Southwest Virginia Cultural Center and Marketplace

First Stop to Discover Southwest Virginia

The Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace is your gateway and introduction to discovering the unique people, places, and stories of the most beautiful region in America.

 

Tucked in the ancient Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia is a vibrant culture of tradition, food, music and craft. It’s a region of spectacular views, abundant outdoor recreation, and rich natural resources. Rooted deep in history, this culture is authentic… distinctive… alive.

 

Your welcome mat to this vibrant region, the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace {formerly Heartwood} is a 29,000 center that introduces Southwest Virginia (SWVA) to the world and serves as a visitor center, retail center for local crafts, music venue and community space.

Discover Our Marketplace

A soaring space retailing the art and craft of over 180 artisans from Southwest Virginia who have been juried by fellow artisans. From traditional pottery and quilting to modern paintings and glasswork, you’ll learn the stories of our traditional art and explore over 5,000 pieces for sale. Two spaces feature rotating exhibits that showcase the best of Southwest Virginia’s masterpiece artisan network.

Explore Our Visitor Center

From a centerpiece hand carved wooden map weaving the stories of 19 counties and four cities, you’ll discover the hidden backroads and undiscovered treasures of Appalachia waiting to welcome you warmly.

Indulge in Our Cafe

Sourcing 90% of all our products from the region, the SWVA Cafe and Mountain Brew Bar serves up homemade fare representative of the region. Take a break a sip away on over 25 different award-winning regional wines and beers.

Listen to the Sounds of a Region

Experience the birthplace of American Country music at the headquarters of The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Daily, you can view over 10 videos in our experiential theatre, pick away the day on our traditional porch stage, or learn the stories of music throughout the region through rotating displays. Every thursday night and several other nights a week, live music takes the center stage and showcases the traditional and mountain music of the region.

First Stop for a Creative Economy

Southwest Virginia Cultural Center and Marketplace is the gateway to Southwest Virginia’s rich culture and creative economy. Here you can see the work of regional artisans and musicians and find out about Southwest Virginia’s history, heritage, outdoor recreation and scenic beauty via stories and first-person narratives.

 

But it’s much more than a visitor and sales center. It’s the keystone in our effort to build a regional economy focused on our cultural heritage and natural beauty. We’re revitalizing downtowns as cultural centers and developing historic sites and outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the region. Artisan studios, cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, music venues and outfitters spring up nearby to enrich the experience of both visitors and the folks who make their home here. We’re making sure the world knows what a special place this is – and providing the tools to plan a vacation – or a lifetime.

 

All of this adds up to jobs and profits based on assets that can never be depleted or outsourced.

 

Efforts to build Southwest Virginia’s creative economy are the work of the Southewest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation, appointed by the General Assembly in 2008, Friends of Southwest Virginia, a 501(c)(3), and ‘Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network. Partners include the Virginia Department of Housing and Community DevelopmentVirginia Tourism Corporation and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Resources.

History: Our Roots as Heartwood

Heartwood opened in 2011 as the gateway for the creative economy in Southwest Virginia. The center was conceived to showcase and sell the work of regional artisans and musicians and to interpret Southwest Virginia’s history, heritage, outdoor recreation and scenic beauty via stories and first-person narratives to inspire travel to other parts of the region.

 

The facility was constructed and has been operated by three joint entities: Friends of Southwest Virginia, a 501c3 community development non-profit; the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation; and ‘Round the Mountain, Southwest Virginia’s 501c3 non-profit artisan network. Funding partners included the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission and Appalachian Regional Commission. Partners include the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Resources.

 

The original model of operation is four part: Retail, Restaurant, Music Venue and Visitor Center.

 

Retail: Over 180 artisans throughout SWVA have been juried into the facility over the past eight years. During the course of Heartwood’s history over $5.5 million dollars of art, craft, regional food products, wine and beer have been sold to support small business in SWVA.

 

Restaurant: The restaurant originally opened as a cafeteria style buffet. Within a year of operation, this was evolved into a full-service, fine-dining restaurant. The restaurant has continued to evolve and most recently featured an Appalachian style menu featuring 65% local products. Despite quality food and service, the restaurant has struggled to sustain itself.

 

Music Venue: Heartwood was designed with soaring architecture to be the most acoustically beautiful facility in the region. Regular music is held once per week on Thursday nights with occasional special events and rentals to the public.

 

Visitor Center: Originally conceived as the gateway to the region, the lobby of the facility is designed with brochure racks and numerous touch screens with information, websites, and slideshows.

Premise for Renewal

 

After a steady decline since opening, Heartwood visitation has continued to decrease consistently over the last year. Heartwood saw negative visitation in 2018 over 2017 with December reflecting the largest decline. Despite initial operational projections, the operations of Heartwood have not been sustainable to this point due to multiple issues within the operational structure. Sustainability is key and essential to the future sustainability of the entire organization as it has the potential to be the centerpiece of the regional mission, but is currently the largest consumer of capital within the budget.

 

In early 2018, the largest funder of the development of Heartwood, The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, offered Friends of SWVA the opportunity to contract with GENEDGE, a public resource to help large businesses and industries innovate, compete, and grow throughout the Commonwealth, to analyze the business and operational model of Heartwood through strategic facilitation. This process consisted of 9 facilitated sessions of staff, board members, stakeholders and other key individuals to work through a CoreValue identification and planning process. Leadership and stakeholders have invested roughly 32 hours of meetings to reach a new operational model. On December 13, 2018, the Friends of SWVA Board of Directors and the SWVA CHF unanimously approved eight (8) Bold Moves to reorganize the operations of Heartwood and reestablish the facility as a regional center for the creative economy.

What is Renewed?

 

An expanded focus on the artisans and connecting the facility with them. This includes expanded space for retailing and exhibiting art and craft, increased attention to connecting the facility to other arts facilities through SWVA, and more opportunities for artisans to interact with the public through the facility.

 

A commitment to quality service and experience for both artisans and customers. Under the new operational model, the facility, ‘Round the Mountain, and Friends of Southwest Virginia is consolidated and managed by the same staff for the first time in history.

 

An expanded visitor center with additional brochure and display space. The centerpiece of the visitor center is a new custom designed map with each city and county formed from historic word from their communities. A companion guide book details the history of each piece of precious wood and encourages visitors to explore the region.

 

An overhaul of The Crooked Road room with a new immersive video theatre that allows visitors to experience the music of SWVA any time the facility is open to the public. This space also features new exhibits and displays about music history.

 

Incorporation of the Southwest Virginia Outdoors brand, outdoor anchor areas and businesses into the facility through eight new anchor area displays that will be debuting over the next two years.

 

A reinvention of the restaurant to serve only from the SWVA Mountain Brew Bar and support regional restaurants, caterers, and food trucks at regular weekly events and special events. The new restaurant model is sourcing 85% of products from Southwest Virginia and retailing a wide selection of regionally made products, wines and beers.
New hours! To better fit the needs of the traveling and local public, the facility is now be open Monday – Saturday from 11am – 7pm and Sundays from 11am – 3pm.

The Name

 

Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace was selected by the boards for the following reasons:

 

SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA:
The name leads with the region, this creates an immediate connection between the facility and the region which it serves.

 

CULTURAL CENTER:
The facility serves as the center of the creative economy and tells the story of the people of Southwest Virginia. With the refreshed focus on the complete story of music, arts, outdoor recreation, downtown development, and complete communities, this term reflects the center as a place for storytelling and conveying the need to further discover the culture of the region.

 

MARKETPLACE:
Previously, there was no indicator in the name that there is a retail component to Heartwood when the majority of space in the facility is dedicated to retailing artwork. This clarification simply and easily indicates to a traveler to bring their pocketbook as they visit the facility.