About Us

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Tucked in the ancient Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia (SWVA) 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 53 towns of the region, Friends of Southwest Virginia [501(c)(3)] and the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation (State Foundation) are 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.

 

CULTURAL HERITAGE: From the route of westward expansion along The Great Road to becoming the cradle of America’s tobacco and coal industries, the region has a vibrant and rich place in American history. 

 

NATURAL RESOURCES: We are enhancing opportunities for outdoor recreation in our mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes, and for the appreciation of the incredible diversity of plants and animals that make SWVA home. 

 

DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT: We are revitalizing our downtowns with artisan studios, coffee shops, community centers, gift, specialty, 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.

 

ARTS AND CRAFTS: An integrated organization, the ’Round the Mountain artisan network helps craftspeople build their business, learn new skills, and share their inspiration. The network promotes and markets artisans, studios, craft shops, farms, wineries, and more throughout the region.

 

 

MUSIC: Another key partner and separate 501(c)(3) organization, The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail connects nine major sites and dozens of affiliate venues where the region’s unique music can be heard. 

 

STORYTELLING: For a long time, Southwest Virginia had gone without a unified brand. Through an extremely detailed branding process, the region is sharing the refreshed brand with the world. 

 

As an introduction to it all, the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace {formerly Heartwood}, is a 54,000-square-foot regional gateway to the region for the world and serves as a visitor center, retail center for local crafts, music venue, and community space. 

 

Southwest Virginia: A great place to visit for a week’s vacation – or to make a home for a lifetime.

 

Southwest Virginia. We’re authentic. Distinctive. Alive. And a great place to visit for a week’s vacation – or to make a home for a lifetime with a new business. Click To Tweet

ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY

 

Southwest Virginia includes 19 counties, four independent cities, and 53 towns located on the southern and western border of Virginia. 

 

Its 8,600 square miles – more than a fifth of Virginia’s total and larger than eight US states – are located along mountain ridges and in fertile valleys, with two national parks, 11 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 more friendly. A premier place for outdoor 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 a variety of initiatives. The Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace (formerly Heartwood), The Crooked Road, and ’Round The Mountain, are a few that promote entrepreneurial and employment opportunities.

 

With the decline of the traditional industries of Southwest Virginia – agricultural tobacco, coal mining, and manufacturing – the Commonwealth of Virginia recognized the need for an organization to lead one aspect of the redevelopment of the region through a new focus on the creative economy. The General Assembly authorized the Foundation in 2008 to serve as this leader and coordinator of the creative economy. 

 

The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Commission, established in 2008 by the Virginia General Assembly and transitioned to the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation in 2011, works as the lead in developing and coordinating the creative economy in Southwest Virginia. Through a supporting non-profit, Friends of Southwest Virginia, businesses and individuals help artists, craftspeople, localities, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs mobilize and succeed.

 

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 the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace (formerly Heartwood) 
  • 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
Friends of Southwest Virginia is following recommendations from the Commonwealth and the World Health Organization to practice social distancing. All public meetings will be postponed until further notice.Access Regional Resources Here »
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