Community and Education Meet Appalachian’s Roots at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum

Published Monday, April 23, 2018 at 7:41 am

Located on 159 Chestnut Street in Downtown Blowing Rock

By Alexandria Lawrence and Megan Mansfield

Experience the history and culture of Appalachia at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (BRAHM) where community and education meet in the heart of downtown Blowing Rock. Located on 159 Chestnut Street, BRAHM is in a prime location for community outreach programs and for hosting special events for its members. To learn more about the museum and its events, we spoke with Willard Watson, the Program and Outreach Director for the BRAHM and Appalachian State University alumnus.

As their plaque states, The Blowing Rock Art and History Museum was established in 1999 after Daingerfield’s art was gifted to the museum. Thanks to continued member donations, they were able to move into their current, eco-friendly building in 2011. On the museum’s property is the home that Elliot Daingerfield resided in while he worked on his art; a statue of him painting faces St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church across the street. Ever since then, the museum works to promote the art, history, and heritage of Appalachia that sets the region apart from the rest.

In order to ensure that this goal is met, BRAHM established itself as a non-profit institution that runs off of the donations of visitors and supporters who strive to cultivate Appalachia’s history as much as the museum does. With the help of more than 800 volunteers in 2016, BRAHM is running smoothly at a low cost of entry for the public. A general admission ticket costs seven dollars; seniors, members, active military, and students can enter for five dollars, and WIC and EBT cardholder entries are always free. The ticket costs help keep the museum running so that donations can be put toward purchasing new artwork and supporting the community.

All over the museum are donation boxes with signs about how the donations are used—a five- dollar contribution can provide a scholarship for a child to attend an engaging, hands-on art class. Ten dollars can allow an entire family to attend a musical or theatrical performance. Twenty dollars can purchase art supplies for an entire children’s art class. Thirty dollars can sponsor a young adult through an interactive art workshop.

BRAHM strives to bring the Appalachia community together through several exhibitions on display throughout the year. The museum displays five to six galleries with some permanament and interchangeable exhibitions typically on display for two to six months on constant rotation. The museum strives to maintain and preserve the artwork through sealed vaults with climate control capabilities for exhibitions not currently on rotation.

Smithsonian exhibition “The Way We Worked” is currently on exhibit from now until Apr. 28 showcasing the American workforce history and culture. Inspired by that, The Way Watauga Works Photography Competition was held from Jan. 1st to Mar. 2nd. to capture the essence of the Wataugans at work photographed by the local Wataugans. Contest winners will be announced and their artwork will be displayed in the BRAHM.

BRAHM also strives to take a social initiative by shedding light on underrepresented communities within the Appalachian community, specifically the Afro-Appalachia. BRAHM has made a commitment to speak up for the unspoken community through artistic representation from that community.

Every week, many gather for Thursday Art and Culture (TAC) talks about the Appalachian culture and community. Other programs are provided as well. Scholars and Scones is held partnering with a local coffee shop, Hatchett coffee, for a more relaxed setting to continue the open discussion for learning. In honor of the museum, special blends have been named Daingerfield and BRAHM Lullaby blends. Also included in the arts, Movies at the Museum are held every week on Thursdays at 6 p.m. with a discussion following the showing.

Other art programs are available, such as Cork and Canvas, where many gather for a wine and canvas painting session at nights. There are several art programs for young children, such as afterschool programs like Doodlebug Club, standing as a youth art education after school program with the Blowing Rock school.

“I love seeing people enjoy themselves, building relationships with the community, program enjoyment, generations coming back as a call to their heritage, and patrons having a connection to feel something at the intersection of art and culture,” Willard Watson said.

Watson had his own call to his heritage at the museum as his family heirlooms were once on display at the BRAHM. Willard’s grandfather’s, Willard Watson I, mountain toys were on display to represent the history of toys and in the last century. Watson shared with us this emotional connection to the exhibition as well as the museum itself seeing the Watsons from Deep Gap being represented on display for the entire community to observe.

When asked about the goals for BRAHM in the upcoming year, the goal is to “incorporate more diversity and inclusion within the museum, target a younger audience, and to grow the endowment,” Watson said.

The annual gala fundraiser will occur this year on June 23rd. All are welcome and encouraged to come and enjoy “An Evening in Venice” listening to live music and dancing the night away.

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