A couple of weeks ago, a woman from Michigan stuck her head in the door of the studio and said she was looking for “local arts and crafts.”
“That’s what we do here,” I told her, pointing to the various studios and galleries in The Jacksonville Center.
“But these galleries could be anywhere,” she said. “I’m looking for something that says ‘Floyd County’ or at least the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Although I found her dismissal of our galleries as something that “could be anywhere” a simplistic dismissal of our efforts at the Center, I saw her point.
A couple of days earlier, she and her husband had visited Tamarac, the West Virginia arts and crafts center just off I-77 near Beckley. That, she said, was a place to find West Virginia-oriented arts and crafts.
True enough. Tamarac insists that all of its tenants display work that shouts “West Virginia.” There’s lots of mountain art, traditional crafts and folklore. There’s also food and knick knacks. Some call it art. Others call it a tourist trap.
Floyd’s arts community is populated by a lot of people who relocated to the county from somewhere else and the style of art they bring is the style from other environments. We have our local artists – Catherine Pauley, a Floyd native and recently-retired arts teacher, is a great example, but Catherine’s excellent art and tasteful graceful nude paintings might not pass the test of local-themed arts and crafts. The musical instruments of Arthur Connor and Stanley Lorton may be more of an example. Fred First’s book, Slow Road Home, is another local work.
Jacksonville Center board president Wil Stratton mentioned the other day that he felt the center needed a woodworking shop since so much of the local craft culture centers around wood. Jacksonville’s Residential Craft School, the first in Virginia, is offering woodworking classes in its upcoming schedule of classes.
I discussed this last week with David St. Lawrence, friend and executive director of The Jacksonville Center, and he has expanded on the idea in recent posts in his blog, Ripples. His idea of a “Made in Floyd” branding program makes many good points. The challenge may lie more in defining than in producing.
But that Michigan woman’s quest for arts and crafts that say “Floyd County, Virginia” may be like Don Quixote’s quest – easy for define but difficult to accomplish.