By Jesse Wood
Aug. 15, 2014. It looks like the Watauga County Arts Council will have a home in the old New River Behavioral HealthCare building for the foreseeable future as the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, at its first August meeting, granted the arts organization a five-year lease of the property for $1 per year.
The commissioners will formally approve of the modified lease next Tuesday.
“While we were hoping for nine years, the Watauga County Arts Council is nevertheless very grateful to the Watauga County Commissioners for granting us five years,” WCAC Executive Director Cherry Johnson posted on Facebook. “It’s kind of nice to know that we can focus on growing our programming for the next five years instead of worrying about where we’ll be located. If you were one of those who contacted them to express your support, we are very grateful to you, too!”
After two years of the WCAC home being in limbo, Johnson’s excitement is understandable.
The council exited the Jones House in 2012, and then moved its offices into a three-room suite in the Appalachian Enterprise Center. After management changed at the AEC several months later, the council had to consolidate into one room.
In the spring of 2013, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners granted a two-year lease at $1 per year for the New River building. While Johnson was seeking a five-year lease, the commissioners at the time were reluctant to tie up the property that was on the market a year ago for $625,000. Last year during a board retreat, County Manager Deron Geouque said that no one submitted any offers for the property and it was sitting vacant.
As Commissioner Perry Yates said last spring: “$625,000 is a lot of money, but anytime you let a building sit by itself it just runs down with no activity.”
Because a notice of the lease has to be published for at least 10 days before it can be adopted, the commissioners will now be able to approve the lease at its next board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 19. The commissioners unanimously agreed to the decision to modify the lease on Aug. 5.
The building, which is located at the corner of State Farm Road and Shadowline Drive, is the home of the Blue Ridge ArtSpace. The Blue Ridge ArtSpace host art galleries, creative classes, a gift shop and plenty more in conjunction with the Michael Patricelli Craft Enrichment Program at ASU and the ASU Community School of Music.