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A Flourishing of Arts in Floyd

artmusicideas2.jpgThis is the first installment of a three part reprint from a story that originally appeared in a Floyd Press special insert on March 27, 2008. A post about the process I went through writing this retrospective on Floyd arts can be found HERE.

Whether it’s food and shelter, or creative arts and entertainment, Floyd Countians have a long tradition of providing it for themselves. Although Floyd has been home to talented musicians, quilters, woodworkers, and resourceful types for many generations, the county has recently been experiencing a renaissance of creative arts.

Native Floydian and high school art teacher, Catherine Pauley doesn’t remember anything organized going on in Floyd in the area of fine arts in the late 1970’s when she and several others decided to start an art association, which would become The Old Church Gallery. She does remember their earliest efforts promoting the arts in Floyd as playful.

“We were doing sidewalk art and art shows on the courthouse lawn. We ran wire along metal posts and hung up paintings. Kids, adults, everyone made them,” Pauley recalled.

Around the same time that The Old Church Gallery was being formed, young artists and musicians, pursuing the self-sufficient lifestyle and natural beauty Floyd has to offer, began moving to the area. Adding their input to the existing creative culture, they developed markets that showcased their arts, such as The Barter Faire, a Renaissance style event that was once held yearly on the Pine Tavern lawn. The Annual Floyd County Arts and Crafts Festival – which started in the high school cafeteria and has since spread onto the grounds and elementary school – was also taking off during this time of seeding the arts.

Many of the homespun endeavors that groups began back then to highlight the arts have recently been coming to fruition or have spawned new growth. New venues and businesses related to the arts have been cropping up, more music and art classes are being taught, and downtown improvements and opportunities for entertainment are drawing more visitors to Floyd.

Jayn Avery has been making her living in ceramic arts for more than thirty years. She’s recently been able to retire from traveling long distances to craft shows, finding more market venues at home. Weekend treks to sell her wares at The Roanoke Farmer’s Market have proven successful.

“Since doing the Roanoke Market, my sales in Floyd have increased. It’s provided consistent exposure and a new clientèle. When people ask where they can get my work, I send them up to Floyd,” Avery said.

Avery’s lace impressed production pottery has always sold well at the New Mountain Mercantile, one of Floyd’s earliest shops to feature local arts and crafts. Her large hand built vessels and blue glazed heron sculptures were first exhibited at Floyd’s Jacksonville Center for the Arts, where she is an active board member.

“My higher end art pieces are selling in Floyd now, and they never used to,” Avery said. The range of interest in her art has also increased.

The Bell Gallery has sold pieces to people across the country,” she added.

Some artists, like Avery, work at their craft full-time out of their home studios. Others support themselves by combining their art with part time jobs. Still others wait till they retire to tap their creativity.

Bob Grubel, a founding member of the band Grace Note, supplements the income his music brings in with a job supporting individuals with disabilities. Over the years Grubel has recorded nearly a dozen tapes and CDs of his original music and the music of Grace Note. He sings and plays piano at local and regional venues and even finds time to keep a large garden, although he gave up his goats a decade ago when his music career started to take off.

“I enjoy wearing a different hat several times a day, going from music to supporting the individuals I work with, to farm activities,” Grubel said.

Grubel, who also performs at churches in the region, is set up to record music at his home. He also uses recording studios throughout the New River Valley.

“I love being in a community with so many musicians finding their niches,” he said.

Gretchen St. Lawrence, who relocated to Floyd with her husband David two years ago, is a late blooming artist, retired from years of working in the corporate world. The availability of art classes at Floyd’s Jacksonville Center was a factor in the St. Lawrence’s move to Floyd, but Gretchen says the main draw was the friendly and encouraging people. One of her first connections with Floyd artists was through The Floyd Figures Art Group, a non instructional art group that first began meeting in the early 1990’s and uses live models for figure drawing.

“Artists here foster each other. Everyone at the Floyd Figures group accepted me without question or judgment,” St. Lawrence said.

St. Lawrence, who is currently a member of Art Under the Sun – a grassroots art association that hosts a gallery and offers art classes – explained that the support of other artists helped her to feel comfortable as an artist. From that place of acceptance her work flourished.

“It just took off. People started commissioning me to do pet portraits,” she said.

Post note: The photo is of a Floyd sign in front of noteBooks and the Black Water Loft. Click HERE to continue this story.


Floyd sounds like such a wonderful place. As I've said before, if I didn't love the North Carolina mountains so much, I'd move to Floyd. It seems to me that not only are artists encouraged and nurtured, but people are accepted for who they are.

A very nice piece, Colleen. I look forward to future installments.

I remember buying a pot and a butter dish with the lacy effect. It was so original and pretty. I also bought a tape (back when they were tapes and not CD's) from Bob and loved his music. But I thought he played the guitar.
Great piece and boy is Floyd is moving up in the world. xo

I am glad Jane has to travel less to do shows, going to Roanoke is not so bad.. I have to travel to Roanoke often to make it work out financially to play music for a living. I love Floyd for it's art, music, and culture scene, but as you have stated, " just about every other person in Floyd is a musician, artist, or massage therapist !!", which makes for more competition to a limited number of people, but also is very inspiring to know so many talented people are around doing what they love. Also, Floyd's location also makes it a nice "home base" to reach out into the world from, I can reasonably do gigs in Blacksburg, Roanoke, Radford, yet get back home to a peaceful quiet place. I'm toying with the idea of expanding to Winston-Salem, Raleigh-Durham too...we'll see. Also Floyd attracts out of towner's who come for the rich diversity of culture, art, and music here, which really helps to boost the local economy. Floyd is good !!

It's good to hear from a working Floyd musician such as yourself, Joel. More on this subject tomorrow...

I was just in the New Mountain Mercantile, checking to see if Ed dropped by eggs off yet, and spent some time admiring Jayn's work. I have my eye on a butter dish. Do you still have yours, She?

I definitely need to travel more, Colleen. I think I'd fit in nicely here.

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