Funds Support Blue Ridge Craft Trails Development on the Qualla Boundary
The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership (BRNHA) has been awarded a $67,000 grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. The funds support the development of BRNHA’s Blue Ridge Craft Trails on the Qualla Boundary and in Graham, Swain, Macon, Haywood and Jackson counties.
The innovative program will promote the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and regional artisans. It is designed to support the sustainability of craft artists and galleries, increase cultural tourism, and expand participants’ business skills through training sessions.
“We are so grateful to the Foundation for recognizing that this project is viable and timely,” said Angie Chandler, executive director of BRNHA. “This support helps BRNHA provide a regional economic development strategy for our region’s craft and tourism sectors and emphasize the region’s Cherokee heritage as part of the overall effort.”
The Blue Ridge Craft Trails is a system of drivable trails for 25 Western North Carolina counties featuring 200 craft sites. It highlights the region as a vibrant center for traditional and contemporary handmade crafts by promoting craft artisans, arts organizations and heritage tourism.
“Craft is a growth industry for Western North Carolina and has established the region as one of the leading centers for craft production and education in the United States,” explained Chandler. “Yet, there is no strategic, region-wide marketing of craft to visitors. This project aims to strengthen the craft sector of our region’s economy by creating a coordinated and compelling regional craft brand and trail infrastructure to guide consumers to craft artists and experiences.”
Other major support for this initiative is provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission, The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, and the Perry N. Rudnick Endowment Fund of the Community Foundation of Henderson County. BRNHA will continue to seek additional funding to complete the project in all 25 Western North Carolina counties it serves.
Development of the Blue Ridge Craft Trails to date includes a new website (blueridgecrafttrails.com), marketing research and planning, listening sessions, a pilot project encompassing Clay, Cherokee and Henderson counties, map brochures, a rack card, and the launch of a local grassroots marketing initiative. Over the next year, 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.
To learn more about the Blue Ridge Craft Trails, visit BlueRidgeCraftTrails.com.