Facilities Projects

Capacity Expansion for Artisan Use

LINC/Ford Foundation/MetLife Foundation

Artisan Space Development Project


Critical Information to be Considered

This proposal seeks to improve existing artisan workspaces at the Center as well as expand and create new workspace with four separate projects.

The first project is to renovate a 407 square foot “wing” attached to the barn that was not included in the original barn renovation that was completed in 2003. The room, called the “Western Room” within the organization, is currently used for storage and has no access from within the barn as the Western Room was walled off during the renovation. The room has a large silo that curves into the building which includes the grain chute coming down inside the building.

The plans call for creating interior access with a one hour fire door, removing the wood floor and excavating dirt underneath to drop the floor level down to match the inside of the barn, poor a concrete floor with a floor drain, repair outside door, remove approximately 2/3 of the silo to below the eaves of the room, remove the inside curve of the silo and replace with wall containing a doorway with exterior steps leading down into the silo base. The roofing around the current silo structure would be replaced and extended over the base of the silo with a natural light space between the roof and the silo walls, which would be about 10 feet high. The silo base would serve as an outdoor patio garden in which artists could work outside in a protected environment or use as a conversation/meditation area. The interior of the room would have appropriate insulation and sheetrock added along with plumbing, lighting and electric receptacles. This project would be heavily supported by inkind community support particularly during the demo stage. The cost to accomplish this project is approximately $22,385 or $55 per sq ft.

The room would be used to address the frequent, critical need for indoor workspace for large art projects such as sculptures, which cannot be accommodated in their home or on-site studio environments and for smaller communal workspace that requires a more intimate setting than the community room.

The second project seeks to address a deteriorating, cramped outdoor deck workspace around the communal pottery studio, formerly used as a creamery during the days of dairy farm operations. The pottery studio is heavily used by tenant artisans as well as local ceramic artisans who lack their own equipment and workspace. They frequently work outside the studio on the deck for the natural light and for tasks such as glazing and trimming. The roof needs to be replaced around the deck and the railing needs to be replaced to create a safer environment for children who use the space frequently. A major benefit of the campus is its scenic, rural environment which serves as a basis for creative inspiration. The rotting, cramped deck struggles to accommodate kiln equipment, drying space, and heavily used work space by area ceramic artists. The plan is to replace the wooden deck with a concrete deck and patio below to expand the work and equipment space, improve access to the nearby kiln shed from the deck, replace the existing, leaky roof over the deck and extend new roofing out to a new patio area below. This would effectively triple the workspace and create a safer environment for youth artists. This project, with inkind community support from local engineering firms and architectural services as well as demo support from community volunteers, is estimated to cost $23,200 or $20 per square foot.

The third project addresses existing artisan workspaces on the first floor. These workspaces are adjoining spaces, ranging from 150 square feet to 300 square feet with a main hallway access running down the middle. New track lighting to provide better task lighting will be added to each of the existing workspaces. In-studio water hookups are to be added by installing water supply lines overhead between the floors and routing wastewater overhead as well, using a pump with a float valve. This addresses a critical need for working artisans’ need for water in their workspaces. Air conditioning units would also be added to allow the artisans to close their doors when privacy is needed for focusing on their work especially in the summer months. The spaces currently lack central air conditioning. Finally, wireless internet access would be increased by adding more equipment to compensate for weak spots in some of the studios as well as upstairs in a large workspace.

The fourth project is to improve the lighting in the large upstairs Community Room to allow for better task lighting and for providing basics for stage lighting. The Community Room is frequently used by the Old Church Gallery’s Quilters Guild, which meets bimonthly to work on their quilting projects in a communal setting. The room also serves as a rehearsal and performing space for the Young Actors’ Project as well workspace for youth and adults who participate in workshops and communal projects.

The budget for the latter two improvement projects is $4,415 with inkind support covering the installation and some materials to keep costs low.

Photos of existing infrastructure challenges

Please download a short publication with photos and explanations.

Testimonials from State Arts Organizations, Artists, Tenants,

Staff, and Others.

A Note from the Executive Director:

As we continue to build our organizational capacity through staff/board training initiatives, we find that many workshops we attend deal with issues specific to large, urban arts organizations. This focus has been reinforced by a results-oriented research and grant-award tradition that has concentrated solely on higher “audience-served” numbers. This bias necessarily favors programs with higher population impacts due to their dense urban populace access. Workshop speakers use these data to address the concerns of $1M-budget, city Arts Centers, whose issues have little parallel for $100,000-budget, rural Arts Centers.

Indeed, as we make efforts to place ourselves into funding opportunities such as this one (as only one example of several we’ve experienced), we find that even the application questions have more to do with arts support organizations centered in cities rather than those in Rural America. We do our own marketing, for example, with expert help from volunteers and contract workers, and our own staff to market and find audiences for our programs and initiatives. Here in the Appalachian Mountains, we have a make-do and make-happen culture rather than an outsourcing/hiring culture similar to those that are the normal pattern in cities with more access to agencies and professionals devoted to special services.

We routinely depend on individuals in our community to volunteer their talents and expertise to not only help us develop capital capacity, but also for sheer survival. While our standard policy is not to “volunteer to death” our professional artists, those who are in our “family” consistently donate their talent, time, and treasure to us, in the form of advisors, builders, acquirers of unique services, links to their peers, and countless other services and efforts. Without the help of not only artists but also individuals who care about our mission and services, we frankly, could not survive. In fact, during 2008, we documented an excess of 6000 volunteer hours donated to the Center for its programs, gardens, special events, capital improvements, facilities maintenance, youth events and programs, and for professional services such as financial, legal, engineering, and other advisors.

Because of our successes, we want to become a driving force behind a segment of research and advocacy that deals with the challenges rural arts-services programs face, despite the fact that our “audience served” numbers are logically lower than those of city arts programs. Rural communities are by definition underserved because of our geography, and the issues faced by rural artists and service initiatives are significantly different from those encountered by our urban counterparts. In January, we shall be creating a discussion panel of our peers who will make a presentation and inspire dialogue at a conference presented by our state’s advocacy organization and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Until such time as arts advocacy and research begin to look at the disparate needs of rural arts initiatives, we will continue to lack useful data, including (but not limited to): specific artist-impacts on rural communities and their economies; realistic counts of those emerging from “unemployed” status to become self-employed entrepreneurs; correlations of those listed as employed, but who out-commute from rural towns to work in urban areas, who want to transition their artistic “hobby” to a small entrepreneurial business; tips for expanding a small-population donor & corporate sponsor base, with concrete studies of limited-pool “donor fatigue;” and more challenges surrounding transportation of special populations (including youth) to rurally-based arts programs.

Another data set we would have relied upon but cannot find when we are conceptualizing new and changing programming would be the average rural rates charged for services, as well as what kinds of services are currently offered by similar rural arts support organizations (including the long term as well as short term success or failure of those programs). In addition, concrete gap analyses of what rural residents, artists, and youth are NOT getting from existing art initiatives (whether close-urban, suburban, or rural) would be helpful as we continue to consider expansion of our capacity and refreshing our programming. Benchmarks indicating what we had before this creative economy rode our local bandwagon into town would have been helpful so we could measure longer-term impacts (both positive and negative) that will be peculiar to a mountainous rural setting.

We are certain we can help the Ford Foundation, MetLife Foundation and LINC create a data set that will be valuable to our peer rural organizations. We have stories of both successes and failures to share and with our tradition of collaboration, would serve as a willing model, student, and teacher for Rural America to have the ability to more fully participate in the wide-ranging benefits of the creative economy.


John McEnhill

For more testimonials, please download the document with letters of support included from 8 individuals or organizations, writing from different perspectives.

Architect’s Sketches Envision Final Product