ASHEVILLE — The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership is pleased to announce it has been awarded a $100,000 grant by the Appalachian Regional Commission and a matching $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. The new funding is designated to continue the critical work of the BRNHA’s latest initiative, the Blue Ridge Craft Trails.
Designed to launch a system of drive-able trails for 25 Western North Carolina counties featuring 200 craft sites, the Blue Ridge Craft Trails project celebrates the region as a vibrant center for traditional and contemporary handmade crafts through the promotion of craft artisans, arts organizations and heritage tourism.
“Our goal is to increase income for traditional and contemporary artisans, enhance cultural tourism and improve local economies,” explained Angie Chandler, executive director of BRNHA. “We are building on Western North Carolina’s history as a leading center for craft production and education in the United States.”
The project began in 2017 after receiving an initial $90,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and a matching $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina.
“We are so grateful for the support we’ve received,” said Chandler. “We have seen progress already, and with these new grants, we can move forward to make an economic impact on the full 25 counties. Other major support for this initiative has been provided by the NC Arts Council, The Conservation Fund: Resourceful Communities Program, The Community Foundation of Henderson County, and the Cherokee County NC Tourism Development Authority.”
Development of the Blue Ridge Craft Trails to date includes a new website (blueridgecrafttrails.com), marketing research and planning, regional listening sessions, a pilot project encompassing Clay and Cherokee counties, a map brochure, rack card, and the launch of a regional grassroots marketing initiative.
Over the next 18 months, the Blue Ridge Craft Trails will evolve to highlight more than 200 craft artisans and cultural sites across the region. Travelers will also get tips on rounding out their experiences with nearby foods, breweries, music, outdoor activities, scenic views and places to stay.
Since its inception in 2003, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership has supported all 25 counties of Western North Carolina by developing programming and initiatives to benefit rural communities through the creation of cultural trails, grants making, preservation projects, visitor services, and tourism marketing and promotion.