BRAHM: The Next Generation
"It's extremely important to us," Herb Cohen said.
He, along with his partner, Jose Fumero, have spearheaded the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (BRAHM) effort.
"This area needs this," he said.
"And it's going to be beautiful," Fumero added.
On paper, the effort started in 1999 in response to a donation: The work of one of Blowing Rock's most famous artists and residents, the late Elliott Daingerfield.
In actuality, senior artists like Cohen and Fumero have been pushing the community toward the facility for decades. "And now it's going to open next year," Cohen said.
With a mission of promoting the visual arts, history and heritage of the mountains through educational programs, exhibitions and significant permanent collections, BRAHM was incorporated in 2001 and broke ground last June. It's set to open in fall of 2011.
"It's based in Blowing Rock, but it's for the whole High Country," trustee Chelsea Garrett said.
Garrett represents the next generation of museum patrons, something museum officials hope to capture with the installation of BRAHM's brand new Young Professionals organization.
"It's about getting the next generation involved," BRAHM's Sunny Townes said.
As the older generation moves on, it's the new generation that will be responsible for the future of the museum.
"It's up to us," she said, and last Thursday, BRAHM Young Professionals held its inaugural meeting.
"The primary purpose, of course, will be to make money," she said.
Young Professionals will pay membership dues and fundraise to continue the museum's mission, not only of being a house for High Country culture, but also as a community space. And it's going to be big.
Contracted by Boone Construction Company, the facility is being built with mountain materials like stone and wood with colors that blend with the green space. The three-level building is approximately 21,000 square feet at the corner of South Main Street and Chestnut Street in downtown Blowing Rock, across from Rumple Presbyterian and St. Mary of the Hills churches and will contain five main galleries, a large multipurpose community meeting room, a conference room, 2,500 square feet of educational and workshop space, a library, an historic objects gallery, an orientation theater, administrative offices, reception areas, storage space for art and historical objects, a gift shop and an adjacent outdoor sculpture garden. The museum won't just host a permanent collection. It will also house touring exhibits.
It's coming along faster than you might think, despite a harsh winter.
"The structural steel has been set on the first and second floors ... they're getting prepared to pour the top floor," Townes said. "Once they get the top floor poured, then they're going to be able to start setting the roof tresses.
"They've also poured the footers for the gift shop. You can actually start to see what the building is going to look like when it's finished ... Everybody feels like they're going to be able to make up for the time they lost this winter and proceed on schedule to open in the fall of 2011."
That doesn't leave a lot of time, and there is a lot to do if BRAHM is going to fulfill one of its primary functions: "To promote education," Garrett said.
The museum is unique in that it plans to directly engage kids with artwork, both to foster a child's interest in museums and to fill a void in arts funding due to state budget cuts in schools. The Young at Art program, in place for three years, already helps supplement art education already in place at Blowing Rock Elementary School.
"When we have the fabulous education space ... we'll expand to on-site classes," Townes said. "At this point, we're just going out to the schools. We're also working on programs to supplement other standards of learning with history and art... So, from the get-go we can start planning field trips and that sort of thing to help local schools supplement our classes."
And it's not just about children.
"We are going to be doing lots of programming for community members of all ages - classes for kids in the evenings ... on snow days and in the summer, as well as stuff for families, family activities throughout the year and classes for adults," she said.
Other kinds of educational enrichment like lectures and visiting artists will also be the norm, and the Young Professionals hope to be a valuable asset, not just by attending the events but by promoting them and helping bring in new lecturers.
Modeled after the Mint Young Professionals in Charlotte, BRAHM Young Professionals aims both at cultivating the community's appreciation for art and creating another social outlet for community members.
"It should be a way to meet likeminded adults in the High Country," Townes said, a tricky feat in an area ripe with college students and retirees.
"We really want this to be a success," she said, and in order for it to grow, it needs a membership base. For information on becoming a ground-floor member of BRAHM Young Professionals, or for other ways to help the BRAHM effort, contact Townes at (email@example.com)
For more information, check out http://www.blowingrockmuseum.org.
June 6: Member's Appreciation Day, 5 p.m.
June 9: Volunteer Coffee, 10 a.m.
June 10: Board of Trustees Meeting, 4:30 p.m.
June 13: Art in the Park
June 17: Third Thursday Lecture, "Making Art- Left Brain, Right Brain... Whole Brain," 4-5:30 p.m.