A new Appalachian Arts Center (AAC) has opened in Richlands, just three miles from the main campus of Southwest Virginia Community College. The 4,000-square-foot facility serves as an exhibition space and a marketplace featuring the work of local crafts people and fine artists.
Visitors may experience the beauty and artistry of handmade musical instruments, pottery, quilts, beeswax candles, hand-woven baskets, handcrafted wooden toys, blacksmithing, jewelry and fiber arts. Original watercolors, oil paintings and photographs, as well as unique small-scale brick sculpture, are also represented. Additionally, a series of artisan demonstrations and workshops provide the public with opportunities to gain insight into the creative process.
The Arts Center is dedicated to the promotion of the burgeoning arts and crafts industry in Southwest Virginia as well as to the preservation of traditional folkways. Stimulating economic growth through support of indigenous skills will help maintain the rural integrity of this unique American place: Appalachia.
AAC offers professional training through a career studies certificate program entitled Entrepreneurship for Artisans. Through this curriculum, local artisans gain knowledge and skills in advertising, branding, marketing and distribution, as well as e-commerce, accounting, taxes and small business management. This training ensures that fine artists and crafts people have the business acumen necessary to bring locally made products into a national and global market.
Southwest Virginia Community College is an active member and participant in the region’s development of the crafts industry. The college’s mission is to educate and serve the community while assisting the area to grow through cultural tourism opportunities. This goal aligns strategically with related initiatives such as ‘Round the Mountain, a network and driving trail designed to link artisan venues throughout Southwest Virginia, as well as with many of the goals and objectives of the Appalachian Regional Commission.