Source: The Laurel of Asheville Magazine
By Lena Brodsky | Photos by Leah Shapiro
As the arts districts in Asheville (i.e., the River Arts District and West Asheville) demonstrate, art can bring communities together, strengthen local economies, and boost tourism. Investor Josh Leder shares this ideology, and has demonstrated his commitment to supporting art in his community with his purchase of the Brevard Lumber Yard.
Leder Properties and its partners plan to redevelop the century-old site of Brevard Lumber Company into a commercial hub full of creativity for the town. Plans for the 2.5-acre area include a farmers and crafts market, artists’ studios, a school for established artists in the area to teach, a gallery, a music venue, and a restaurant.
Sam Owen, a prominent bronze caster and resident of Brevard, has been working with the investors and is enthusiastic about the plans. “The investors are buying the area to help out emerging artists and boost the community,” he says. “Their plan is to have the town blossom, and to garner more interest in art.”
In the past, the artists’ community and other residents of Brevard have seemed at odds, but a recent event on September 29 at the Brevard Lumber Yard exhibited how far public support for the art district has come. “The event was an iron pour and a gallery show,” Sam explains. “The (goal of the) event was to get the community involved; the community really did pitch in. It was one of the first events here of this kind.”
At the iron pour, professional metal casters from all over the Southeast demonstrated techniques of metal casting. The event introduced the art of working with metal to people of all ages. Even kids got to participate by making their own metal castings with scratch blocks, Sam says.
In the evening after the iron pour, there was a gallery show for local artists to display and sell their work. “Lots of patrons were there,” Sam states. Although some might question whether a gallery show of this high caliber would be be successful outside the city, Sam emphasizes, “The event was very successful, despite being outside of Asheville.”
Sam lived in Asheville for 15 years before moving to Brevard with his family, and still frequently works in the city. He is utilizing his connections with the River Arts District and with West Asheville artists to acquire more interest in the burgeoning Brevard Lumber Arts District. He is pulling artists to Brevard, he says, where there is already a strong community of artists.
Sam is planning on establishing a foundry in the new art district, and has been working with Brevard College and UNCA, of which he is an alumnus, to get the foundry going with in a year. “It will be the only one of its kind in Western North Carolina,” he notes.
This is an ideal time for the creation of an artists’ complex in Brevard. According to Sam, local patrons are very interested in the project and the town has been growing quite a bit in the last five years. “ Economically the new development will be wonderful,” he predicts. “[The arts district] will bring in new people from local areas and really bolster the local economy.”