BUCKHANNON — The Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur is excited to be entering their third year as a club, as they held their final meeting of fiscal year 2021 on Tuesday afternoon. Recent graduate of Notre Dame High School Ben Long was the guest speaker as he educated Rotarians about the importance of the Arts and the transition from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).
Serving her final meeting as club President, Julie Keehner thanked the Rotary Club for coming together during the most unusual year. Fellow Rotarians thanked Keehner for her excellent leadership in 2021. The newly proposed slated officers for 2021-2022 were approved Tuesday afternoon and are as follows: President Kathy McMurray, President-Elect Keith Buchanan, Secretary Alan Hager, Treasurer Rich Clemens, Sergeant-At-Arms Dave Long, Membership Chair Dean Everett, Foundation Chair Susan Long, Public Relations/Media Chair Lisa Wharton, Programming Co-Chairs Sandi LaRosa and Kelley Tierney, and Immediate Past President Julie Keehner.
Introducing a vast conversation about the Arts, Long explained to Rotarians the importance of the Arts in his own life, but also its importance to the world—particularly young people.
Long was a member of the Performing Arts Conservatory at Notre Dame High School for 6 years and was the 2021 WV Poetry Out Loud contest winner. Following his state victory, he represented West Virginia on a national platform at the National Poetry Out Loud contest, where he made it to the final nine contestants in the United States.
Long’s acting career reportedly began with the Buckhannon Community Theater (BCT) when he was only 11 years old. During this time, Long received his first lead role in the BCT’s production of ‘Oliver.’ His acting career continued at St. Mary’s Grade School where he was in Peter Pan and Aladdin, and continued into his high school career at Notre Dame. There, he performed the roles of Linus in ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,’ Michael in ‘Mary Poppins,’ Brett in ‘Childrens’ Letters to God,’ Laurie in ‘Little Women,’ and Papa Ge in ‘Once on This Island.’ Long has also been performing with The Rustic Mechanicals Shakespeare Apprentice Troupe for the past four years where he has performed ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ ‘The Shakespeare Café’—and, most recently, ‘Hamlet’ in which he had the lead role.
Long explained that he has witnessed the transition in the way education has turned to STEAM, rather than just STEM. “Opening of the eyes that the arts are the really important thing,” he noted. Long expressed that he has been lucky enough to have educators who have valued and appreciated the Arts the way he feels it deserves; however, it still isn’t valued quite like it should be, according to Long. “With the understanding and respect, and the change of attitude, I think will give kids a deeper willingness to experience that,” he emphasized. An important aspect is “getting people in the system that care,” Long explained.
Long made the comparison of the Rotary Club’s four-way test to the Arts, which states, “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” Long noted that Rotary’s four-way test and the Arts are very similar. “The goal of the artist to create a world that is more peaceful and accepting. It is a place a lot of people can come to, to represent who they are. And that leads to goodwill and good friendships. The goal in Rotary is “service” and theatre, and the Arts in general, are a major part of that,” he reasoned. Long also explained that poetry and theatre—although both acting—are different forms of acting; however, both require a lot of emotional analysis.
Long emphasized that the community and the world have ability to give the Arts the attention and respect it deserves, and he encourages all to do so. “Because it truly is a powerful form of self-expression,” he stated. It is Long’s goal to help create a better world, where the Arts have the “proper respect and visibility in the world as it should.” Long has been accepted to West Virginia Wesleyan College, where he will be majoring in Theater.
Rotarian Don Nestor asked Long how as a club, they could help promote and enhance the Arts in the community. Long mentioned that community events like Festival Fridays are a great way to promote the Arts. He added, contacting groups and inviting them to pre-orchestrated community events, where they know there will be exposure, would be beneficial as well.
Keehner thanked Long for sharing his experiences and noted they look forward to watching him at the Preforming Arts Center at West Virginia Wesleyan College.