Valle Crucis Folk Art Center

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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