BY SALLY DESKINS, EXHIBITS AND PROGRAMS COORDINATOR, WVU LIBRARIES
What’s GLAM? GLAM stands for galleries-libraries-archives-museums, and, for this series, The Hub is partnering up with Sally Deskins of WVU Libraries to put a spotlight on what happens when groups and institutions related to these collaborate. As Sally says, “Sharing resources can bring in more audiences, and lead to a better course for sustainability amongst all, as opposed to seeing each other competitively and bringing each other down.”
Anne Walker is the Mayor of Hillsboro, West Virginia, as well as a member of the Pocahontas County Artisan Cooperative. For this interview, the WVU agriculture alumna shares about her fabric artistry and involvement with the Co-Op plus their collaborations with various organizations from Pocahontas County Art Guild to Mountain Music Trail to Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and more…
Sally Deskins: Tell me about your background and why you got into what you do.
Anne Walker: My personal background is in the field of agriculture. I graduated from WVU with a Bachelors’ of Science in Agronomy and a Master’s of Science in Agriculture Education. I joined the Pocahontas County Artisan Co-Op in August of 2013, as a fabric artist, making purses, totes, and aprons. I began sewing as a stay at home mom and started an online business to give my family extra income for fun things, like eating out and vacations we couldn’t afford otherwise. My first project was a diaper bag for myself soon after my son was born in 2005. I’ve always enjoyed creating handmade items and products, even through college. I fell into being a fabric artist as a way to earn extra money.
SD: Tell me about your organization and your role, what you do.
AW: The Pocahontas County Artisan Co-Op was formed in 2007 but was granted non-profit status in 2009. Currently, we have 35+ artisans and crafters in our organization. Our focus on the region’s arts and crafts heritage has attracted a blacksmith, broom maker, basket maker, stonecutter, several quilters, and wood craftsmen making everything from spoons and cutting boards to clocks, scrollwork, and fine furniture. We also have artists working in watercolor and oil, photographers, jewelry-makers, and members creating specialty foods from local sources. We are a business incubator, assisting regional artisans in advancing from hobby to cottage industry. We are also committed to promoting the arts in Pocahontas County through public demonstrations, workshops, exhibitions and community-based educational activities.
I am currently serving on the Marketing Committee, where we promote art, our artists, and events through different media outlets.
SD: What are some ways you have or will collaborate with either outside organizations or groups?
AW: In the past, the Pocahontas County Artisan Co-Op has collaborated with the Pocahontas County Art Guild in providing publicity for their guest artists as well as gift certificates for their redemption. We have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Art Guild for use of their current space for meetings and other events. In addition, we are currently in negotiation with the Art Guild and our landlord the Marlinton Depot Committee to provide a public art space at the McLaughlin Cabin (which has been restored). Our hope is that our facility along with the McLaughlin Cabin will provide public space for classes, demonstrations, and events for the community of Pocahontas County.
In addition to the Marlinton Depot Committee and the Pocahontas County Art Guild, we have a membership in the Mountain Music Trail, and the Mountain Arts District. Both of these promote mountain culture through art and music events, as well as websites. Our Co-Op is a stakeholder at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. We operate a seasonal gallery behind the Cass Depot for about 8 months of the year. Our artisans display and sell their work to train enthusiasts who come to Cass for a unique turn of the century train experience. Lastly, we collaborate with the Marlinton Opera House, in that we sell tickets for their events.
Our membership is active in the community’s fairs and festivals during summer months. For the last 3 years, members have provided demonstrations, along with make and take crafts at the Little Levels Heritage Fair held in Hillsboro, WV at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Museum. In 2017, the Watoga Foundation began “Art in the Park” during Labor Day weekend. Our Co-Op shared its Hotel/Motel funding and supported this event when other grants fell through. We continue to be a sponsor in 2018.
SD: Why is collaborating important to you and/or your position, and WV/society moving forward?
AW: Our Co-Op provides opportunities to individuals who would not have ready access to tourism markets on their own. Collaborating amongst other groups helps our members to network and promote their art. Also, Pocahontas County has high tourism but low socioeconomic standing in the state. Financial and human resources are limited for various reasons. However, pooling resources and efficiently utilizing hotel/motel monies to improve the local economy has a positive impact on our citizens as well as our children. Retirees who move here benefit from the social interaction such events and classes create.
SD: Any advice or tips for people wanting to collaborate—how do you approach people about it without knowing them? How do you think up such ideas?
AW: I would advise anyone looking to collaborate with different groups or organizations to start out volunteering for that organization in order to learn its mission and to network with its members. Non-profit organizations, no matter where they are located, are always in need of human resources. People are more apt to listen to your ideas if they see you are willing to help and want an open and honest dialogue. Collaborative ideas can come from many sources. Mostly, I see collaboration as a way to fill a void in a community. Openly and honestly discussing problems or issues is a great way to learn of a need or void in your community.
Interested in having your group or initiative featured as a part of GLAM? Email Sally at email@example.com.