Progress-The Next Step

Block Number: 126

By Ginger Todd

“PROGRESS – THE NEXT STEP”, BLOCK #126 on the Quilt Trail

The establishment of the Arrowhead Artists and Artisans League (also known as A3L) began a little over two years ago and obtaining its goals has been a step-by-step realization. Artists in the area organized the first step and procured the incorporation of the League, a North Carolina non-profit corporation.

Hosted by the League, the quilt block ‘Progress – The Next Step’, now joins the McDowell Quilt Trail and represents yet another productive step for the artisan community, the Town of Old Fort and McDowell County. Their goal and desire is to share the talents of the community, as well as find new and different ways to benefit it and preserve the area’s rich heritage. The original small group of eight has grown to 54 artisans and membership is broad, with 34% being outside McDowell County.

These locally talented people made arrangements with the historic Old Fort Train Station to host a monthly display of their various creations. The event is named “ArtsMart” and takes place the first Saturday of each month with free admission to the public. Live demonstrations are a part of the program and may feature such crafts as metal, woodworking, jewelry, pottery, painting, sculpture or basket and wreath creations. Many unique gifts are offered for sale to aide in supporting ArtsMart and our local crafters.

Another step in the evolution of the League was to include the Battle of the Brushes, held each September. Working closely with the local Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Department, painters from outside McDowell County are invited to participate in this event which features plein painting, French for outdoor or open air artwork. Artists from all over Western North Carolina meet to paint sites of the great outdoors on location in and around the Old Fort area.

More recently the League has teamed up with the East of Asheville Studio Tours to include Old Fort along with Black Mountain, Swannanoa, Fairview and others. Referred to as E.A.S.T., these self-guided tours, which take place in the Spring and Fall of each year, allow one to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Western North Carolina, explore communities and get to know and meet the artists in their studios.

Through gracious anonymous donations and support from the outside, an affordable studio space will now be available for our artists to have the opportunity to create and display their works to the public all under one roof. The League has leased space from the Parker Hosiery building located at 78 South Catawba Avenue in Old Fort.

The building, originally an apartment house, was purchased by Edgar Parker, Jr. in 1946 when he established and incorporated his private company manufacturing leg-wear. Remodeling a portion of the building has been taking place to provide individual studios, gallery wall space and a classroom. Part of the improvement and renovation includes the installation of new clear glass windows.
An interesting note is that the original roadside windows of the factory had been bricked over sometime in the 1960’s. There are two stories as to why this was done. One is that the Town of Old Fort was holding street dances and the plant, running three shifts, felt employees were being distracted from their work by watching the dance festivities outside. Another is that it was to protect the workers from brick throwing rioters during the time of Viet Nam War turmoil. The League anticipates completion of the building refurbishment by April of this year and plans a grand opening celebration late that month.

The League wanted to host a quilt block not only to identify the new Studio/Gallery, but to make it a part of the community and attract craftsmen as well as tourists. Block #126 was installed on Friday, February 8, 2012, by Trail volunteers Mike Lucas and Jack Raker aided by John Sullivan, Vice President of the League. Susan Taylor, President of the League, and Helen Sullivan, Treasurer, accepted the Certificate of Authenticity from Quilt Trail Chairwoman Jill Lucas; also present for the event were several other Arrowhead League members.

Located at 78 South Catawba Avenue, “Progress – The Next Step”, is a 6’ x 6’ block that sits on the diagonal (diamond) and is centered over the entrance door. The design is that of four arrowheads replicating the well-known Old Fort monument and represents the Arrowhead Artists and Artisans League name. Each arrowhead points outward to the four corners of the block and are painted in what resembles an argyle design. In the center of the block is the traditional, iconic wooden palette and brush, as used by artists in the “old days”. The bright array of colors incorporated in the block display all the many possible blends that may be obtained by the artist’s hand.

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