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$40,000 grant to boost crafting

January 07, 1998

$40,000 grant to boost crafting

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The preservation, teaching and marketing of traditional crafts in the region got a boost Tuesday when the Heritage Craft Center of the Eastern Panhandle received a $40,000 state grant.

The check, from the Governor's Contingency Fund, was presented to Heritage Craft by West Virginia state Sen. Harry Dugan, R-Berkeley.

Mellie Stabler, the center's board president, said the grant is not earmarked for any specific purpose but could be used to lease space until the center finds a permanent home.

Stabler said the nonprofit group hopes to find a historical property in Martinsburg to become the home of a teaching and marketing center for craftsmen.

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"We're trying to get a permanent place," she said.

Heritage Craft has been holding classes in rented space at the Triple Brick Museum on East John Street and the Caperton Train Station on East Martin Street.

"My pick would be the foundry, of course, but it would cost too much," Stabler said of the T.E. Matthews Foundry building on Queen Street.

The group's goals are both historical and economic, according to Stabler. The long-range plan adopted in October states, "we seek to preserve heritage craft skills from past generations."

Those hark back to the days when settlers "made during everyday life the tools and other items they needed to survive, live and prosper," the document states.

A preliminary list of new classes beginning in March includes wood-carving, heirloom sewing, quilting, needle arts, basketry and stained glass. This will be the center's fourth series of classes since April 1997, Stabler said.

There is also a class on marketing crafts.

"We are giving lessons and we hope to turn some of those people who are learning into businesses. The purpose is economic development," Stabler explained.

The center has also provided work for artisans as teachers of the courses, Stabler said. A steering committee for the Heritage Craft Center began working with the Potomac Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Region of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in June 1996.

The center is a "project measure" of the RC&D, Stabler said. Roger L. Boyer, RC&D coordinator and secretary of the center, said it had previously secured a $3,500 Division of Forestry grant and is working on another grant for $7,600 to help fund the center's operations.

The long-range plan calls for raising $300,000 by 2001 to buy property and another $500,000 for possible renovations to a property. Stabler said the center is in the process of securing tax-exempt status so it can begin fund-raising.

When the center finds a permanent home, Stabler said she envisions a historical building in the downtown area with classes to teach heritage crafts, studios for artisans and shops to market their work.

She said it should also have a sturdy floor because one of the directors is a blacksmith.

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