People committed to Western North Carolina’s rich craft heritage can help create a new craft trail across our mountains. The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area seeks ideas and suggestions in the launch of the Blue Ridge Craft Trails.
The collaborative project will link traditional and contemporary artisans with more visitors to their studios and with new online markets. The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area’s latest initiative aims to support artists, encourage cultural tourism, and strengthen rural economies by supporting local arts businesses and venues.
Seven listening sessions have been scheduled across the region. Craft artists, gallery owners, arts groups, businesses and anyone interested are invited to attend and offer their comments.
Meetings will be held 2-4 p.m. on the following dates and locations:
July 13 - Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, Blowing Rock
July 18 - Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee
August 1 - Tryon Arts and Crafts School, Tryon
August 3 - Yadkin Valley Cultural Arts Center, Yadkinville
August 8 - John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown
August 24 - Penland School of Crafts, Penland
August 31 - Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center, Asheville
“We envision the Blue Ridge Craft Trails of Western North Carolina as an online roadmap to guide visitors through our rich craft heritage and connect personally with artisans in our mountain communities,” said Angie Chandler, executive director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.
“We’re building on the pioneering work of HandMade In America in the 1990s, which started the original Craft Heritage Trails of WNC. We want to update that guide for the Internet and provide new opportunities for the next generation of crafters,” Chandler said.
HandMade in America, first managed by Becky Anderson, created the original Craft Heritage Trails of Western North Carolina in the 1990s, connecting visitors to hundreds of craft studios, galleries, schools, historic places and inns across the mountains. The 3rd edition of the Craft Heritage Trail book featuring nearly 500 different sites was published in 2003.
The BRHNA’s Blue Ridge Craft Trails of Western North Carolina will update those listings for the digital age, offering online visitors a portal for desktop and mobile applications. As phases of the project are completed, technology will allow collectors to connect with craft artisans to purchase their wares, visit their studios and discover the many craft galleries and festivals found in Western North Carolina.
Crafts have created paychecks for mountain families over the past century. In the early 20th century, landmark institutions sprang up to preserve handicrafts passed down through generations.
“The Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina are the center of a thriving craft artisan community that goes back to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian,” said Wayne Martin, Executive Director of the North Carolina Arts Council. “Clearly, any documentation that celebrates this rich history and creates awareness about traditional and contemporary craft-making will result in economic improvements, including jobs and tourism in Western N.C.”
Professional craft artisans across the region generate $206 million annually in sales and paychecks, according to a 2008 economic impact study on the craft industry in Western North Carolina. The unique craft artworks mastered in the mountains contribute to local economies with increased tourism, the study showed. Tourists in search of handmade crafts and authentic mountain heritage spend an average of $643 a day and typically stay longer than other visitors.
Heritage tourism in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area contributes $2.39 billion annually to the regional economy, supporting more than 30,000 jobs and generating $176.5 million annually in state and local tax revenue, according to a 2014 economic impact study.
To register for specific meetings, go to the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area website at www.blueridgeheritage.com and click on the link on the homepage or call Amy Hollifield at 298-5330, ext. 303.
Clay Club meets at artist studios and other locations throughout Western North Carolina, usually on the second Wednesday of the month. All potters and ceramic artists are welcome! Look for details about the meetings here on the blog or contact Amy Waller at email@example.com for more info.