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.
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 was recently featured by Floydfest Music & Arts Festival and the Virginia Folklife Association alongside blues legend, the late and great Nat Reese. Her work with students at Stages is nothing short of astounding. The One Voice Project, provides young people with unique performances and opportunities to make a difference in the world, including the amazing One Voice Anti-Bullying Schools Tour. Explore her work here: stagesmusicschool.org
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 and resources. Visit www.timandmaggie.net to hear his music.
Young 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 as well as multiple ensembles at UNC-Asheville where she now studies music. She's performed on giants stages for thousands, at renowned venues like Floydfest and Hard Rock Cafe's in Nashville and Boston. She has been the epicenter of the kid scene on the block all these years. 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.
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. Maggie has been a tireless participant and supporter of all things RiffRaff. Her bright and bubbly disposition brings joy to our circle of friends; she is thoughtful, generous and kind. In addition, she wrangles copperhead snakes into cans and releases them into the wild when they come near the dining hall at Culturefest.
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.
Chase Bowman, a Princeton native, is a talented illustrator who uses the Appalachian tradition of storytelling to create strange and elaborate narrative works on paper. He now runs his own gallery across from the RiffRaff, the amazing Holler: Contemporary Appalachian Art Gallery. He has a few pieces in our gallery currently and is a wonderful friend and collaborator with the collective. Chase did his undergraduate work at the Cleveland Institute of Art, San Francisco Art Institute and Marshall University. In 2014, Chase received his MFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design. In addition, Chase has been awarded a residency at Oxford University's Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in the United Kingdom and a fellowship with the Shafik Gabr Foundation in Cairo, Egypt. Now, back home in WV to contribute to the rebirth of Appalachia, Chase is now a professor of fine art at Concord University and is a welcome addition to our collective. Chase is driven to communicate the fact that art is accessible to everyone, and it does not have to be a mysterious world layered with critique and intellectual hierarchy. Art is whatever excites you, whatever you like and are passionate about, and it is for the every day human, not just the elite. He is a welcome addition to the creative scene in Princeton! Discover more of his work at chase-bowman.com
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.
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.
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.
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.