SWVA Logo Badge Format

Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation & Friends Of Southwest Virginia Release 2017 Annual Report

Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation & Friends Of Southwest Virginia Release 2017 Annual Report


ABINGDON, VA – The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Friends of Southwest Virginia have released their 2017 Annual Report which outlines the regional economic impact of the tourism economy and spotlights economic, community and tourism development initiatives, regional marketing and branding and updates to Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway.


The report shows an increase of more than 56% in tourism spending throughout Southwest Virginia since 2004.


Southwest Virginia includes 19 counties, four independent cities and 54 towns located on the southern and western border of Virginia. Its 8,600 square miles – more than a fifth of Virginia’s total – is located along mountain ridges and in fertile valleys with two national parks, nine state parks and over a thousand square miles of national and state forests. The region is filled with innovators, artists and musicians.


To capitalize on these cultural and natural assets and in response to rapidly declining employment in Southwest Virginia’s historically prominent industries of farming, mining, and manufacturing, leaders around the region began to invest in developing the creative economy in the mid-2000s.

SWVA Annual Report Cover 2017The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation was established in 2008 by the Virginia General Assembly to serve as the lead in developing a creative economy in Southwest Virginia through cultural and natural assets. Through a supporting non-profit, the Friends of Southwest Virginia, the regional team works as one organization to help localities, non-profits and entrepreneurs mobilize and succeed. Partner organizations include The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Music Heritage Trail and ‘Round the Mountain Artisan Network along with support from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The complex nature of this model of public / private partnership is reflective of the complex economic issues in Southwest Virginia that the organization tackles on a daily basis.


The creative economy movement is defined by innovative business development techniques finding success without reliance on the limited resources of land, labor and capital. From the arts and music of the region to the natural assets capitalized through tourism, the joint work of the Foundation and the non-profit is revolutionizing the rural economic development system of Southwest Virginia and providing thousands of new jobs through small business to the people of this region.


The organization reports that a study from the U.S. Travel Association and Virginia Tourism Corporation shows that tourism spending in the region has grown by $363 million from 2004 to 2016, the most recent year that statistics are available. Tourism impact throughout the region exceeded $1 billion for the first time in history; in comparison, tourism expenditures were only $648.9 million in 2004.


Additionally, local tax revenues have increased by 46.51% and state tax revenues by 41.06% in the same time period. The upward trend in these travel related tax revenues has an impact at the local level through increasing meals and lodging tax revenues in the region’s towns. Overall employment in SWVA has dropped by 2.3% since 2001, but employment in the leisure and hospitality industry sector has increased by 14%.


“The work of the Foundation and Friends is truly a collaborative of the incredible leadership of our counties, cities and towns that are innovating their business eco-system through the creative economy,” said Chris Cannon, executive director of the Foundation and Friends of Southwest Virginia.


In addition to the significant increase in overall tourism impact, the report details current developments underway to increase future economic impact.


“Several years ago, visionaries across the region saw the potential of creative economy development using our natural assets – our unrivaled mountains, rivers, lakes, streams and fields,” said Cannon.


Since 2014, the SWVA Outdoors initiative has recruited millions in grant funding to develop tourism around 8 anchor areas: Mount Rogers, Appalachian Trail, Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail, Clinch River, New River, Blue Ridge Parkway, Breaks Interstate Park and High Knob.


Planning and construction projects are underway throughout the region to enhance and develop key natural assets. From the future construction of a new parking lot for Devil’s Bathtub in Scott County and a River Destination Center in Giles County to master planning for the High Knob region, these projects will all improve tourism through access to regional assets while protecting and preserving their natural significance.


Funding partners in these 16 development projects touching all of Southwest Virginia include the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, Appalachian Regional Commission, U.S. Economic Development Administration, Virginia Tourism Corporation and several private foundations.


In addition to the development initiatives, the organization serves as an official Destination Marketing Organization for the region. The SWVA brand introduced in 2016 has grown and developed over the past two years through aggressive marketing initiatives.


“Our social media following has exploded, but look for an increased presence across all digital platforms in 2018 as we improve and expand our marketing initiatives to share Southwest Virginia with the world,“ said Jenna Wagner, Director of Marketing.


The organization also operates and manages Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway located just off I-81 in Abingdon. The facility opened in 2011 to showcase and retail regional art through ‘Round the Mountain, present regional music through The Crooked Road, and serve as a destination center for the entire region. The report details that visitation and the sales of regional craft has increased over 2016.


“Heartwood was built to be a gateway to the entire Southwest Virginia region and visitor intercept studies conducted this fall showed us that over 60% of people who walked through the doors of Heartwood were inspired to get in their car and visit another community in Southwest Virginia,” said Cannon.


To access the full Annual Report, visit: https://issuu.com/southwestvirginia/docs/swva_annual_report_2017_final.


For more information on the SWVA Cultural Heritage Foundation and Friends of Southwest Virginia, visit www.myswva.org.




For more information, please contact Jenna Wagner with Friends of Southwest Virginia (276-492-2422).


About Southwest Virginia

Tucked in the mountains of Southwest Virginia is a vibrant culture of music, craft and stunning natural beauty. It’s a region of spectacular views and rich natural resources. Time spent in the region adds up to something much more than a simple getaway. A different side of Virginia. And a great place to visit for a week’s vacation – or to make a home for a lifetime. Authentic. Distinctive. Alive.


About the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and Friends of Southwest Virginia

The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation is the coordinating body for cultural heritage tourism and economic development efforts fostering Southwest Virginia’s creative economy. Through a supporting non-profit, the Friends of Southwest Virginia, the combined entities help localities, businesses, individuals, artists, nonprofits and entrepreneurs mobilize and succeed.


A multifaceted plan identifies the cultural and natural assets of the region; coordinates initiatives, organizations and venues engaged in cultural and natural heritage toward more efficient operations for all partner organizations; and develops a comprehensive strategy and capital improvements plan to maximize the impact of state investments in this significant restructuring effort.


Key initiatives include:

  • Branding and marketing Southwest Virginia to the world as a distinct culture and destination
  • Developing and sustaining Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway
  • Expanding outdoor recreation development initiatives and marketing throughout the region
  • Planning and implementation of downtown revitalization throughout the region to instill a high quality of life within our communities and promote them to the world for a broad spectrum of economic development opportunities


Follow SWVA

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Snapchat: southwestva | Website

Ballads - Mtn. Lake

The Crooked Road & Mountains of Music Homecoming


Mountains of Music

May 22, 2017

Contact: Jack Hinshelwood, Executive Director
The Crooked Road & Mountains of Music Homecoming
(276) 492-2402 O, (540) 239-2110 M

Karen Tessier
Mountains of Music Homecoming Public Relations
(828) 398-5250 O, (828) 231-6268 M

Scotland’s Archie Fisher Joins Crooked Road Artists in Ballad Event at Mountain Lake Lodge for Crooked Road’s 2017 Mountains of Music Homecoming


Abingdon, VA: Renowned Scottish folk and ballad singer Archie Fisher will join Kay Justice, Rich Kirby and Carol Elizabeth Jones on the Gazebo Lawn at Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke on Monday, June 12 at 7:00 PM.  This special concert is part of the 2017 Mountains of Music Homecoming.  In the event of rain the concert will move indoors to Mary’s Barn.


Archie Fisher, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, grew up in a musical family. In the 1960s and 1970s, Fisher performed regularly with his younger sister Ray on television in Scotland.  He recorded his first album in 1968, and thereafter appeared as a backing musician (on guitar) and arranger for the legenday Irish artists Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy.  In the 1970s, Fisher recorded his acclaimed albums, The Man With A Rhyme and Will Ye Gang, Love.  In 1996, Fisher’s next album, Sunsets I’ve Galloped Into, was spotlighted on National Public Radio.  Following the success of that release, Archie toured throughout North America with British guitarists John Renbourn and Bert Jansch.  Fisher has released two subsequent albums, Windward Away (2008) and A Silent Song (2015), combining performances of his own compositions with those of traditional Scottish songs.  Fisher is a consummate guitarist whose intricate playing creates the perfect backdrop for his warm, almost hypnotic baritone singing voice.


For several decades Scott County native Rich Kirby has been committed to uplifting old-time mountain music in multiple roles – as performer, researcher, radio host, record producer, and workshop leader.  During the 1970s, he performed with John McCutcheon and Tom Bledsoe as the trio known as Wry Straw, and he recorded three albums for the June Appal label, including an acclaimed album of coal mining songs recorded with folklorist Michael Kline.  In 1978, Kirby produced an album of his grandmother’s ballads, Been A Long Time Traveling, and in 2015 he produced the compilation album, The Very Day I’m Gone: The Songs of Addie Graham, featuring performances of his grandmother’s repertoire by a range of talented roots musicians, including Kirby himself.   Kirby carries on the ballad tradition with many of his grandmother’s songs as well as being an accomplished performer on banjo, guitar, and fiddle.


Kay Justice, a respected folk and old-time singer, lives in Wytheville, Virginia.  She has a rich repertoire of traditional songs and ballads. She has recorded three critically acclaimed albums as a duo with Ginny Hawker – Signs & Wonders, Come All You Tenderhearted, and Bristol: A Tribute to the Music of the Original Carter Family.  Justice has been a master artist with the Apprenticeship Program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.


The evening will be rounded out with Carol Elizabeth Jones, a songwriter and acclaimed traditional singer with many albums to her credit.  These include two as part of the folk duo Jones and Leva, two of country and bluegrass duets with Laurel Bliss, an album with Hazel Dickens and Ginny Hawker, and a solo album entitled Cataloochee.  A regular on Garrison Keillor’s, A Prairie Home Companion, she has performed with several groups and toured Africa and Southeast Asia as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Information Agency.  Her ballad singing will be showcased on a compilation of Appalachian balladry to be released by the Great Smoky Mountains Association in 2017.


Tickets to this very special concert event are available online at www.mtnsofmusic.com and at the Giles County Visitors Center (540) 921-2079. You can also call the Chamber of Commerce at (540) 921-5000.


Attendees to this concert can also visit “From These Woods,” an exhibit of works by highly skilled Appalachian artisans at the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech, one of over 130 cultural events that are part of the Homecoming.


The Mountains of Music Homecoming is an extraordinary nine-day music and cultural showcase event that stretches across the 330 miles of The Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. With 25 featured concerts and 130 cultural events, the Mountains of Music Homecoming invites travelers to follow the music through the heart of the scenic, culturally rich Crooked Road region. The theme for the 2017 Mountains of Music Homecoming is The Year We Sang.


The Crooked Road’s 76-page Official Guide to the 2017 Mountains of Music Homecoming is free and available at all Virginia Welcome Centers, at Southwest Virginia public library branches, and at Southwest Virginia branches of New Peoples Bank, the Bank of Marion, and Union Bank & Trust. In Giles County, guide books are available at the Visitors Center.


The Crooked Road is grateful for the generous support of the Virginia Department of Housing and Economic Development, David and Judie Reemsnyder, Blue Ridge Beverage, Mountain Lake Lodge, Union Bank & Trust, WDBJ-7, and Chantilly Farm for helping to make the 2017 Homecoming possible.  For tickets, schedules and more information about all Mountains of Music Homecoming concerts and cultural events, visit www.mtnsofmusic.com.


For hi-res images and more info, click here.