Cultural Barn Raising

Heartwood, a hub for artisans and their work in southwest Virginia, is now open.

Years ago, the Blue Ridge town of Abingdon bustled with textile plants, tobacco plantations and coal mines. With those industries gone, community leaders in Southwest Virginia have been trying to restructure the economy. One angle is to expand the region’s lively crafts, art and music heritage.

To create and sell art, one needs first to see it. And so for the past decade, the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Commission (SVCHC), with help from ‘Round the Mountain, the region’s artisan network, has been planning to build Heartwood Artisan Gateway—a hub for artistic and heritage projects. The $3 million, 27,000-square-foot LEED-certified center is opening in June, and Todd Christensen, executive director of the SVCHC, says it should prove a boon to arts and crafts.

Shaped like an 1810 barn with silos, Heartwood’s four large galleries will exhibit juried crafts, and a performance and events space will host concerts and even weddings. Heartwood will also become home to the Crooked Road, the Commonwealth’s heritage music trail. Visitors to the center can view and buy art, and see artists at work. Says Christensen: “We don’t want to be like Hollywood. We don’t want to be like Disneyland. We want to be real. We have a lot of hidden talent in this region.” And that may account for Heartwood’s marketing slogan: “Authentic. Distinctive. Alive.” HeartwoodVirginia.org

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Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum