A Flourishing of Arts in Floyd, Part I is HERE. This story originally appeared in The Floyd Press on March 27, 2008.
Another sign that the arts have grown in the community is Floyd’s active nightlife. Music lovers and fiddle players spilling over into the streets for the Friday Night Jamboree is part of Floyd’s heritage and its music reputation. Held at the Floyd Country Store, the Jamboree has been written about in the Washington Post and other regional and national publications. People from all over the country and the world have attended. Most recently a home schooling family of four red-head girls and three boys from Alaska performed on the Jamboree stage. On the road with their band, The Redhead Express, learning more about Bluegrass music was part of their home schooling curriculum.
“They found us online and asked to play,” Jackie Crenshaw, one of the Floyd Country Store owners said. “They loved seeing the multi-generational mix – adults and little kids – and were especially surprised to see the teenagers here,” she added.
The Jamboree and the County Sales store, renowned for providing an extensive selection of Old Time and Bluegrass recordings since 1965, are two of the good reasons why Floyd is part of the Crooked Road, a 250 mile Heritage Music Trail that winds through the Appalachian region of Southwest Virginia.
Although Floyd’s musical reputation has been built on Old Time and Bluegrass music, on any given weekend night residents and visitors might also hear Reggae, Salsa, Rock and Roll, or Blues. While dancers are flat-footing at the Floyd Country Store, others are dosey-doeing at the monthly Contra Dance held at The Winter Sun Music Hall, or enjoying a jig at Oddfellas’ monthly Irish Night.
The Winter Sun Music Hall, where an African dance troupe and a South American band are promoted and booked from, has played a role in stimulating a cultural exchange of the arts in Floyd. International, national, and regional acts have played on the Winter Sun stage. The Music Hall’s sprawling wood floor is great for dancing or practicing yoga at one of the classes they offer. Part of a complex of businesses housed in an old renovated textile factory building, the Music Hall has hosted a Halloween costume party, several benefits, and provides a stage for Floyd’s Young Actors Coop.
In many cases the venues in Floyd that feature dining and live music also promote the visual arts. Café Del Sol, Oddfellas Cantina, and Blackwater Loft all have regular rotating art exhibits on display. Over the Moon, above the Harvest Moon Food Store, is a café as well as a fine arts gallery.
Some establishments focus entirely on the arts and have built on the momentum of earlier community efforts. The June Bug Center specializes in the performing arts, everything from Shakespeare to Kid-interactive Story Theater and dance classes. Last year they hosted a Middle Eastern celebration called a Hafla, and a Poetry slam that brought the youth of the community together. Before the June Bug Center, The Floyd Theater Group filled the niche for community theater, hosting plays and Skit Night during the 80’s and 90’s. Around that same time the Mountain Rose Dance Center’s yearly dance recitals filled the high school auditorium with attendees.
The Jacksonville Center for the Arts, a renovated dairy barn, was home to the Winterfest Arts and Craft Fair before the renovations and before it was heated. Today at the Jacksonville Center you can take a class on blacksmithing, glass works, pot throwing, paper making and more. Their Hayloft Gallery is a popular venue that regularly features exciting exhibits of contemporary and folk art of local, national, and international artists. Winterfest, still going strong at the Jacksonville Center, will be hosting their 13th annual fair this coming winter.
Although much of Floyd’s art and music scene happens downtown, stretching from one end of Locust Street to the other, county residents have been creative in the way they showcase their arts. 16 Hands, a group of ceramic artists and one woodworker, helped set the stage for the recent surge of arts in Floyd with their biyearly self-guided studio tours. The open house tours began in 1998 and have grown to include visiting artists. Members of 16 Hands have gained national and international recognition for their art. Catherine Pauley recalls that several of the founding members were some of the earliest artisans to move to Floyd and believes that other artists coming to Floyd twenty years ago may have followed on their reputation.
Musical events held in farmhouses and local inns, known as House Concerts, are an old country tradition that is becoming popular again. Blues musician Scott Perry, who teaches music and hosts “Back Porch” concerts at his music store, The Pickin’ Porch, thinks they’re great.
“They’re music and musician focused events, as opposed to the music being secondary to dining and drinking.” Perry said.
Perry, who recently performed his second House Concert at Ambrosia Farm Bed & Breakfast, appreciates that at these venues he can do what he does best without having to think about asking for tips. Concert-goers are happy to pay a reasonable pre-set musician’s donation in exchange for a front row seat in an informal setting that includes a chance to meet and talk with the performer.
Post Notes: Photos are of The Floyd Country Store (home of the Friday Night Jamboree), and a sculpture in front of the Jacksonville Center, made by high school students who attended a week long sample course in the arts last year. Click HERE for the final installment of this story.