Tucked in the ancient Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia is a vibrant culture of tradition, food, music and craft. It’s a region of spectacular views, abundant outdoor recreation, and rich natural resources. Rooted deep in history, this culture is authentic… distinctive… alive.
Together with the 19 counties, four cities and 54 towns of the region, we’re building a sustainable creative economy that preserves, protects and interprets our rich heritage and natural resources, creates jobs, and welcomes both visitors and new businesses to our region every single day.
But that’s just the start…
Heartwood, a 29,000-square-foot artisan gateway near the state border just off Interstate 81, introduces Southwest Virginia (SWVA) to the world and serves as a visitor center, retail center for local crafts, music venue and community space, and a restaurant focused on regional flare and flavors.
We are enhancing opportunities for outdoor recreation in our mountains, forests, rivers and lakes – and for appreciation of the incredible diversity of plants and animals that make SWVA home. The region has over $6 million of outdoor recreation projects planned or in operation.
We are revitalizing our downtowns with artisan studios, coffee shops, community centers, gift, specialty and antique shops and more. There are cultural centers where people can hear live music, find one-of-a-kind treasures, talk to interesting folks and get a home-cooked meal.
For a long time, Southwest Virginia had gone without an identity. Through an extremely detailed branding process, the region is undergoing a regional refresh to help Southwest Virginians love their own land while sharing this brand with the world.
A partner organization, the ‘Round the Mountain artisan network helps crafts people build their businesses, learn new skills and share their inspiration. The network publishes 15 artisan trail maps guiding visitors to studios, craft shops, farms, wineries and more throughout the region and maintains a directory of artisans, craft venues and artisanal agriculture and winemaking.
Another partner group, The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Music Heritage Trail connects eight major sites where our region’s unique music can be heard. Music jams – informal chances to get together and play – happen almost every night of the week across the region. There are festivals, concerts and competitions every weekend in the spring, summer and autumn to celebrate the birth of American music in these mountains.
Southwest Virginia includes 19 counties and four independent cities located on the southern and western border of Virginia.
Its 8,600 square miles – more than a fifth of Virginia’s total – is located along mountain ridges and in fertile valleys, with two national parks, nine state parks and over a thousand square miles of national and state forests.
It’s where you’ll find a culture of music and craft that is authentic, distinctive and alive. A natural landscape that is breathtaking in its magnitude and scope. A place where the pace of life is slower and people are friendly. A premiere place for recreation of all kinds.
By capitalizing on the unique qualities of our region, Southwest Virginia utilizes its cultural and natural assets to build a comprehensive, long-term, sustainable economy through initiatives like Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway, The Crooked Road, ‘Round The Mountain and related cultural heritage organizations and venues that promote entrepreneurial and employment opportunities.
The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Commission, established in 2008 by the Virginia General Assembly, works as the lead in developing a creative economy in Southwest Virginia. In 2011, the Commission became the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation. Through a supporting non-profit, the Friends of Southwest Virginia, businesses and individuals help artists, craftspeople, localities, nonprofits and entrepreneurs mobilize and succeed.
The creative economy movement is defined by innovative business development techniques finding success based on novel imaginative qualities that no longer rely on the limited resources of land, labor and capital. From the arts and music of the region to cultural goods and services capitalized through tourism to research and development, the joint work of the Foundation and the non-profit is revolutionizing the rural economic development system of Southwest Virginia and providing thousands of new jobs to the people of this region.
A multifaceted plan identifies the cultural and natural assets of the region; coordinates initiatives, organizations and venues engaged in cultural and natural heritage toward more efficient operations for all partner organizations; and develops a comprehensive strategy and capital improvements plan to maximize the impact of state investments in this significant restructuring effort.
Key initiatives include:
- Branding and marketing Southwest Virginia to the world as a distinct culture and destination
- Developing and sustaining Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway
- Expanding outdoor recreation development initiatives and marketing throughout the region
- Planning and implementation of downtown revitalization throughout the region to instill a high quality of life within our communities and promote them to the world for a broad spectrum of economic development opportunities
The Friends of Southwest Virginia is supported through a regional partnership program of the 19 counties, four cities and 54 towns of Southwest Virginia; while funding from the many communities varies, support across the region for a single front in economic redevelopment is unified.
Funding partners include the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, Appalachian Regional Commission, U.S. Economic Development Administration, and several private foundations.