Valle Crucis Folk Art Center

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The Folk Art Center in Valle Crucis North Carolina will give visitors
an opportunity to explore the High Country's rich history of folk
arts. What better place to do so than the 143-year-old Hard Taylor
House?

Area businessman Mike Hulbert leased the house with a vision: to
establish a gallery and emporium solely for the area's best and
brightest folk artists, whose skills vary from goldsmithing to
quilting to banjo crafting.

Featured artists at the center can teach, sell, or teach and sell
their crafts, allowing visitors to bring home authentic goods and a
bit of knowledge.

"Basically, if we can find a folk artist to teach it, we will offer
it," Hulbert said.


Hulbert said that the historic 14-room house provides a perfect
backdrop for the center, each room containing separate or multiple
venues.

Its picturesque surrounding doesn't hurt, either.

"There's a lot of history in this place, which is why I've been
looking at it for a while," said Hulbert of the house, which is
considered to be the oldest in Valle Crucis, located across the way
from Mast General Store.

It was also the first house to feature closets and indoor plumbing
in
the community. Plus, its 18-feet deep well still works.

The center will open May 1, though vendors will start moving in this
Saturday.

"We'll probably have a few people open a few days before [May 1],
but
just to get them acclimated to the building," Hulbert said.

In fact, the goldsmith has already started to set up shop. Hulbert
said that one of the featured golden items will be a handcrafted
cross with "Valle Crucis" carved in it.

The house has an operational kitchen with modern appliances, but the
food stocked there will be anything but modern.

"There'll be a variety of all kinds of stuff that'd be in a
traditional farmhouse kitchen," Hulbert said, mentioning items such
as sauerkraut and handcrafted coffee.

If a visitor's appetite isn't quite there yet, they can explore one
of the house's many rooms, soon to be filled with galleries and
selling venues.

The house is an approximate 4,500 square feet, with about 400 lineal
feet of wall space.

Hulbert expects some of the crafts within will include work by
painters, sculptors and photographers, along with the more
traditional basket weaving, candle making and blacksmithing.

A "folk music historian" will be on the premises at all times,
Hulbert said. Edward Wilkie, owner of Strings music store in
downtown
Boone, is planning to relocate some of his traditional instruments,
such as banjos, fiddles and classic guitars, to the folk center.

"We're hoping to create a concept," Hulbert said. "We decided to
work
it more as a landmark destination that features the best the area
has
to offer."

Many of the venues will feature workshops or classes, Hulbert said,
such as a mountain dulcimer workshop with award-winning dulcimer
maker and performer Joe Collins, already scheduled for June 19 and
Aug. 7.

Following the classes, Collins will perform a concert at the folk
center's outdoor stage. In May, Hulbert plans to bring numerous
bluegrass and folk musicians to the stage for regular weekend
performances.

"We'll get some picnic tables out there, and I encourage people to
just come out and listen to music," Hulbert said. "They don't have
to
do any shopping."

The stage is only the beginning of some of the exterior amenities
the
folk art center will offer.

For one, the deck will be lined with rocking chairs for visitors to
sit a spell.

A local orchard is considering opening shop in the house's side
building for a "Goodness Grows in North Carolina" apple and cider
outlet. In regards to fresh goods, the center will feature a
Saturday
morning "tailgate market" for local farm products, arts, crafts,
antiques and collectibles.

The tailgate market will run from 7 to 11 a.m. every Saturday from
May through October.

The grounds are filled with lush greenery, and are suitable for the
center's Heirloom Garden Club, which will grow and develop display
herb gardens, along with transplanting native plants and flowers to
the landscape.

Garden club members will receive discounts on the folk center's
items, and can attend free classes with master gardeners.

"Anyone who wants to join that, we're ready," Hulbert said. "We've
got plenty of gardens to play with."

The greenery surrounds a gazebo, ideal for weddings, Hulbert said,
and adjacent to a pond filled with bass and sunfish. Come October,
visitors can tread through a pumpkin patch, perhaps in search of the
Great Pumpkin.

In December, wreath-makers and Christmas tree growers will plant
their roots at the center, providing seasonal offerings for
visitors.

Prior to the center, the house had sat vacant for two years.

It was once home to Shops at the Farmhouse, an emporium shopping
center with imported gifts, and afterwards, the Farmhouse Craft
Shop.

Hulbert said that the primary difference between the Folk Art Center
and other mountain emporiums is that the center will solely sell
homemade, local products…with the exception of a few sundry items in
the gift shop, such as drinks, film, batteries and postcards.

Hulbert said that the center is currently seeking folk artists and
crafters "in all mediums" to participate in the galleries or venues,
or to teach classes.

"We want people to get up and be involved in anything they can,"
Hulbert said. "I want the center to eventually take on a life of its
own."

For more information, call 828-262-0006 or 828-729-3606.

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