The 2015 WV Media Award was presented to the Liberty High School Fine Arts program for the Helen Apartment Building Restoration video. Jeremy Rodriguez and his students Brian Jarrell and Tyler Carden were the producers of the video.
During planning for a mothballing and clean-up project in Helen, WV, it was realized that minimal film/video existed to help explain, and inform the elaborate process of architectural mothballing. This was a historic preservation educational void with an opportunity to be filled. Jeremy Rodriguez and students of the Liberty High School Fine Arts Department rose to this challenge.
The students worked to document the process of cleaning and mothballing the historic apartment building in Helen, West Virginia. They donated their time and efforts to put together a documentary that has a future as a teaching tool as well as a way to spread awareness of historic preservation efforts in the state of West Virginia. Three high definition video cameras were deployed during the project, including the creative use of time lapsed photography to help illustrate the pulse and dynamics of the project. They eagerly incorporated drone photographs and video taken of the project area to add a cutting edge technology feature to the filming, as well as archival footage of the Helen community. Various leaders in the project and volunteers were interviewed to add perspective and depth to the film production.
Abandoned and dilapidated buildings have become a large problem for the state during the decline of the coal industry over the last 40 or more years, but some historic structures from the coal boom still remain intact and are worthy of adaptive reuse across Southern West Virginia. With the effort put forth by Liberty High School’s Fine Arts Department, the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia now has another means of spreading awareness of historic preservation and its best practices. On April 10th and 11th Rodriguez and students captured on film the clean- up work of 33 volunteers from throughout the state who had come together. Volunteers cleared out 6.31 tons of debris from inside the apartment house. Vegetation and trash were collected from around the outside of the building to improve its outer appearance as well. The first floor windows were covered with plywood panels as part of the mothballing process. They were designed and built by The Preservation Alliance’s full-time employee Lynn Stasick and AmeriCorps member Nicole Morocco.
The apartment building is owned by the Winding Gulf Restoration Organization, Inc. (WeGROw) a 501 (c) 3 based out of Helen, WV. The clean-up was organized by Preserve WV AmeriCorps Member, Tiffany Rakotz and former West Virginia State University Extension Agent, David Rotenizer.