Downtown ‘walk’ attracts busy crowd Friday

People came out to sample wares from artists, wood carvers and jewelry makers during the last Merchants and Artists Walk of the summer.

The event pairs downtown merchants with local artists and musicians.

Carsyn Cunningham, 18, of Belpre, was one of the artists, providing Disney-themed drawings for shoppers to choose from.

His mother, Dee, said he was diagnosed with autism at the age of three and communicates best through pictures.

“He struggles with written words,” she said. “He demonstrates he understands a concept through art…If they talk about gases rising in school, he’ll draw a helium balloon…They allow him to use his art in the classroom (at Warren High School).”

For Carsyn, sitting outside of Unique Flowers and Gifts was exciting.

“Being autistic is kind of wonderful,” he said. “If you have a special talent, and you’re good at it, you share it.”

Dee said one of the challenges has been getting people to understand Carsyn’s disability.

“For him to be able to come down here and sit and have people recognize (his disability), it’s emotional,” she said. “It’s always about the disability. (His art) is not a disability…You just find new ways to do things. (Those with autism) learn differently, but they do learn. We are all different.”

Williamstown residents Karen Fenton, 81, and Patty Templeton, 80, started their time at the walk by having a caricature done.

“That was our first stop,” said Templeton. “We always come (to the walks) if the weather is nice. We see people we haven’t seen for a while.”

The Armory was also open to the public, with Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, giving the tours.

“We want this to be a mixed-use service center for community services,” said Noland.

With $2 million already in the project, Noland said the structure is finally sound and ready for renovations to make a bus stop, council chambers and various rooms for meetings to take place.

“All the structural repairs are done completely,” he said. “There’s all new roofing structure, windows and doors.”

With an Ohio Department of Transportation Grant, $250,000 can be used to help complete the project. After the grant, an extra $110,000 will be needed to finish the building.

Marietta resident Rick Koher, 53, said he hopes the building reaches completion soon.

“The first time I was in here, I went to a dance in high school,” said Koher. “I like the idea (of the Armory being open to the public again).”

The last Merchants and Artists Walk for the year will be held on November 7 from 6 to 9 p.m.