I’ve been inspired recently to sculpt wine-bottle stoppers. This past Saturday, December 3rd, I exhibited at a show for the first time in years. My life had been so busy with creating Chestnut Creek School of the Arts and spending time at City Gallery in Galax, not to mention teaching classes at Wytheville Community College, that I had not taken time to concentrate on exhibiting. Saturday proved to be a wonderful day at Draper Mercantile-food, music, artists, craftspeople, and even Santa. The weather was beautiful and the crowd of people were merry. Here are pictures of the stoppers. I’ve sold out, but while I was showing my pottery, lampworked beads and paintings, I also demonstrated sculpting. I have a few more goddess’ going through the process of drying to a leather hard condition, then I’ll bisque fire and then glaze fire. Let me know if you’re interested in purchasing one. Only $20 each.
- Medusa Mask
- Venus of Willa
By Lisa O'Donnell | Journal Reporter
Published: August 12, 2010
Updated: 08/11/2010 07:25 pm
GALAX, Va. - Take N.C. 89 north off of U.S. 77 and you will come within hollering distance of Cumberland Knob, the birthplace of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Blue Ridge Music Center, where the surrounding mountains ring each summer with the high lonesome sound of fiddles and banjos.
Cross over into Virginia and this mountain-hugging road eases into the outskirts of Galax and becomes Main Street. Here, you will find Jimmy Edmonds building world-class guitars in a shop tucked behind a lawn and garden store.
Continue north and you will pass Felts Park, where 40,000 people flock each year to the Old Fiddler's Convention against the backdrop of furniture factories. Barr's Fiddle Shop, a legendary music shop that is home to spontaneous jams, will soon be on your right. And up on your left, in a renovated bank, sits the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts, a new player in the city's arts scene that hopes to take advantage of the area's confluence of culture and nature to make Galax a destination spot for tourists.
Galax is one of many small towns across the country that is looking to tourism to help revitalize their economies, said Neville Bhada, the vice president of communications with the Southeast Tourism Society.
"Communities are trying to see what they have in their own back yard to promote," Bhada said.
And Galax's back yard is plush with music, natural beauty and artists versed in such traditional crafts as quilting and weaving.
The Chestnut Creek School was developed to give tourists a unique opportunity to learn such things as how to build a guitar from one of the area's master craftsmen. When not in class, visitors can rent bikes and take a ride down the beautiful New River bicycle trail or stop by the historic Rex Theater to take in a show.
Penelope Moseley, an artist who has lived in Galax for about 30 years, is among a handful of people who recognized the potential for an arts school in the city, which is about 70 miles north of Winston-Salem.
About eight years ago, she heard a local economic development leader talk about a new incubator that would help small businesses.
"Afterward, I thought, ‘The arts need incubating, too,'" Moseley said.
Her idea was to model the school after the Penland School of Crafts and the John C. Campbell Folk School, two schools in North Carolina that draw people from around the world.
At the time, she and others in Galax were teaching art to students in a house in Galax.
"The classes we had in the house were going well," she said. "And we knew there was a need for them."
She and other local leaders were able to secure sizable grants that paid for a feasibility study and a beautiful old bank on Main Street that had sat empty for several years.
The 8,000-square-foot bank, which was built in the 1920s, was renovated and opened in April. It serves as the school's headquarters and includes a gallery and several classrooms equipped with instruments, sewing machines, looms and spinning wheels made by a local woodworker.
Unlike Penland and John C. Campbell, which are located in rural areas, classes at the Chestnut Creek School will be spread around Galax. A pottery studio recently opened in a building down the road from the school. The next phase of the school will be a wood-wrights shop where people can learn how to make instruments from such people as Wayne Henderson, an internationally renowned luthier who lives in the area.
The school holds classes for local people who want to learn a skill and uses local artists to teach classes to visitors. Those visitors will be spending money at local bed-and-breakfasts, cabins, restaurants and shops.
Chris Shackelford, the director of the school, said that eight new businesses have opened in the area in response to the school's opening. One such business is a coffee shop that opened next to the school.
Outdoors-oriented businesses, such as outfitters, are likely to benefit as well. For out-of-town students who enjoy the outdoors, Galax offers an abundance of opportunities. Besides the parkway, one of the big draws is the New River bicycle trail, which stretches 57 miles from Galax to Pulaski. Or visitors can spend their off-time tubing, fishing or paddling down the New, which is fairly tame in the Galax area.
Just west of Galax lies the rugged beauty of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Grayson Highlands State Park, two of the most stunning places to hike and camp in our neck of the Southeast.
Classes on tap for this fall include introduction to weaving, clogging, novel writing and wood carving
For someone selling real estate, it's all about location, location, location. For us creative spirits, it's all about changes, changes, changes! Once again in my varied working life I'm making changes. It was more than rewarding to create Chestnut Creek School of the Arts via the Arts Council of the Twin Counties, with help from a plethora of friends and colleagues. CCSA is off and running and so am I. It only took 7 years, a quick accomplishment for this type of project. For more information about that endeavor you can read all about it at www.chestnutcreekarts.org
. Today I'm launching a new website to launch the changes in my life. This summer I'm working in my garden and enjoying the free time to be creative. I'll be spending some time at City Gallery, Fine Art, too. Check out all the co-op members at www.citygallerygalax.com
. But mostly, this summer, I'll be enjoying the cool slow paced life of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In my head I'll be designing the Mountain Traveler's Journal
(a compact version of The Big Blue
), a magazine for tourists and locals, packed with stories about the characters that make up life along The Crooked Road and the artisans of 'Round the Mountain's network. Vivid full color pictures in the magazine will entice you to come here to see the grandeur for yourself. But that work will be in my head for another month or two. Look for the next issue in the fall. I'll work on this website as time permits. Check back often and see if I get any work done and see if all the information for this website gets uploaded that my daughter, Mitone, the web designer is demanding. Until next time, I wish you love and laughter!