Meet the RiffRaff
Lori McKinney - Blankenship, co-founder and administrator of the RiffRaff, is primarily a performing and recording artist (vocals, drums, dance, spoken word). She has been writing and recording music since the year 2000. Her years previous were spent gaining a B.A. in Music Theatre from James Madison University, performing in scores of productions there, and performing professionally over the summers as a featured singer / dancer at Paramount’s Carowinds in Charlotte, NC and Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. She spent a semester her senior year in London, UK, where she discovered her alternative sensibilities and emerged as an independent, veering from a life of auditions into a world of her own creation. She established LLyniuM entertainment and dreamed of producing multimedia shows which would bring people together and inspire change. Lori searched for musical collaborators and hit the jackpot when she found her soul mate, Robert. The two merged in a profound way and have not stopped writing and recording since. Choosing to plant roots in McKinney's home town of Princeton, WV, together they founded Culturefest World Music & Arts Festival and Option 22 in 2004, formed the RiffRaff Arts Collective in 2006 and All Together Arts Week in 2009. In 2012 she and Robert teamed with members of the community to create Princeton Renaissance Project, a multi-faceted downtown development effort. She feels blessed to have merged with rest of the members of the collective; they have found a mutual space in which to create, encourage and inspire one another and the community. Robert and Lori, joined by Option 22, now tour the region inspiring and empowering other communities to transform their environment with their original multi-media production, Create Your State. Lori lives and works at the RiffRaff, doing what it takes to make the wheels of the business turn as she and the other artists conceive productions for the future.
Robert Blankenship, co-founder and mastermind of the RiffRaff, is a multi-faceted artist excelling in photography, music, sound engineering, lighting, painting, graphic design and more. He is a "renaissance man," as his work extends in countless directions, building and nurturing the vast scope of activities the collective produces. He runs Audible Art Studios in The Room Upstairs at The RiffRaff, which offers multi-track studio recording, live recording, photography, graphic design, and more. As creative director of LLyniuM entertainment, his marketing concepts have driven events like Culturefest World Music and Arts Festival and All Together Arts Week to success. Robert is also responsible for the interior design and the graphic marketing of the RiffRaff Arts Collective. Robert plays guitar, banjo, didgeridoo, shamisen, drums and other instruments with the original music project Option 22 and he engineers the music events presented by LLyniuM & The RiffRaff. He is inspired by nature, music and all that is; his ability to capture the profound and interesting in life is what distinguishes him. His art can be seen at Tamarack and in The RiffRaff Gallery. He is currently producing all the content for the original touring production Create Your State that he and Lori, along with Option 22, tour the region with to inspire creative community development. Hailing from Summers County, WV, Robert now lives and works full time at the RiffRaff.
14 year old Kayla McKinney is a massive chunk of the heart and soul of this creative operation with her abounding youthful energy and artistic output. A consumate musician rocking the bass, guitar and drums, she is also a fine singer and currently performs with her band The Change and Option 22. She's performed on giants stages for thousands, at renowned venues like Floydfest and Hard Rock Cafe's in Nashville and Boston. She is the epicenter of the kid scene on the block. She truly understands the impact and power of music and positive energy, and she pours her heart into the music. She adores Culturefest and wishes all life could be the way it is on those magical four days each year. She says she loves it because "in the outside world you're looked down on for being different and here (at Culturefest), it's expected. You're accepted and loved even more for being who you are." Watch for her & the other younglings around Stages Music School to do great things.
Tim Mainland, resident artist, was educated at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Université de Bordeaux, and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He studied composition with Peter Fricker, Lukas Foss, Scott Huston and Paul Palombo. He became Professor of Music at Concord University in 1978, where he has been a prolific composer and teaches music theory, composition, classical guitar, and classic banjo. His compositions include works for symphony orchestra, string quartet, wind ensemble, piano, flute, guitar, and banjo, but he has focused on electronic music for the past 6 years. Tim is a member of the American Banjo Fraternity and the College Music Society. He performs his electronic music compositions as Captain Lazerblast with his wife Maggie Jusiel. Lovingly called "The Captain" by the members of the collective, he has been a steadfast supporter and friend of the arts. He has been internally involved from the beginning, and he generously shares his time, talent, knowledge nd resources. Visit www.timandmaggie.net to hear his music.
The Change is one of the crazy talented ensembles formed at Stages Music School. An all female powerhouse, it consists of Kayla McKinney, JeDah Palmer, Ary'an Graham, Bethany Keesecker and Jadlyn Graham. These kids, their wicked musical talent and their boundless spirit are a key piece of the heart & soul of this operation. You'll find them bouncing off the walls, spreading smiles around the neighborhood and spending countless hours practicing in Stages; they are fiercely dedicated to their craft.
Option 22 consists of Robert Blankenship (guitar, banjo, digeridoo, shamisen, percussion) Lori McKinney (vocals, djembe, spoken word), Kayla McKinney (bass) and James Hart (guitar, percussion.) Their original music delivers messages of love and light via a feel good groove, thoughtful, introspective lyrics and angelic melodies. www.option22.net.
Captain Lazerblast Band consists of Dr. Tim Mainland (electric guitar) and Maggie Mainland (MIDI wind controller, aka "flooty thing"). Their original electronic music compositions are an out of this world journey. These three ensembles can be considered house bands, or resident artists.
Crystal Atwell grew up in the small coastal town of Wells, Maine. She has always loved nature and, from a young age was engrossed in the visual arts. She moved to West Virginia in 2011 with numerous hobbies. With the help of her friends and support of her family, she has been able to focus on creating a line of natural home and skin care products called Bare Bones. Atwell is part of The RiffRaff Gallery Co-Op where she works and sells her products. She was one of 22 artists involved in the creation of Mercer Street's Artists' Alley and was recently one of six to paint Artists' Alley #2. Her work brings vibrant color to areas that were once dark and dismal, and her focus on nature strikes a chord with animal lovers. Atwell looks forward to working on more projects in her community in the future.
Anne B. Tamea came to West Virginia in 1979 to see if she would like it and has been here ever since. In a similar way, she tried painting in watercolor in 1995 and fell in love with the gorgeous colors and "surprises" that happen when paint and water are allowed to play together on paper.
Beginning with the first time he had tea from a hand-crafted mug in college, Robert Klander has had a fascination with clay. He says of all the media, clay is the most malleable, the most expressive. His pots require no special understanding. They are intended for everyday use: A vessel to comfort, a bowl or platter to offer up the bounty of the earth, a sculpture to inspire or amuse. Robert contributes his skills and jolly personality to the gallery co-op, bringing years of experience with him. He is also a mean and soulful saxophone player, and contributes his music to several ensembles within the collective and beyond. Find his work here: turtlerockpots.com
Stafani Slaughter-Burchfield is a traveling artist originally from Birmingham, AL. Currently nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, she loves painting the people, places and things she sees. She is a working member of the gallery co-op and has a particular knack for decorating the store-front. She was intregally involved with the creation of Artists' Alley #1 and #2. She also designed and created, with the help of several volunteers, the giant ball that dropped at The Downtown Countdown, the inaugural New Year's Eve Celebration on Mercer Street. Find her art here: stefanislaughter.com
John Coffey is a talented watercolorist. His paintings can be seen at Tamarack, Cynthia Bickey Gallery in Beckley and in the gallery of The RiffRaff Arts Collective. He is a juried member of WV Watercolor Society and has won numerous awards for his work. In addition to being a skilled painter, he is also a gracious and kind spirit. He cites his wife, family, church family and God as his inspiration and their love and support foundational. John began to get involved with The RiffRaff through All Together Arts Week, has been supportive of the creative community in Princeton and beyond, and joined the co-op in 2015. He is a welcome addition to the group! Everyone is inspired and intrigued by his technique and method. Find out more about his journey to watercolors on his website, johncoffeywatercolors.com.
Magick and Metal
Dwayne West and Leigh Mallette -- About 5 years ago, Dwayne and Leigh decided it was time for a change and to do something fun, and created Magick and Metal, and eclectic mix of jewelry and gifts. Leigh wanted to share her love of crystals and the “magick” behind them with everyone she could by creating beautiful wearable jewelry and some unique gift pieces as well. She carefully chooses her stones and works with them as they guide her. Dwayne’s love of gadgets led him to steampunk, where he upcycles everything from gears to clocks, etc, and creates some very unique, one of a kind steampunk items, hence the Metal in Magick and Metal. Dwayne and Leigh also enjoy working together to upcycle broken jewelry, taking the broken pieces and created new ones from them. They have also started working with firing glass in their small kiln. They say there is much fun in taking upcycled glass, putting different color combinations together and seeing what design transforms after the firing. Leigh and Dwayne currently reside in Ghent, WV. To see more of their unique items, you can visit them at www.magickmetals.com, or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol Meachum grew up enjoying summers at the beach and attended college in California. She moved with there daily to the area in 1962. The family has spent many years enjoying riding horses, building trails and establishing longtime friends in the local mountains. She spent over 25 years teaching pre-school and volunteering as a 4-H leader for the "neighborhood gang." As a retiree she has enjoyed her friends, children, grand-children and great-grandchildren and continues to stay busy with there life-long arts and crafts hobbies-scarves, quilts, dolls and anything else that insures a creative desire while enjoying 'her side of the mountain' in Blacksburg, VA. A large selection of her scarves are available in the RiffRaff gallery.
Kim Nichols is a stained glass artisan whose works bring color and life to the gallery windows. Kim has been involved with the collective since its very beginning. She is available for commissioned work and is currently working on a historical home restoration project in the area. Having a passion for music, she plays mandolin in her spare time and often sits in with Option 22. With a background in radio production, Kim has an astute musical sensibility. A Princeton, WV native, she currently works at Concord University in the graduate department and in her home studio in Athens, WV. She has been a loyal member of the collective all along.
Born in Princeton, Jeff Mills has been involved with The RiffRaff from its inception. He has a passion for working with natural materials like wood, stone and leather with a touch of unique metal. He enjoys including items that he has salvaged from other places and things so they are recycled back into his artwork. Surrounded by several female painters in his family, he decided to be more of a sculptor creating pieces that can be observed by a 360 degree view. He creates all sized pieces from jewelry to furniture keeping detail instilled in his work. He is also a very talented beat maker and lyricist, and has performed with Option 22 at times over the years, most notably on the main stage at Culturefest. He continues to master his craft by writing, producing and providing instrumental music to those seeking. An active member of the co-op, he is highly creative.
James Hart is a key figure in Stages Music School. Melissa's right hand man, he makes the wheels turn! He is a seasoned and soulful musician and an extraordinary teacher. He is also a bright spirit and an absolute joy to be around. He lights up the neighborhood with his contributions. Find his music with his band The Gin Mills here. Also, catch him now playing with Option 22!
Mike Atwell is a force of energy within The RiffRaff, Culturefest and all of our events. Now a DJ known as Doc Atwell on Star-95 FM here in Princeton, Mike is originally from Maine, and he and his beautiful wife Crystal located here for Mike to attend Concord University. While he was working for WVCU college radio station, he reached out to connect with Culturefest- to hang a banner- and that's how a fruitful relationship began. During his time studying recreation and tourism management, he applied for an internship with The RiffRaff, and it sparked a partnership that is providing a strong energetic foundation for all we do. He is the voice of Culturefest, Downtown Countdown, Celebrate Princeton and more. His ability to rally an audience and raise the vibe of an event is un-matched. He and Crystal have two beautiful children- Gavin and Rosalynn. They are also board members at Appalachian South Folklife Center. Tune in to Mike at Star 95 HERE.
Jonathan Berry is a physchology major at Concord University, and a Bonner Scholar. He has chosen to perform his community service hours with us at The RiffRaff, and he is an absolute joy. He is driven, loyal and friendly. His work is invaluable to our organization.
Jordan Furrow resided in Beckley, WV his whole life before his move to The RiffRaff in Princeton in 2012. He is a glowing orb of music and intelligence! At the age of 13 he began playing drums, and soon afterwards became interested in expanding his musical talents to include bass, guitar, dulcimer, and is currently studying flute and keyboards. Over the years he has been a member of multiple groups playing a wide variety of genres, including reggae, rock, metal, funk, and gospel, and was also previously a member of the New River Youth Symphony and Chorus. His inspiration is derived from his love for musicians that tend to take a more ecclectic approach to music, such as Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Yes, and other progressive style music makers. He strives to make a difference through his music, but never settles for where he has arrived, always looking to be greater. He understands that music is a catalyst to motivate people to seek truth, to give them hope, and to inspire the masses to make art in whatever way they can. He started playing with Option 22, in January 2012 at the age of 20, reaching the next step in his artistic journey and, with this band, he made great music and changed the world around him. He has since followed a life long dream to travel westward, journeying to the spiritual pinnacle of Mount Shasta. He now resides in Seattle, WA where he ponders the mysteries of the universe, and watches for signs of what's next in his ongoing lifelong adventure.
Tiffany Freed creates adorable scupltures, jewelry and other cool crafts under the name "The Octopi Movement." She says, "The Octopi Movement makes cute cephalopods for your enjoyment. Put em in a fishbowl as a pet, wear them, love them, but please don't eat them." Tiffany, a New Jersey native, moved to Princeton with Jordan Furrow to be a part of the collective in 2012 and took the plunge as a full time artist; The Octopi Movement is thriving in the festival circuit. Her presence lit up the neighborhood and The RiffRaff Arts Collective during her time here as an integral member of the co-op. She brought all kinds of new friends into the fold and helped to expand the collective; she was instrumental in building the gallery to what it is today. She hosted Art in the Park and created many friendly creatures for the parade including a giant turtle, a dragon and an octopus. She fulfilled her lifelong dream of adventure, living as a spiritual seeker, traveling artist and healer on the west coast. She lives in Mount Shasta for 2 years, and then her journeys brought her back home to West Virginia. She is now an active participant in the collective, showing her work and bringing bright energy to all the events. Follow the Octopi Movement here: facebook.com/TheOctopiMovement
Briddy Morris is a talented singer, songwriter, actress and poet who excelled in theatre all through her career at Bluefield High School. In 2007, she brought her talents here where she found a happy creative home. She is the volunteer coordinator for Culturefest, and in 2013, she answered the call to help create the artists' co-op in the gallery, which she now spends a great amount of time managing. Briddy is a deep, introspective writer and captivating performer. She also lights up a stage with her sense of humor. During her time here, she met and fell in love with Clayton and the two made beautiful music together. Their love resulted in a magical baby girl, and Briddy is now playing the role of a lifetime as her mommy.
Scott Bennett is a bright light in our creative scene. He is a writer, actor, musician, deep thinker, humanitarian and teacher. His interest in creating a sustainable future drive him to participate in a host of community buildings activities such as sustainable building workshops, gardening, homesteading and more. He lends his time to creative pursuits like our festivals, music projects, open mic nights and more. He is a member of Ars Creo, the wonderful theater ensemble which produces original musicals. He also serves as interim director of Appalachian South Folklife Center, and is very involved with their programs. He has been an English teacher for Summers County Schools and is currently substituting as he explores the many options for his life path.
Briddy and the Buzz includes Briddy Blankenship (guitar, vocals), Clayton Blankenship (bass), Robert Blankenship (lead guitar) and Lori McKinney (drums, vocals) and features the unique, fun and insightful original music of Briddy.
Some artists come for a chapter to live and create, and their life path takes them in various directions. They will always remain in our creative spirit and in our hearts be, Forever RiffRaff.
Ashleigh Gill is a playwright, producer, philisophical thinker, and intern extraordinaire, among other things. She is a graduate of Concord University with degrees in English Literature and English Education, with a Philosophy minor. She is now pursuing her masters in creative writing at Hollins College in Roanoke, Va. She was an intern at the RiffRaff and worked with its administrators for the 4 years of her undergraduate career. In addition, she is Associate Editor of the literary journal ‘Holler,’ and writes, directs, and produces original musicals with her Hinton-based theater group Ars Creo, which she co-founded with composer Zack Merritt. Ars Creo has staged 2 of their works at the RiffRaff. Ash is a consistent joy to our creative life and magically appears at all the right times!Douglas Imbrogno is a writer, editor, producer, performing songwriter, videoshooter, occasional masked poet and Friend of Cats. Not necessarily in that order. He is founder and editor of ‘WestVirginiaVille.com: A Life in the Hills.’ He is also Producing Director of theWebTheater, a collaborative production house and network, creating work for broadcast and distribution, including live and recorded shows and limited-edition publications, recordings & tchotkes. Watch for the WebTheater’s first online production, “Saint Stephen’s Dream: A Space Opera,” an episodic multimedia* tale. Coming in 2012 at saintstephensdream.com and thewebtheater.com. Doug's creative life has been intertwined with The RiffRaff Collective since 2007. He has been involved in Culturefest, All Together Arts Week and a myriad of projects with the RiffRaff artists. Reach him at email@example.com.
Albert Perrone was involved with thecollective in its early years and has attended and participated in many functions. An outstanding musician and songwriter, Albert's music tugs at heart strings and has served as a soundtrack for special times in our lives. With a background in theatre and healing arts, his new music project The Brother-Sisters can be found here: www.thebrothersisters.com
Kayla Kathleen Coffee is a gifted artist- singer/songwriter, painter, writer, healer and teacher. Her time spent with the RiffRaff was a gift; she gave her all to those around her- teaching the children and inspiring people to create. She is passionate about living in tune with nature and she explores native wisdom and music as medicine. She now resides in Colorado.
Sarah Haltom is an artist who creates works on paper and ceramic sculpture. She lived in Appalachia for 13 years before moving back to her home in Cleveland, OH. An inspired and gifted artist, she touched many lives here in WV. Sarah was involved with The RiffRaff for years, beginning with Earth day and Culturefest, and she has always hoped to be more involved. Her work evokes deep emotions related to the experience of womanhood- the divine journey of the feminine.
WestVirginiaVille.com is a Web journal and channel on life and culture in the Village of West Virginia, a collaborative web journal and multimedia production house created and maintained by Doug Imbrogno. Check out "On Mercer Street" and other articles & videos featuring The RiffRaff, along with fascinating stories from all around this great state.
Other contributing artists in the gallery include Dan Casciato (blown glass), Cori Edwards (jewelry), Kelley Porterfield (needle work), Brenda Rivers (glass work/jewelry), Micheal Sizemore (metal sculpture), Jeannette Justice and Nancy Aldridge (diachronic glasswork), Jeff Travers (mosaic).
There are counteless artists, musicians, poets and creative minds that are involved with the collective. These artists perform their works on open stage nights in the Room Upstairs and share in the magic of special events and the daily life of the collective. Many have offered constant support to the ongoing effort to build this arts community. View the Photo Gallery to get an idea of the life of this special group of people.