Thoughout the early to mid twentieth century, Oil City, Pennsylvania was a bustling town filled with corporate headquarters, business executives, cultural and civic programs and a bonded community of citizens, all interwoven within an oil industry that included a number of Fortune 500 companies.

By the mid 1990’s Oil City was in the depths of a deep economic downturn, in great part due to the departure of those oil industries that had long-defined their community.  Desperate to find ways to rebound, city fathers turned to consultants specializing in economic redevelopment.  

When the consultants offered their sage advice, one of their suggestions involved the establishment of an artists relocation and arts revitalization project. It was suggested that the program be established in the city’s landmark Transportation Building that had once served as the corporate center of the American oil industry. 

Support for the project was strong enough to move forward with the moniker of ARTS Oil City. That was the simple part. The larger issue was how to fund the program and who would run it.

As it turned out, a transplanted Oil City resident by the name of Joann Wheeler fit the bill. She was degreed as a linguist, experienced as an educator / administrator and valued in that she was an artist by nature.


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