About Us

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where is Southwest Virginia?

Southwest Virginia includes 19 counties and four independent cities located near the southern and western border of Virginia. Its 8,600 square miles – more than a fifth of Virginia's total – is located along mountain ridges and in fertile valleys, with two national parks, nine state parks and over a thousand square miles of national and state forests. It's where you'll find a culture of music and craft that is authentic, distinctive and alive. A natural landscape that is breathtaking in its magnitude and scope. A place where the pace of life is slower and people are friendly. A premiere place for recreation of all kinds.

2. So what's authentic and distinctive and alive about Southwest Virginia's culture?

Music

The music of Southwest Virginia traces its ancestry back to the westward movement of European settlement in the 18th century. The banjo brought from Africa by slaves and freedmen meets the fiddle of England and Scotland, creating a rich dance music, often referred to as old time. The dulcimer of German settlers, once played for hymns and sacred songs, becomes in the hands of Scots Irish settlers an instrument for dance tunes. Ballads are sung here that trace their ancestry back to the days of Mary Queen of Scots.

Music has always been a part of everyday life: auctions and fairs and front porches, apple butter boilings and corn shuckings, Saturday night and Sunday morning. Fiddlers conventions test and hone musicians' skill. Technology like the microphone makes new harmonies and new ensemble playing popular, and gives rise to new forms like bluegrass.

All this music, passed down through families and neighbors within small communities, can be heard today along The Crooked Road, Virginia's Heritage Music Trail. Listen to great old time and bluegrass music, in live performances, dances, jams, fiddlers conventions and festivals. Visit museums that tell the stories of the Roots of American Music and of Ralph Stanley's epic career.

Craft

Craft too is a distinctive part of Southwest Virginia tradition, a living, evolving culture that embraces new media as well as time-honored crafts. Living and working in small studios, artisans create craft work and focus their vision on building vibrant communities. 'Round the Mountain, Virginia's Artisan Craft Network, assists crafts people in sharpening their skills, furthering interaction with other artisans, reaching new customers and building their businesses. You can learn about our craft traditions at Heartwood, Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway, and purchase unique craft items in every medium, as well as purchase CDs and DVDs from the largest collection of regional old time, bluegrass and gospel music.

And So Much More

Music and crafts are just the start. Southwest Virginia offers opportunities for outdoor recreation for every age and stage. Unparalleled natural diversity. Scenic drives and vistas that slow you down in awe of the grandeur of nature. Museums and reconstructed forts and farms that invite you to retrace our history. Theaters and arts centers that give you insights and entertainment. Farmers markets, restaurants and wineries where food is an artisanal adventure. Towns and cities with unique personalities and vibrant downtowns.

3. How do I plan a trip to Southwest Virginia?

Click here for our travel planner with everything you need to plan a complete itinerary for your next trip. As you meet the people of Southwest Virginia, listen to our stories, and explore the maps, you can click on destinations or events that strike your fancy – and “add them to my SWVA.” You'll see on the banner at the top of each page how many destinations you've added. Then go to the Trip Planner, and all of them are right there, ready to be added to your next trip. Want to fill in your day with more things to see and do? You can work your way from destination to destination across the map, adding more places to visit – as well as all kinds of places to eat and stay. Add a day, and keep adding to your itinerary until you're done. Then save your trip, click on “map my trip” and get turn by turn directions – ready to print out, email to your friends or family, or save for later.

4. Who's behind the this effort to preserve, protect and promote the culture of Southwest Virginia?

By capitalizing on the unique qualities of our region, Southwest Virginia utilizes its cultural and natural assets to build a comprehensive, long-term, sustainable economy through organizations like Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway, The Crooked Road, ‘Round The Mountain and related cultural heritage organizations and venues that promote entrepreneurial and employment opportunities.

The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Commission, established in 2008 by the Virginia General Assembly, took the lead in developing a creative economy in Southwest Virginia. In 2011, the Commission became the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation, a self-sustaining community development nonprofit. Through a supporting non-profit, the Friends of Southwest Virginia, businesses and individuals help artists, crafts people, localities, nonprofits and entrepreneurs mobilize and succeed.

A multifaceted plan identifies the cultural and natural assets of the region; coordinates initiatives, organizations and venues engaged in cultural and natural heritage toward more efficient operations for all partner organizations; and develops a comprehensive strategy and capital improvements plan to maximize the impact of state investments in this significant restructuring effort. Key initiatives include:

  • Branding and marketing Southwest Virginia to the world as a distinct culture and destination
  • Developing and sustaining Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway
  • Developing and maintaining the Southwest Virginia Website integrated with those of The Crooked Road and ‘Round The Mountain as the overall storyboard and trip planner for the region, its communities and its assets
  • Planning and implementation of downtown revitalization throughout the region to instill a high quality of life within our communities and promote them to the world for a broad spectrum of economic development opportunities

On July 1, 2011, the Commission received a new name: the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation, representing the coming transition from governmental body to self-sustaining community development nonprofit. Through an organization known as the Friends of Southwest Virginia, businesses and individuals will be able to help artists, crafts people, localities, nonprofits and entrepreneurs mobilize and succeed. Such success will lead the way for a stable economic base for the people of Southwest Virginia.

Partners include the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Resources.

Funding partners include the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission and Appalachian Regional Commission.

5. What is Heartwood?

Heartwood is our beautifully designed gateway to Southwest Virginia. Located on an eight-acre site off Exit 14 of Interstate 81, the 30,000-square-foot building is LEED Certified. At Heartwood, you'll discover artisan galleries and a music gallery with video portraits of craftspeople, musicians and places to visit. There's a premium restaurant and coffee/wine bar with locally supplied organic fare. Interactive maps of the region highlight destinations for a day, a weekend, or a lifetime here. The Heartwood Event Hall and Galleries showcase exhibits and demonstrations by talented local artisans. It is a major venue on The Crooked Road, where you can hear professionally produced live performances.

The building also houses the offices of the ‘Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network and The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. In three years, Heartwood is expected to attract more than 270,000 visitors, generate $2.2 million in revenue, and result in a total economic impact in excess of $28 million for the region.

6. What can I do to help?

You're here, and we're glad to have you. Now take the next step, and visit Southwest Virginia. Plan a trip using our trip planner. Buy a unique craft work or a CD of local music online or at Heartwood. Learn about our stories and meet our people. You may get hooked, and decide to move out here, to start the small business you've always dreamed of, or to retire where people understand neighborly to be more than just a nod and a smile.

You can also support the efforts of the Friends of Southwest Virginia, a nonprofit group that seeks to preserve, promote and present the cultural and natural assets of Southwest Virginia. We are working in partnership in the region to generate economic development, provide educational and cultural opportunities for the general public and students in our region, and continue to showcase the traditional arts and artists at Heartwood, Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway.