Artisan Center Work Progresses
October 18, 2006Work toward opening the Southwest Virginia Artisan Center here is progressing. Economic Research Associates, a Washington, D.C., real estate consulting firm, will conduct a market analysis of the site this year, officials said Friday. The facility will be built on the campus of Virginia Highlands Community College and could open in about two years.
The company, which also worked on the Barter Theatre's expansion plan, will help create "a cultural facility, a destination and also a portal to the rest of the region," said project manager Mac Nichols.
The market analysis will provide information to aid in the design process next year, said Todd Christensen, associate director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which is also part of the project. It will likely be finalized next summer.
The center has already received more than $3 million in grant money, although Nichols said a more precise cost estimate will be part of his firm's assessment. Ground will likely be broken the following spring, said Christy Parker, economic development director for Washington County.
"We'd love to see it built in two years," said Woody Crenshaw, president of the artisan network that will fill the center with crafts.
Crenshaw said the center itself will be "the hub of the wheel" and the last of three related projects in the region. The first was The Crooked Road, a driving route through Southwest Virginia that highlights the region's musical heritage. The second was Crenshaw's group, called Round the Mountain, a network of artisans in the region.
Once the center is built, it will "reflect the crafts of the region," including a broad range from traditional "heritage crafts" to more contemporary work, Crenshaw said. Through his organization, artists will undergo a "process of critique" to determine if their work will be displayed, and those who don't qualify right away will have help developing their crafts.
"We have, all over the region, people who have traditionally made their living with their hands," Crenshaw said, "And when we think about that, we think about not only the object that they make, but the hands that made it."
Bristol Herald Courier
Saturday, Oct 14, 2006