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 $13,090 Natural and Cultural Resources grant is supporting exhibition Curious Terrain: WNC from the Air at the Bardo Arts Center at Western Carolina University in Cullowee. Stunning aerial photographs by Alex S. MacLean, an artist and pilot, provide the birds-eye perspective of an airplane and are on view through May 1. Newly commissioned, MacLean's striking images of the seven western most counties of North Carolina capture the unique qualities of the region’s built environment while also raising broader questions about humanity’s impact on the land through agriculture, energy, industry and housing. Photo: Alex S. MacLean, Rolling Up Rows of Mulch Fabric, Erastus, North Carolina, 2019, chromogenic dye print.

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.

The region continues to depend on the natural areas to serve as the backbone of the agriculture, manufacturing and tourism industries. Farmers, specialty manufacturers, and creative economy entrepreneurs continually seek inspiration and source quality materials from the natural environment. To thrive economically, WNC must continue to be a place where talented people—and their businesses—want to be. This includes preserving the high quality of life in the region and providing the critical infrastructure needed by businesses to succeed.

As the region continues to grow, jurisdictions must work together to develop a well-balanced system of infrastructure that serves residents, supports communities and attracts new businesses to ensure both economic vitality and environmental resiliency.

The mission of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) is to return the iconic American chestnut tree to its native range. A NCR grant is supporting an Appalachian-wide project to collect samples from wild chestnut trees across WNC for genome sequencing to identify genetically diverse and underrepresented trees and determine what climate and soil variables provide maximum diversity and adaptation. TreeSnap, an app used to record wild tree locations, was deployed by more than 2,000 new users to locate more than 1,800 American chestnut trees. Information gathered by scientists from these trees is contributing to the study of species diversity and better breeding programs. Photo above: past employee and now volunteer Dr. Paul Sisco using American chestnut pollen on a flowering orchard tree outside Asheville, NC. Photo courtesy of TACF.

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. As the region continues to grow, it is critical to protect and enhance these resources.

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 transition of Haywood County's Folkmoot from a festival to a year-round program, 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 Blue Ridge National Heritage Area was awarded $25,000 to complete the Blue Ridge Craft Trails, an initiative to increase income for craft artists and businesses, enhance cultural tourism and improve economic opportunity in WNC. Photo courtesy of Penland School of Crafts, one of the Trail's anchor sites.

Strengthening the Region

Expanding Blue Ridge Craft Trails

A grant to Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is providing critical matching dollars to access a larger Appalachian Regional Commission grant to support the second phase of the Blue Ridge Craft Trails Project. During the first phase, which also received CFWNC funding, the project team identified more than 100 potential anchor sites and a web presence.

Craft is a growth industry for Western North Carolina, which is recognized as one of the leading centers for craft production and education in the United States. Despite this economic impact, there is currently no coordinated region-wide effort to market Western
North Carolina crafts.

Phase two of this project will expand the system of craft trails, train new initiative partners and market the trails to regional audiences and beyond. The regional tourism effort is being undertaken by a network of engaged partners and with an approach that is responsive to both the needs of the local craft community and the desires of visitors.

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