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ONA — Ona resident Linda Childers says she hopes to use her art to promote love for West Virginia and encourage people to explore the state for themselves.

In 2020, she hosted an art show with 30 paintings in her yard. Childers said most of her paintings, besides the florals and occasional landscapes, are images of Huntington or Marshall University.

“I wanted to do something that had a statewide appeal,” she said.

She said she was working a puzzle last year that showed the artist’s brush strokes and that led to her creating a map of West Virginia with over 130 miniature paintings of cool things to do in the Mountain State.

“I’ve had it manufactured into a thousand-piece, 24-inch by 30-inch puzzle,” Childers said. “My husband, Rick, and I rented a 16-foot Budget truck and hauled them back from Kansas City, Missouri, this month, and they’re already in eight shops from Huntington to Charleston.”

Childers said her plan is to have them in gift shops across the state.

“Selling puzzles is just a part of my puzzle project. My goal is to promote tourism, learning and love of West Virginia and to encourage people to turn their ideas and dreams into real things,” she said.

With the help of videographer Bobby Lee Messer, Childers is creating two video series.

“One series, Travel WV with Linda, will be short videos shot as I travel with friends or my husband all over the state to every single place I’ve painted on the map,” she said. “And having fun and delivering puzzles. My goal is to educate people about these places, and I’m hoping that will in turn encourage them to travel to places they may live just an hour or two or three away from and have never been.”

Childers says the other series will be called Create WV.

“I’ll be interviewing West Virginians who have created something — a business, a cleanup project, a garden, a book club — to encourage people who have an idea, a dream or a spark of a create notion to follow that to fruition,” she said. “I know that fear and doubt can stop people from following their dreams, and our state needs the creativity of its people to help it continue to grow and prosper.”

Childers said they started filming the videos recently in Charleston at J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works and Taylor Books.

“It was absolutely fabulous,” she said. “This coming week I’m going to Fayetteville.”

More information is online at artbylinda.org.

“I’ve turned my website into my puzzle project hub,” she said.

You can also find her on Facebook at Art by Linda.

Childers says in recent years, her art has moved away from the decorative purpose to involve social engagement and political motives.

“I love to paint and I love to create, so I look for ways to combine my art with making a difference in people’s lives,” she said.

Childers said when she quit teaching in 2012 she was able to totally focus on her art.

“At that same time, I had always been curious about politics, but never gave it any attention,” Childers said. “I started listening to ‘The Daily Show’ while doing paintings and started to become aware of politics.”

In 2015, Bernie Sanders ran for president and Childers said she realized she was a progressive.

“So then I realized I just can’t be painting,” she said. “I was so concerned about the climate crisis that for a while I would put on my Facebook page all of my proceeds would go to issues related to the climate crisis.”

Childers said she realized how privileged she is and so she wanted to help those who are not. Her front yard art show was a way to do that.

“Last year I had an art show with 30 paintings in my yard,” she said. “I let people who bought paintings make the choice to have the proceeds go to the local food bank, to the animal shelter or to a progressive political candidate for U.S. Congress, Hilary Turner. I got $800 for the food bank, $500 for the animal shelter and a couple thousand for Hilary Turner.”

But Childers said her West Virginia Puzzle Project is her long-term assignment.

“I have lots more of this great state to see,” she said. “I plan to go to all the places I’ve painted on this map and to share my adventures. In fact, if I couldn’t fit it on the map, but it’s cool or interesting, I’ll also be going there.”

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD or email him at fpace@hdmediallc.com.

Fred has been in the newspaper industry for 30+ years. He continues to be excited to bring readers news that only comes thru local journalism. “Being able to share the passion felt by entrepreneurs in our community with readers is exciting,” he said.

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