With less than two months remaining before its grand opening, things are shaping up around the new Blowing Rock Art and History Museum.
Things are so close to completion that BRAHM director Joanne Mitchell felt it was time to start showing off the building.
Mitchell conducted a tour of the new museum last Thursday, Aug. 4. The afternoon tour was for invited guests, including Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence and town manager Scott Hildebran. Also attending the tour were Blowing Rock commissioners Doug Matheson, Tommy Klutz, Albert Yount and Phillip Pickett.
Before taking the commissioners and visitors on a tour of the new BRAHM building, Mitchell told them about the joint venture between BRAHM and the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority and Visitors Center. The BRTDA will move from its current location on Valley Boulevard into the first floor of the new BRAHM building when it opens in October.
"The Blowing Rock TDA estimates it had 14,000 visitors last year at the visitors center," Mitchell said. "The museum budgeted for 5,500 visitors a year. With the visitors center now in the museum building, we plan to far exceed that number."
One of the first things that you notice the giant open area in the museum entrance is stunning woodwork, featuring 16-inch Douglas fir beams. The framing was created by Harmony Timber Works, a firm located in Watauga County.
According to Mitchell, the first exhibit that the new museum will host will be dedicated to the works of Elliott Daingerfield, a 20th century impressionist who maintained a home and studio in Blowing Rock. The exhibit will be spread over three separate galleries and will include 86 paintings plus items from the artist's career.
The Daingerfield exhibit will represent a partnership between BRAHM and the Blowing Rock Historical Society, which now maintains Daingerfield's Edgewood Cottage, located in front of the new museum on Main Street.
In addition to the six exhibition galleries, the new museum will have a reception area, gift shop, classrooms, storage areas, a large meeting room, office spaces, a kitchen area and a kids education center.
"BRAHM has leased out the gift shop for the first two years," Mitchell said. "That will give us an opportunity to get the other areas of the museum running smoothly before we decide whether we want to run the gift shop."
With its cloud shaped lighting fixtures and murals of mountains on the walls, the kids education center is a delightfully whimsical space, yet one with all of the tools for teaching art, including sinks at various heights.
"We will continue to support the art classes at Blowing Rock School," Mitchell said, "and we will have scholarship opportunities for kids who want to take classes here."
Mitchell added that the education center would also be available for camps and private birthday parties.
Another area that can be leased out for private functions is the meeting room on the third floor. With a capacity of 200 people and a beautiful view of St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church across the street, it can host meetings, wedding receptions or other events. It is also next to the building's kitchen for easy access during catered events.
"We visited 20 to 24 museum to find out what works and what doesn't," Mitchell said. "We knew a multi-purpose room like this would be attractive to a number of groups, and we already have reservations for a couple of corporate retreats."
According to Mitchell, everything in the building is on schedule for its planned Oct. 1 grand opening.