Funding the Arts: Wytheville Focuses on Heritage
September 30, 2008The Wytheville Department of Museums started its Heritage Education school programs around 1996. At that time, they were funded entirely through the Department's operating budget, and the cost was approximately $15,000 a year, which included the cost of the part-time Coordinator of Heritage Education. The Department now partners with the Wythe County Historical Society and the Wythe County Board of Supervisors, who each contribute $5,000 a year to help with the cost of materials, transportation and instructors.
In recent years, the Wythe County Department of Social Services and Mountain Community Action Program has utilized grant funding to pay the Department of Museums for supplemental educational programming for their clients.
All of the school programs are based on the Virginia Standards of Learning and use local history and museum exhibits and artifacts to teach the children a variety of academic subjects including art, math, science, English, history and the social sciences. In the 2007/08 school year, the Department of Museums provided educational activities to more than 12,000 children from Wythe County and the surrounding area.
The Town of Wytheville funds the major share of the expenses for the school programs. The other funders help with the costs of materials and transportation to the schools and the cost of part-time instructors.
First Thursdays with History Performance Series
In addition to school programs, the Heritage Education component includes public programs for adult audiences, publications, and tours. These include a First Thursdays with History performance series for ages 12-up. These are very well attended, with the 120-seat room sold out for every performance. The Town of Wytheville funds this series, with supplemental funding from ticket sales, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and other contributors.
The Department of Museums has published a book on Wythe County's 1950 polio epidemic, with funding provided by the Town of Wytheville and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Linda Logan, Coordinator of Heritage Education, authored the book as part of her work for the Town. She is also collecting oral histories for a book she is writing on the history of agriculture/farming in Wythe County.
Partnering with 'Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Network
The Wytheville Department of Museums is working closely with 'Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia's Artisans Network. Headquartered in Abingdon, 'Round the Mountain (RTM) is developing an Artisan Trail Network to link visitors to Southwest Virginia with artisan studios, galleries, wineries, craft venues and creative points of interest. 'Round the Mountain selected the Wythe and Bland Artisans and Heritage Trails as the prototype for its own series of trails.
Wythe/Bland Artisans and Heritage Trails
With a planning grant funded in 2005 by the Appalachian Regional Commission, Wytheville's Department of Museums identified artisans in Wythe and Bland counties and developed trails highlighting artisans' studios and points of interest.
"Every community has its unique gifts and challenges. In the Counties of Wythe and Bland, we are blessed with scenic beauty, historic and cultural attractions and an untapped resource — artisans who produce everything from hand-woven scarves to sculptures made from recycled materials. Trails that lead visitors to artisans' studios and shops as well as points of interest are a popular attraction, as seen by the success of the Handmade in America craft heritage trails in North Carolina," Emerson explains.
In 2007, Wytheville's Department of Museums designed and distributed the Wythe/Bland Artisans and Heritage Trails brochure with assistance from a matching grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation Marketing Leverage Program.
For the Artisans and Heritage Trails project, the Town of Wytheville and Wythe County each contributed $1,500, while Bland County and 'Round the Mountain each gave $1,000 for the design, printing and distribution of the brochures, with matching funds from the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
— VISIT www.wytheville.org for more information.
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Sculptor Rick Radman is also one of the artisans spotlighted on the Artisan and Heritage Trail. (Photo courtesy Wytheville Department of Museums)