Look for a "Fascinating Person" from our printed January 2023 edition to be highlighted daily here through the month of January.

These are folks in our area who never seek the spotlight and never ask for attention but yet deserve to be recognized for their positivity, inspiration, tenacity, and even good old fashioned gumption! All suggested by you - our readers.

 

To see this year's group all in one "exhibit" pick up a copy of our January 2023 edition today.

Today's Featured Fascinating Person is... 

Elijah Thane 

How did you end up in Cumberland?

When asking someone that, you are almost guaranteed a stock response like “my job brought me here”, “this is where my family is” or, on rare occasion, “I just wanted a change.” But for Elijah Thane, the question isn’t that simple.

Although he was born in Cumberland, his life has taken a few unexpected twists and turns, and he now, perhaps is finally able to feel at “home” in his hometown. I had the pleasure of enjoying coffee and a chat with Elijah downtown – not far from the mural, which he and his wife, Marlee, have recently completed on the side of J&S Pawn Shop on the corner of Baltimore and Centre Streets.  It is one of three murals they have painted this year in Allegany County (the other two reside in Merchants Alley and at Fat Boyz Pizza in Frostburg).

As is the case for most artistic people, Elijah’s story is far from ordinary. One constant, however, has always been his affection for creating visual art.

“When I was a kid, I was constantly getting in trouble at school,” he says, “because all I wanted to do was talk to girls and draw pictures for them.” 

Academics, however, proved challenging for Elijah. His only true interest was in drawing, but, coming from what he calls a “broken home,” he had no one at home to nurture that interest and says his teachers really didn’t know how to connect with him. Soon, he had isolated himself and turned to drugs. After a stint in rehab, he left Cumberland at only 15 and went to live with his brother in Florida.

“It was great for awhile,” Elijah recalls, “I kind of lived without consequences.”

But, that too eventually ran its course and when his brother left Florida, Elijah found that he was once again alone and not necessarily in a good way. His father offered to bring him back to Cumberland and he found himself once again in Allegany County still struggling to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

A visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. would eventually point him in the right direction.  

“I had never seen art like that before, but as soon as I saw those great paintings, I knew I wanted to be a painter,” he says. “I am very inspired by the great artists throughout history. I wanted to paint as good as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. I spent my first years of painting studying their work and learning everything I could from them.” 

At last, Elijah had found what he now refers to as his true calling. And, he admits that he is mostly self-taught. His only experience with art had been drawing, he’d never tried painting. He immersed himself in books and videos on technique and, before long, the void he’d always felt disappeared.

“I grew up feeling like a loser but after that first trip to the gallery that all went away. Now I'm always building and always creating, moving from one project to the next. It's all I know but I wouldn't have it any other way.”  

He is no longer drawing pictures for pretty girls in school. He is now painting large scale and quite impressive and even expressive public murals with the hope of inspiring young artists in our community.

“The first time I saw a truly great painting I was 22 years old,” he says. “If people have to travel hours to see a great work of art, most people just won't ever see it. In Europe they grow up surrounded by and immersed in truly breathtaking and amazing art. Here in America, it's not like that. You only find art like that in the big galleries and museums.”

And, of course, he continues to develop his craft.  

“That's really what I want to contribute most. That's why I am always learning and taking my art to the next level. I just want to make the best art I can and use design to help improve whatever needs improving just like the renaissance and baroque artists did.” 

And his passion is paying off in a big way. Thanks to social media and a very popular YouTube channel, Elijah’s art has reached far outside of Allegany County. He now paints murals not only in Cumberland, but other cities throughout the country with his wife Marlee at his side.

“She was nervous to quit her job and work with me on this,” he reflects, “But now we are making it work and just getting better at what we do – together.”

This winter, they will travel to Austin, Texas and spend a few months there painting before returning to Cumberland in the spring.

After a life of setbacks, Elijah, with Marlee as his partner, is now living a full life. He has discovered what was missing from life in the very town in which he once felt so empty.

When I asked him if he would change anything about his journey, he provided a thought provoking reply.

“I wish someone – a teacher or a relative or friend- would have told me that there were possibilities. To change things for myself. To make my life better. I wish someone would have told me that.”

Although that statement resonates, I have a feeling that Elijah Thane’s journey just may have been predetermined. And I can’t wait to see what his next chapter holds.

-Story by Kimberli Rowley

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