To educate and serve the community through the promotion and preservation of traditional folkways, contemporary craft and fine art. To support economic development by assisting the area to grow through cultural tourism opportunities.
The Appalachian Arts Center is a showplace and retail space that celebrates the culture and heritage of the region through the exhibition of locally made craft, fine art, literature and music. The Center is located in Tazewell County, Virginia, 2.5 miles north of the main campus of Southwest Virginia
Community College in what is known locally as the Old Archie
The Appalachian Arts Center houses a rotating gallery space featuring regional artists and hosts educational workshops, demonstrations, professional development seminars and craft courses. A photographic documentation area was completed at the Center in 2007.
The Appalachian Arts Center opened its doors in the spring of 2006. The concept of the Arts Center was developed by Sarah and Jonathan Romeo and became a reality through the support of Dr. Charles R. King, then president of Southwest Virginia Community College, and the SWCC Educational Foundation. Beginning with juried handcrafted items from approximately 50 local artisans, the Center has more than tripled in size during its five years of operation, now housing the works of more than 180 artisans from within a 100 mile radius of the Center.
Sarah Romeo was the founding director of the Arts Center. During her tenure and with the help of grants from HandMade in America and the Appalachian Regional Commission, an Entrepreneurship for Artisans curriculum was developed at SWCC, a pilot Apprenticeship program was undertaken, the photographic documentation area was created, the Arts Center website was constructed, and a wide array of workshops and professional development seminars were made available to artisans.
Robyn Raines became the Center's second director. In addition to her development of a number of classes offered at the Center, she furthered the relationship that Sarah Romeo had begun with 'Round the Mountain and its Artisan Trails. Because of her considerable crafting experience, she successfully expanded artisan access to community markets through Arts Center booth displays and sales at annual fairs and festivals in the region. She also engaged the talents of the Arts Center artisans in public school art workshops and community service projects for cancer patients, low income people and senior citizens.
Pattie Ann Hale was the Center's third director.With a background in art, publications and marketing, she worked to expand the Center’s presence locally and online through the popular social media site, Facebook.
Currently, the Center has been sponsoring a variety of classes including art classes and drama classes for children, and knitting classes for interested people. In coming months, through a grant by the federal government's 2010 Job Acts Program, the Center will be hosting a number of business development educational seminars for the newly emerging "Creative Economy" entrepreneurs in the region. The goal of this project is to assist with new business creation within the artisan, cultural heritage and adventure tourism arena, as well as with businesses that develop as a result of these creative endeavors.
Locals have fond memories of “Archie’s place”
which opened in 1948 as a general store selling everything from
hams to milk to eggs to razor blades. According to Clyde Helton,
Archie’s son (who still lives next door and grew up helping
out at the family store), the Archie Helton Store functioned
as a natural community gathering place. Stories were swapped
in the back room as locals sat around the pot bellied stove
in winter. In summer, folks would sit on the long covered front
porch and watch cars go by on Route 19 when it was just a two
lane road. According to many, if Archie didn’t have it, he would
find it! By the 1970’s the Archie Helton Store had become THE
place to buy western wear. Towers of jeans piled atop tables
rose nearly up to the ceiling, and many remember purchasing
their first pair of cowboy boots at the store, or just coming
in to cool off with a bottle of pop. Southwest Virginia Community
College acquired the building in 1988.