Natural and Cultural Resources

Our goal is to preserve and cultivate WNC’s sense of place by investing in cultural and environmental projects and programs that protect or enhance the quality of life in the region.

A $49,742 grant is supporting Local Cloth’s Blue Ridge Blankets and, thereby, developing the region’s fiber-arts economy. Rooted in local resources and talent, Local Cloth will develop a supply network that links fiber farmers, processors, dyers, and weavers to produce Blue Ridge Blankets. Proceeds from sales of blankets will be reinvested in the project. An anonymous fund partnered with CFWNC to fund this grant. Photo by Caroline Williford.

Broadening Opportunity through the Arts and the Environment

People have always been drawn to the mountains of Western North Carolina. Today, our mountains are home to a growing and diversifying network of cities, small towns and rural communities.

WNC continues to depend on its natural areas to thrive economically. The natural and cultural resources of this region distinguish it from any other place in North Carolina or, for that matter, the rest of the world. Both are essential to the region’s economy. Both also define our sense of place.

WNC must continue to be a place where talented people—and their businesses—want to be. But economic growth must be balanced, and CFWNC is working to ensure those economic forces continue to support our environment and the creative cultures that thrive here.

A $10,000 grant to Toe River Arts Council is supporting the marketing and promotion of its Cynthia and Edwina Bringle documentary that captures the twin sisters' artistic role and influence in the Toe River Valley and the broader craft world. Photo by Michael Oppenheim.

How We are Making a Difference

Goals and Objectives

The arts, the economy, and the natural environment are inextricably linked. The creative spirit and natural assets of the area continue to attract people and businesses.

We will make grants to:

  • Protect and enhance the health of the region's natural systems
  • Support and develop the region's art-based economy

Signature grants have supported a reconciliation process that resulted in the development of the Nikwasi Initiative and Cherokee Cultural Corridor, efforts to reduce energy consumption thorough the Green Built Alliance's Blue Horizons Project, the Center for Craft's study on affordable housing for the creative sector and support for established and grass roots arts projects across the region.

The partnership includes Eagle Market Street Development Corporation's Stephanie Swepson-Twitty, Camp Grier and its G5 Trail Collective Program's Jason McDougald, USFS Ranger Lisa Jennings, and People on the Move Old Fort's Lavita Logan along with experts from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Texas Tech University. Each organization has a specific focus area, knowledge base, and skill set they bring to the partnership. The universities provide research support, community based archaeology, and equitable cultural preservation. Eagle Market Street focuses on equitable and inclusive economic development. Camp Grier and its G5 Trail Collective Program focuses on sustainable outdoor recreation asset development. The USFS advises on public land strategy and governmental relations. Finally, People on the Move provide community engagement and communication. Photo by Michael Oppenheim.

Strengthening the Region

Supporting Growth in Old Fort

How can you grow a small rural town in Western North Carolina without losing what makes that town special? Specifically, how can you retain the cultural and natural heritage of a place while at the same time creating economic opportunities for local residents? These are the questions the partners of the Catwaba Vale Collaborative are answering in Old Fort.

Prior to 1873, the Town of Old Fort was known as Catawba Vale, reflecting its location in the valley of the Catawba River. Camp Grier, as fiscal sponsor for the Catawba Vale Collaborative, received a $52,500 Natural and Cultural Resources grant in 2022 to design and construct a series of monuments that combine stone architecture with archaeologically-generated stories along the first six miles of a new 42-mile trail expansion on US Forest Service land surrounding the Town of Old Fort. The Dogwood Charitable Endowment Fund and Stewart Fund for Life & Love co-invested to fund this grant.

CFWNC awarded a FY 2023 grant of $225,000 over three years to Eagle Market Street Development Corporation (EMSDC) to support capacity and staffing for the effort to bring equitable community development to Old Fort in McDowell County. Funds will create a position of CVC Coordinator and provide a small amount of operating support to the two lead organizations, EMSDC and Camp Grier, that are experiencing rapidly increasing demands related to project management. The Collaborative includes Camp Grier, the G5 Trail Collective, Eagle Market Street Development Corporation, UNC-Chapel Hill and Texas Tech University and seeks to redefine rural economic development in Appalachian communities.

To learn more about our Natural and Cultural Resources focus area, contact Senior Program Officer Tara Scholtz at 828-367-9913.