If you want to travel ‘round the mountain you really should start at Heartwood. Or at least, that’s the hope if Diana Blackburn has anything to do with it.
Blackburn (’87) has been working since 2005 as the executive director of ’Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network. A project that has just been completed is the Artisan Trails of Southwest Virginia that encourages people to tour Southwest Virginia with an eye toward the arts, culture and heritage of the region. If you do the Mountain Crossroads trail in Wythe and Bland Counties you can see Southwest Virginia via a winery, flower farm, farmer’s market and a jewelry store.
Do you want to focus on the Carroll County area? Visit the Harmony Trail and check out a guitar-maker, stained glass artisan, and an alpaca farm. Prefer to keep your hands active? ‘Round the Mountain artisan trails can guide you to any number of places to throw a pot, pick a pumpkin, gather blueberries, or snip fresh herbs.
The idea is to get tourists into Southwest Virginia and give them a lively and meaningful visit to the farms, stores and artisans that give the area its distinct flavor. Over the past few years, much of Blackburn’s time has been devoted to working with the Commonwealth of Virginia on developing a new artisan center in Abingdon, Va. which will help highlight the work of regional artisans, traditional music, outdoor recreation and direct visitors toward more exploration of the wider region.
Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway can be seen as a destination, but also as a launching point for a grander adventure. Anyone who has visited Tamarack in West Virginia will have a notion of what Heartwood will offer visitors – craft, music and a culture to offer a true taste of the region known as Southwest Virginia. There will be a restaurant, performance space, and great shopping. But Blackburn is hopeful that your visit won’t end there.
She reminds us that Heartwood offers an appetizer, but the real meat and potatoes can be best enjoyed by getting out into the region. “Southwest Virginia has so much to offer a visitor and Heartwood is a great place to begin your adventure. Listen to an artisan tell how he gets his inspiration for his work at one of the touchscreens sprinkled throughout the galleries at Heartwood. Want to visit? Use the trip planner to get directions to his studio and find out what’s close by. Maybe catch a bluegrass show at a country store or take canoe trip down the New River. Plan your trip using the interactive maps and print out the directions to get you there.”
A concert at Heartwood is going to be great, but why not follow up with a trip to an area luthier and an evening at The Carter Fold? Stop at Heartwood to pick up a beautiful new piece of pottery, but why not follow up with a trip to an area studio where you can meet the artist and get a look at how the work is done? Purchase a beautiful weaving at Heartwood, but don’t go home before you visit the farm and meet the sheep who offered the shirts off their backs for this lovely creation.
“We are so excited to finally unveil Heartwood to the region. Not only is the building a piece of art in itself, but it is a fantastic way to showcase the rich craft and music tradition along with the outdoor assets that Southwest Virginia has to offer. “
Heartwood will open to the public on June 15, 2011. If you’re planning a trip to Southwest Virginia, start at Heartwood, but don’t go home until you’ve gone ‘Round the Mountain.