not to have a complete concept of the final product. Instead, he encouraged them to make the process an adventure and follow the journey.

While artists shared their talents and ideas, the day was not without words of commemoration. After officially cutting the wide, red ribbon, College leaders and guests took to the podium to express their appreciation and vision for the future.

“June Myles makes a difference,” D&E Executive Vice President Dr. Rosemary Thomas said in leading the program. “She has a creative spirit. She is a successful business woman. She is a philanthropist. And dare I say… she is ours.”

Chair of the Board of Trustees and alumnus Mark Barber ’75 offered gratitude from the board and recognized that the event also paid tribute to all involved in helping to grow the campus for the future. Pointing out that the completion of the Myles Center renovations is the first step in multi-year Campus Master Plan to renew the grounds and facilities, he also recognized faculty and staff who work to preserve and nurture the Center as a home for artistic learning and expression.

“We speak often about the transformational student experience D&E offers, an experience that some of us have lived,” Barber said. “Thanks to the great big heart and inspired generosity of June Myles, D&E is having a transformational experience of its own – right here, right now – and you are witness to it. In the 118-year history of Davis & Elkins College, this is a very big moment.”

Junior Anna Ruf of Belington shared insight as a student on the impact the building has made on the campus and those who are considering making the College their home. Ruf explained that every time she escorts prospective students and their families to the Myles Center, they are always struck by the beauty of the facility. In addition, she and her classmates enjoy the space that has been used for numerous activities.

Recognizing that the Myles Center for the Arts is also a part of the area community, alumnus and Elkins Mayor Jerry Marco ’90 emphasized the partnership between the College and the city, and the unity that arts and a common gathering space bring to the community.

“The arts community has been a major staple within the Appalachian culture for generations,” Marco said. “Now with the generous donation by June Myles, these arts will continue to be passed down through future generations of Davis & Elkins College students, local citizens and visitors.”

While the vision of the facility was that of Myles, the design was the product of Mills Group. Managing Principal Michael Mills spoke of his collaboration with Myles to create a unified space with functional upgrades.

“This project is one that brings earth and sun together,” Mills said. “This project has made an immediate impact on campus, but it is a legacy project that will impact generations of students and community members.”

The project was selected as an Outstanding Design in the 2021 American School & University magazine Architectural Portfolio.

Mills said that while the project was not easy, the accomplishments present many layers including an architectural unification and design statement for this end of campus, creation of a space to serve 350 guests, ADA accessibility for the entire complex and an exterior plaza redesign that brings all together and is the stage for Grashow’s sculpture.

Davis & Elkins College President Chris A. Wood said the sculpture and its name, “Discovery and Esprit,” will inspire students for generations to come.

“Adorning the center of our campus are two young people in bronze exuding motion, energy and joy,” Wood said. “At the heart of our campus and our mission is the youg man named ‘Discovery,’ who epitomizes the young people who arrive as student to expand their intellectual horizons, their cultural awareness and appreciation. His dancing partner is none other than ‘Esprit.’ She brings our esprit de corps … our feeling of belonging to a special group and having pride in sharing its aims.”

Myles told the group of how her vision for the renovation grew from a need to make repairs to the plaza and an idea for incorporating the sculpture.

“I suspect you all know that when you undertake a renovation project it grows and grows,” Myles said.
“You do one thing and then realize something else needs attention. Like the proverbial pebble in the pond, the rings ripple outward in greater concentric circles.”

Grashow told the group that Myles first became interested in his sculptures of moneys and later saw a version of the dancing couple statue in his studio. The two then worked together on a plan to create the large sculpture that now stands on Myles Plaza.

Representative from U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin also shared their congratulations.

The program concluded with a special reading by Chair of the D&E Division of Humanities Dr. Bill King.

“I learned a lot from June about love of place and about service grounded in long-term vision rather than short-term gain,” King said. “I am therefore honored to have been asked to read one of my poems for June, which is, in part, about what we do – or don’t do – with our short time on earth.”

King presented his poem titled “Management of Time.”