The town of West Jefferson was a host to a cluster meeting for Handmade in America, which brought small towns together to network and discuss issues facing their communities.
“Handmade in America is a regional nonprofit focusing on arts and crafts,” said Jane Lonon, director of the Ashe County Arts Council. “They have a real vested interest in what happens in a small town, because it is important for the quality of live in the community.”
The meeting brought together leaders from West Jefferson, Todd, Bakersville and Crossnore. Handmade in America is based in Asheville and serves the Western North Carolina region.
Lonon said the nonprofit hosts these cluster meetings two times a year. The fall meeting is for some of the communities while the spring meeting involves all towns Handmade in America serves.
“(Handmade in America) was started 15 years ago as a project to help communities revitalize,” she said.
West Jefferson was one of the first towns to join and has developed a long, successful relationship with the nonprofit.
Handmade in America has been responsible for several community projects, most notably the murals throughout West Jefferson and the county’s barn quilts.
“We are unusual,” Lonon said. “We are the poster child of how this is supposed to work.”
The West Jefferson Community Partnership (WJCP) had many of their members at the event to help discuss the town’s changes in depth.
The organization consists of representatives from the Arts Council, Ashe County Public Library, Ashe County Chamber of Commerce, West Jefferson TDA, West Jefferson Business Association, Christmas in July organizers, the Ashe County Farmer’s Market and town officials. Other organizations such as the Florence Thomas Art School and Keep Ashe Beautiful participate as well.
“These are the people that have a vested interest in what happens throughout West Jefferson,” Lonon said.
The WJCP meets on the fourth Friday of every month and is responsible for events such as the Backstreet Concert Series and Hometown Christmas.
WJCP used the cluster meeting as an opportunity to show the other communities the new streetscape, which was based off a design study done 10 years ago from North Carolina State University.
“To have the other towns here to see how the work came to fruition was pretty neat for them,” Lonon said.