Visit Loudoun and a committee of Loudoun artists are developing a new trail for Loudoun—coming on the heels of the Wine Trail, Civil War Trails, and the LoCo Ale Trail.
It’s an idea still in its infancy, but one that’s got people excited.
“We’ve been meeting since last July on our position supporting the arts,” Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson said in a recent interview.
The idea to establish an artisan trail—putting the spotlight on all forms of art in Loudoun—originated from a request by Lisa Strout, a Leesburg artist known for her ceramic sculptures.
“She came to us in June to ask for help in facilitating and communicating support for the arts in Loudoun,” Erickson said, noting that many artists felt isolated and wanted to link to a more centralized community. Strout also approached Leesburg Economic Development Director Marantha Edwards.
Out of that request came the idea for the artisan trail program that would put Loudoun’s artistic and hand-crafts movement on the map.
Public awareness of the arts in Loudoun has grown over the past decade, largely through the Western Loudoun Artist Studio Tour and the work of the Loudoun Arts Council, but this new initiative seeks to raise that profile to a new level.
A committee—with representatives from the arts and agri-business communities—set about to market the idea and raise $26,000 in seed money for the project.
One of the committee’s first projects was to develop a common calendar to promote arts programs in Loudoun that already is spurring greater interconnections in the arts community.
The panel plans to partner with The Artisans Center of Virginia, which helps develop artisan trails that have a demonstrated economic impact. Erickson adds that the center uses a formula to establish the trails that not only includes music, theater and art but also a strong agri-tourism component incorporating handcrafted cheeses, wine and beer.
Using that formula, a Loudoun Artisan Trail could help form alliances between artisans, performance or art venues, retailers, restaurants and bed and breakfast inns and independent hotels.
Visitors would connect to destinations in Loudoun through art.
It also would be a boost to Loudoun’s tourism efforts by bringing another focus of interest to potential visitors.
The cost to join the ATV network is $26,000. Loudoun’s towns, which also could benefit from the increased tourism opportunities, are being approached to support the program. Leesburg has just committed to $2,000, and other municipalities—including Purcellville, Hamilton, Hillsboro, Round Hill and Middleburg, either are considering the proposal or will be approached by the end of the month, according to Erickson.
“This will be a public-private partnership, and we will then go to local companies and various guilds to seek their support,” Strout said.
Artist and Loudoun Arts Council President Jill Evans-Kavaldjian said there has been considerable interest from the towns she has visited, including Hamilton and Lovettsville.
Evans-Kavaldjian is a fine and graphic artist who’s been working in Loudoun for almost 20 years. She is a graduate of VCU’s School of Fine Arts in Richmond, and, in addition to managing the Round Hill Arts Center, she is an arts instructor.
Evans-Kavaldjian said she’s had a very positive reaction as she’s presented the idea to various town councils. “They saw it as a great idea,” she said.
Round Hill potter David Norton is also enthusiastic about the idea. Norton’s functional stoneware is much sought after, and he welcomes the opportunity the trail affords to connect Loudoun artists to discriminating and serious consumers.
Norton is familiar with artisan trails in other areas of Virginia and predicts such a venture in Loudoun will benefit artists in working studios, but who do not have retail space.
“Now people will be able to find us,” he said.
Strout is excited. “I love the whole idea,” she said. “This is a real opportunity for the community to come together under the guidance of Visit Loudoun, and it will include all kinds of artisanal activity.”
Erickson said the end product will be a map listing all participants and a specially designed website.
“We were very happy to facilitate it,” she said.
As soon as organizers have commitments for 50 percent of the $26,000 needed to launch the project, they can move forward. Erickson anticipates it will take a year to 18 months to complete.
For more information on the proposed artisan trail, email Erickson@visitloudoun.org.