Arts and Crafts Center Receives $45,000 Grant from The Alleghany Foundation

To say things are bustling at the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center is perhaps an understatement, and a recent grant from The Alleghany Foundation helps ensure that vibrance into the future.

The Arts and Crafts Center in downtown Clifton Forge is the benefactor of a recent general operating support grant totaling $45,000.

This grant is a match of which $40,000 is matched dollar for dollar, while $5,000 is matched two for one through new money raised. The 2-1 portion of the grant acts as an incentive to secure new members and contributors while growing the mission of the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center. The grant fits into The Alleghany Foundation’s focus area of economic transformation.

“The Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center is a creative asset and catalyst for economic and cultural growth in our community,” said Mary Fant Donnan, executive director of The Alleghany Foundation. “For many years, it has served as a marketplace for artisans to display and sell their work in a professional setting, and it has continued to demonstrate a high degree of resiliency and relevance during these challenging times.”

Like many organizations, the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though fundraising efforts continued in a virtual way during the previous year, the center has not returned to pre-pandemic levels of participation and support. Through some active volunteer efforts, the group launched a new event dubbed “The Chocolate Bar” in early September, but, due to the increased levels of COVID-19, organizers felt it necessary to cancel the signature Art of Chocolate Festival for a second year. This cancellation created a gap in the center’s projected fundraising budget.

“One of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is the need to support our local non-profits during difficult times,” said Dr. Sue Rollinson, president of The Alleghany Foundation Board of Directors. “Performances, art shows and fundraisers have been canceled over the past 20 months, resulting in financial challenges to our arts organizations. By providing matching funds, The Alleghany Foundation can help ensure that organizations such as the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center continue to deliver their mission and keep the arts lively in the Alleghany Highlands.”

Most arts center programming is provided to the community free of charge, including exceptional exhibits displaying high-quality art by regional artists.

“We are so thankful for the years of support from The Alleghany Foundation, which has partnered with us in helping to make our county ‘Uniquely Alleghany’,” said Connie Baker, the executive director at the center.

Now the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center is shaking the ill effects of the pandemic as it gears up for a busy holiday season. With an inventory of over 6,500 items in the gift shop, there is something for everyone on your Christmas list. Unique gifts are available such as wood-carved Santas, quilted table runners, an array of Christmas ornaments, jewelry, felted items, doll clothes and much more. All items are handmade, and the center can accommodate special-order items.

Seasonal classes are also held at the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center. “Santa Gnomes,” a needle felting class with Karen Shapcott, is ideal for the holiday season, while a new class for children K-7th grade just started and is very popular with these young students. A Story Time Craft Class is taught by two retired public school teachers on the first Wednesday of each month.

Education is accomplished through year-round, on-site classes and workshops such as those previously mentioned. The center also partners yearly with the local high schools for an artist-in-education program by hosting a working artist who teaches alongside the art teacher in the schools. This mentoring is utilized for a week each semester, allowing the students to experience with a professional artist new teaching techniques and using different materials in creating art.

At the end of the school year, the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center hosts its annual High School Art Show, a juried competition exhibit with monetary prizes. The show is open to all area high school students.

“They learn how to submit qualified finished pieces of work for public display and are honored along with their teachers and resident artist with a reception,” Baker explained.

The gallery’s quality exhibitions are curated and change every 4-6 weeks, producing a wide variety of styles, media and techniques. Now running through Christmas, the annual Fx2 photography exhibit is on display in the gallery. Visitors are encouraged to vote for the People’s Choice Award.

The Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center’s gift shop serves entrepreneurship of over 250 painters, photographers, jewelers, potters, quilters and many more regional artisans by providing a marketplace to display their work. On average, the center serves over 9,000 visitors annually, and its guestbook reflects visitors from all over the country. On any given month, the center welcomes just as many out-of-town visitors as local patrons.

The Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center has a storied 37-year past. It came into existence due to the efforts of a group of women who wanted to develop an interest in visual arts throughout the community. Their vision included programming, education and a marketplace of juried work to exhibit and sell works of art.

In 1983, an 80-member board was recruited and two vacant buildings totaling 6,000 square feet of space on Ridgeway Street in Clifton Forge were purchased and renovated. The first floor housed a shop and large double gallery, while the second floor contained classrooms, offices and a library.

The center opened in August of 1984 and offered exceptional visual arts, education and programming. Five years later, an executive director was hired. Today’s mission of “Promoting Visual Arts through Education, Exhibition and Marketing” is accomplished by a group of dedicated volunteers, a curator, shop manager and executive director.

Additionally, art programming has grown since the center’s beginning to provide year-round educational programs for all ages. Many children benefit through the center’s AIE programs in area high schools, while the senior and veteran populations are remembered through its “Valentines for Vets” program.

The Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center serves over 500 artists through exhibits while marketing and selling works from juried consignors. “These cultural experiences in visual arts are usually found in larger communities,” Baker said. “Our rich historic visual arts heritage is one of the reasons we are known as a vibrant art community. Our mission is to continue to promote visual arts through education, exhibition and marketing.”

About The Alleghany Foundation: The Alleghany Foundation was established in 1995 with $35 million in proceeds from the sale of Alleghany Regional Hospital. The foundation’s vision is to be a resource for and partner with eligible organizations to make the Alleghany Highlands a civically engaged, prosperous region that builds upon its assets to produce opportunities for residents. Its five focus areas include Economic Transformation, Community Capacity, Health and Wellness, Leadership and Civic Vitality, along with Educational Attainment.

The total annual awards from The Alleghany Foundation now add up to more than $60 million.

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