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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Heartwood:Southwest Virginia's Gateway to renovate, launch renewed image in Spring of 2019

December 18, 2018

ABINGDON, VA — Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway, located just off I-81 in Abingdon will close to the public Jan. 1, 2019 to facilitate a renovation of facilities and programs. The facility will reopen to the public in March with a renewed image focused on telling the story of Southwest Virginia’s culture and heritage.

Heartwood opened in 2011 as the gateway for the creative economy in Southwest Virginia. The center was conceived to showcase and sell the work of regional artisans and musicians and to interpret Southwest Virginia's history, heritage, outdoor recreation and scenic beauty via stories and first-person narratives to inspire travel to other parts of the region.

The facility was constructed and has been operated by three joint entities: Friends of Southwest Virginia, a 501c3 community development non-profit; the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation; and ‘Round the Mountain, Southwest Virginia’s 501c3 non-profit artisan network.

The current model of operation is four part: Artisan Marketplace, Restaurant, The Crooked Road Major Venue and Visitor Center. All of these areas will be enhanced through the revitalization to better achieve its goals of promoting working artisans, driving destination visitors throughout Southwest Virginia, and promoting Appalachian Culture.

Heartwood is home to work of more than 300 juried artisans of ‘Round the Mountain and the renovations will aid in putting further emphasis on their work and individual stories. Heartwood is a major venue on The Crooked Road and the stories of The Crooked Road, its music, musicians and our heritage will continue to be impactful to residents and visitors alike.

“Over the past year, we’ve completed significant amounts of research into our visitors, markets and the very communities we are interpreting,” said Chris Cannon, Executive Director of Friends of Southwest Virginia, the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and Round the Mountain, the three organizations that jointly operate Heartwood. “We now have a very clear picture of what we do well and where we can innovate to further create a gateway into all the incredible communities of this region.”

“The Commonwealth made a bold statement by constructing this facility in 2011,” said Delegate Will Morefield, Chair of the Foundation. “The next two months will make this facility even bolder and result in a positive economic impact from the coalfields to the New River.”

“Heartwood is one of the crown jewels of Southwest Virginia, offering a true sense of place by showcasing the region’s history, heritage, and people,” said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “These renovations and improvements to the facility and programming will only make this destination shine even brighter, helping to attract new travelers and visitors to Heartwood and the region as a whole. This is a truly exciting opportunity to highlight what makes this region so special, and to underscore why Virginia is for Lovers.”

“We are proud of the fact that we are inspiring so many people to explore Southwest Virginia, but we know we could do more to support working artisans, music venues and the small businesses in every small, medium and large town, city and county we have,” said Jim Baldwin, Chair of Friends of Southwest Virginia. “That moment is here, and we are doing this as a singular region focused on progress.”

The facility is expected to reopen to the public in March with a weekend long celebration of the culture of Southwest Virginia. A new regional program to support artisans during the closure for renovations will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Friends of Southwest Virginia and the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation boards are the driving force behind the renewed image for Heartwood in 2019 and spent eight months strategizing these changes. The two organizations will jointly host public meetings to help partners and residents to get more information on the transformation. Visit www.FriendsOfSWVA.org or call 276.492.2400 to learn about a public conference call and a public meeting to be held concerning the transformation.

For more information and to stay up-to-date about the progress, subscribe to the Friends of Southwest Virginia Partner Newsletter and “Like” Friends of Southwest Virginia on Facebook.