CAAR Real Estate Weekly
“These days, most folks don’t have a connection to how things are actually made,” laments textile artist Andrea Korotky. “They don’t know the ‘how’ of it.” A native New Yorker, Korotky moved to Charlottesville ten years ago. “There is so much artistic talent in this area,” she says, “because it is very civil and civilized and conducive for people creatively. People make things right here—gorgeous furniture, dishes, things you put on on a cold day.”
Indeed, one of the most appealing aspects of Central Virginia is its vibrant art life. Artists of all sorts populate studios in Charlottesville’s McGuffey Art Center and there are many galleries on and just off the Downtown Mall. There are also numerous galleries and studios nestled away in other towns and in the scenic Blue Ridge countryside. Now, there’s an Artisan Trail to guide visitors on their own art tour.
The Monticello Artisan Trail: Handcrafted and Locally Grown is just one component of the Virginia Artisan Trail Network Program, says Richard Christy, President of the Board of Directors of the official state Artisan Center of Virginia (ACV) in Waynesboro. “It gives a unique opportunity to meet the artisans who define Virginia’s vibrant heritage.”
The Trail meanders through Albemarle and Nelson Counties on peaceful country roads. Nearly 100 designated stops introduce visitors to art galleries, artisan studios, farms, markets and vineyards. Each site has met guidelines to ensure a good “handmade and locally grown” travel experience.
A detailed brochure with a map of the Monticello Trail is available at visitor centers. Many participants are “juried Virginia artisans,” the ACV standard of distinction recognizing the highest level of quality, creativity and workmanship. “Jurying is not a requirement for all the artisans on the trail,” says Sherri Smith, ACV Executive Director, “but they must welcome visitors with demonstrations, tours or items for sale.”
Also listed are galleries displaying works of multiple artists, agri-artisans such as cider-makers, breweries and wineries, historical points of interest, scenic byways, eateries and lodging. Since the map has color-coded listings in various categories, it’s easy to “group” visits. We can’t list every single one, so here are some thumbnail descriptions.
Textile artist Korotky’s studio (Site 2) is in Charlottesville where she works at her loom specializing in woven linens, blankets, wraps and wearables. She also creates crowns and poetic signs.
Site 6 is ACV president Christy’s own studio in Montebello, Nelson County, close to the Blue Ridge Parkway. “I’m preserving the art of handmade decoys,” he explains. “In the old days, ordinary people carved crude decoys using the materials they had at hand and mine are simplistic as theirs were.”
Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is home to C’ville Arts (Site 34), a co-op gallery with its signature outdoor mosaic sofa. It features 50-60 Virginia artisans who create a wide range of functional and decorative objects. There is no paid staff since the artists themselves—all juried—work together to operate the store. “We’ve existed since 1997,” notes fiber artist Gillian Ruffa, “and we’ve been on the Mall since 2001.”
About 40 juried artists comprise the Valley Green Gallery (Site 42) in Nellysford, Nelson County. Members must live in Virginia and work a day a month at the co-op. Some teach in their chosen fields ranging from photography to glass, wood, jewelry, pottery, musical recordings and more.
The Albemarle CiderWorks (Site 45) is near North Garden and is part of an artisan cider revival using traditional techniques. Cider was America’s staple beverage well into the 1800s and this cidery bottles both single-apple ciders and blends. They also offer workshops in cider making.
Site 53, the Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland, Nelson County, was named the 2010 Champion Brewery and Brewmaster in the Small Brewpub category by the Brewers Association – the “Olympics” of beer competition. They also serve trendy food in their dramatic new stone building, with outdoor seating in season.
The ACV Artisan Trail program receives support from the state’s Tourism Corporation, State Arts and Community Development organizations and local community partnerships and they are well worth seeking out in other parts of Virginia. “Our goal,” concludes President Christy, “is to continue to expand the program all across the Commonwealth.”
For more information
The Artisan Trail website – http://ArtisansCenterOfVirginia.org — has expanded information and links to the websites of many of the artisans with addresses, hours of operation, contact information and often photographs of the individual’s work.
The website’s map provides an approximation of various routes and includes addresses for GPS navigation, but we suggest you also take an official state road map. Some sites are open by appointment only, so it’s always a good idea to call ahead if you want to visit a specific artisan.
Marilyn and Glenn Pribus live in Albemarle County near Charlottesville and often travel the Monticello Artisan Trail. “It’s so much fun to actually speak with the various artists,” they report.