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. 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. 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, painting, graphic design, music, sound engineering, 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, a division of LLyniuM entertainment in The RiffRaff, which offers multi-track studio recording, live recording, photography, graphic design, websites, etc.. 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, in East River Arts and in The RiffRaff Gallery. Hailing from Summers County, WV, Robert now lives and works full time at the RiffRaff.
Melissa McKinney is the owner and director of Stages Music School, a key element of the collective. The community surrounding Stages is thriving and inspired. She re-located back to Princeton, WV after years of musical success in Charlotte, NC. She has taught with such musical programs as Gymboree and Kindermusic, and was a prized teacher at the multimedia music school Creative EJ. She was well known in the Charlotte Blues Society as an up and coming voice to be reckoned with, and she is now finding her place in the WV and Appalachian Blues Scene. She has recently been featured alongside blues legen Nat Reese by Floydfest World Music & Arts Festival and the Virginia Folklife Association. Her work with students at Stages is nothing short of astouding. Watch tons of videos of her and her student's performances at www.youtube.com/stagesmusicschool.
Miss Behavin' is one of Stages Music School's feature bands. An all girl band; they each play multiple instruments, and they have played at several fairs and festivals, theatres and other venues. Featuring Kayla McKinney, Ary'an Graham and Bethany Keesecker, these girls are an active part of the downtown arts movement and can be found at Stages nearly every day playing music and lighting up the street with their laughter and creative energy. They perform all over the region at festivals, schools and theatres. They are currently touring as part of WV Music Hall of Fame's traveling museum presentation. Find them online here: www.facebook.com/pages/Miss-Behavin
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. Visit www.timandmaggie.net to hear his music.
Maggie Jusiel, resident artist, began her education at the University of South Florida, and completed her Bachelors degree in music education at Concord University in 1998. She taught in the WV public school system from 1999 to 2003, and has taught private lessons in winds and strings since 1990. She also tunes pianos in Southern WV and parts of VA. Maggie is a member of the American Banjo Fraternity and the Piano Technicians Guild. She performs with her husband Tim in The Captain Lazerblast Band and in their acoustic duo, Tim & Maggie, at the RiffRaff and venues throughout the region.
Kira Shoemaker, a resident artist, is a talented and inspired painter. While teaching art as a counselor at Scottie's Place in Peterstown, she met up with The RiffRaff and struck a meaningful note, which resulted in her moving to Princeton to be a part of the group. She paints and creates in her second floor studio of the complex. She now works as an EMT for Princeton Rescue Squad and is studying to be a paramedic, balancing the creative life she lives within the collective. She is working on a mural in the downtown which is set to go up in spring 2013. Find out more about her and her work here: www.kiranicoleshoemaker.com
Brandon Dunn, resident artist, joined Option 22 in early 2011. Although he learned to play drums during childhood he found his instrument of passion in 1993 when he plugged in his first bass guitar. Also learning guitar at the same time, he began writing and recording original music later that year and has never stopped. As a seasoned bass guitarist, Brandon felt the desire to expand his bass skill set and, in 2004, began playing upright bass. Influenced by all musical styles ranging from New Age, Funk, and Rock to Jazz, Country, and Classical, his bass lines lay down the liquid undertow for any other instrument to travel on. Hailing from Peterstown, WV, Brandon holds an A.A.S. in Machine Technology, and is studying for a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering while he prepares to take flight with the ever progressive O22. He also enjoys metal sculpting and intends to showcase in the RiffRaff gallery.
Ashleigh Gill is a playwright, producer, philisophical thinker, and intern extraordinaire, amoung other things. She is a Senior at Concord University, double-majoring in English Literature and English Education, with a Philosophy minor. She is an intern at the RiffRaff and has worked with its administrators for the past 4 years. In addition, she is Associate Editor of the literary journal ‘Holler,’ and writes, directs, and produces original musicals with the hinton-based theater group Ars Creo, which she co-founded with composer Zack Merritt. Ars Creo works closely with the RiffRaff in the creation and production of their work.
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. With the help of Option 22, who he started playing with in January 2012 at the age of 20, he hopes to reach the next step in his artistic journey and, with this band, make great music and change the world. You'll find him around The RiffRaff reading, expanding his consciousness and being at the center of inspiring conversations that push the boundaries of typical thought.
Resident artist 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 is currently taking the plunge as a full time artist; she hopes The Octopi Movement will thrive in the festival circuit as much as possible. Her presence lights up the neighborhood and The RiffRaff Arts Collective. Follow the Octopi Movement here: facebook.com/TheOctopiMovement
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 commisioned works 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.
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 is actively involved in Culturefest, All Together Arts Week and a myriad of projects with the RiffRaff artists. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Albert Perrone was involved with the collective 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
Clayton Blankenship, the brother of Robert, shares his multifaceted artistic sensibility and excels in photography, graphic design and other mediums. He is now hard at work on his latest project, raising a young child named Kira Belle Blankenship, whom he brought into this world with another beautiful artist he met here at The RiffRaff, Briddy.
Briddy Morris is a talented singer / songwriter 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. 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.
Option 22 consists of Robert Blankenship (guitar, banjo, digeridoo, shamisen, percussion) Lori McKinney (vocals, djembe, spoken word), Brandon Dunn (bass) and Jordan Furrow (guitar, percussion.) www.option22.net
Briddy and the Buzz includes Briddy Morris (guitar, vocals), Clayton Blankenship (bass), Robert Blankenship (lead guitar) and Lori McKinney (drums, vocals).
The Captain Lazerblast Band consists of Dr. Tim Mainland (electric guitar) and Maggie Mainland (MIDI wind controller, aka "flooty thing").
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.
Other contributing artists in the gallery include Dan Casciato (blown glass), Cori Edwards (jewelry), Kelley Porterfield (needle work), Brenda Rivers (glass work/jewelry) and Dan Jusiel (paintings/drawings).
There are counteless artists, musicians, poets and creative minds that make up the rest of 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.