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Bedford continues to look for ways to promote its artisan community.
Close to 50 people turned out for a presentation on establishing an Artisan Trail in the Bedford area.
“Bedford is ready for this,” said Brigitte Peterson, who introduced the program. Peterson works for Bedford County.
“I am the procurement department,” she said when asked what her job is. “Right now I am trying to procure an Artisan Trail.”
Peterson is coordinating the local effort for the Artisan Trail. It’s a group effort that involves both the county and city governments as well as the Chamber of Commerce.
The main speaker was Sherri Smith, the executive director of the Artisan Center of Virginia. This 501 (c) 3 non-profit, located in Waynesboro, was designated Virginia’s official state Artisan Center in 1997. The Artisan Center gets a mix of private and public funding.
The Artisan Center launched the Artisan Trail initiative in 2009 and the Monticello Artisan Trail, which consists of Albemarle and Nelson counties became the first one to get up an running. Two more are now in the development stage. Smith said, after the meeting, that the Bedford area could be one of the next two trails to be launched.
“I think you are farther along than a couple of other counties we are working with,” she commented.
Getting Bedford’s Artisan Trail going will take a joint effort with local government, artisans, craft venues and agri-artisans working together. Artisans cover a wide range of skills, from blacksmiths to artists to photographers. Agri-artisans are agricultural operations that are open to the public and include farms, orchards and wineries. Craft venues are places that display locally produced art and crafts.
A committee will be formed which will initially meet monthly. Once the trail is up and running, it will meed quarterly.
Everyone who becomes a site on the trail gets a profile page on www.virginia.org. This site promotes tourism in Virginia. All sites also get a sign identifying them as an Artisan Trail site. Smith suggests that people put the signs up in a place that’s visible, but one that won’t make the Virginia Department of Transportation unhappy.
There will be a fee to become a site on the trail and there is a scale depending on the type of site. Craft artisans pay a $90 fee for the first year, and $50 annually afterwards. Agritourism sites pay $100 the first year and $60 per year thereafter. The most expensive fee is for for-profit craft venues. They pay $220 the first year and $170 in each subsequent year.
Sites must have sufficient parking for at least two cars and a toilet that is available to visitors. The site also has to be accessible by an ordinary automobile.
Being a site on an Artisan Trail brings exposure. According to the the Artisan Center, similar Artisan Trails in North Carolina showed that 97 percent of travelers on the trail buy something. Studios and farms on the trail showed a 23 percent increase in sales and craft shops saw revenue go up by 28 percent. The Artisan Center also provides business classes to artisans.
For more information about the Bedford Artisan Trail, call 586-8482 or e-mail email@example.com. Visit on Facebook at www.facebook.com/artisantrailbedford.