Appearances can be deceiving. On the outside it may seem like not much is happening, but Elkin officials said work continues in the background to prepare the heritage and trails center for its future public use. One of the next stages of that work includes fundraising for the exhibits which will fill the open lobby space.
Also, on Aug. 17 the property on Standard Street in downtown Elkin will host a town-sponsored Back to School Bash from 9 a.m. to noon.
A large room inside the center is designated as a meeting space and for cultural arts and other Surry Community College classes to be held. Elkin Town Manager Brent Cornelison said plans are for the community college to host classes in the room as early as this fall.
Leslie Schlender, economic development director for Elkin, said, other than the exhibit and visitor area, “everything else about the building is technically done and usable, so we might as well start using it.”
Design Dimension, the company handling the writing and creating of the interactive displays and exhibits, have brought on an additional writer to help speed up the process of get plans completed for the project, Schlender said. “The community was doing all of it and giving input, and I think there is just so much to it, I think they feel like they still don’t have the right pieces to design the exhibits. But we need the exhibits like yesterday.”
Those leading the exhibit projects went from an eight-page document of stories to be shared with visitors, to a 36-page document.
Once two or three of the exhibit designs are completed, Schlender and other town staff will be ready to approach members of the community about sponsoring the funding of them, so they can be built and installed. The fundraising process also will include grant writing, Cornelison said.
“We just need the visuals now,” Schlender said. “We were working with Design Dimension in a way that they don’t normally work. Instead of us having pot of money and then them doing all the writing, we need them to do the writing so we can go out and seek the funding.
Elkin officials are hoping in the next three to four weeks to have the visuals for the first exhibits so that fundraising can begin.
All of the exhibits might not be complete, but Schlender said plans are to go ahead and open the center once two or three exhibits are in place, and then continue working on the additional exhibits for their placement.
“We’ve also asked them to go ahead and have them designing the outside elements,” Cornelison said. “As people drive by, it looks like nothing’s happening.
“We need the design of where’s the parking going to be, where’s the lighting going to be, how’s the landscaping going to fit in,” he said.
Part of the outdoor elements will include interactive displays, such as a small vineyard or some grapevines to tell the story of the area’s agricultural history and possibly some water elements like the creek that flows under downtown or maybe even a train engine on display. “It’s not just going to be grass and an empty field,” Cornelison said. “In Statesville, we did a sculpture garden where the pieces could be rotated out.”
Schlender said the paving for the parking lot has to be completed, but they don’t want to pave and then have to cut through the asphalt for the outdoor design elements to be put in, so the outdoor design needs to be completed first.
“I know it seems like a long process, even from the building standpoint. People don’t realize how many issues there were with building back in the flood plain and securing funding,” Cornelison said.
One of the first signs of the building opening will be several large rocking chairs being added to the front porch. The chairs were constructed by the inmate’s correctional construction classes operated by Surry Community College on Prison Camp Road in Dobson, said the Elkin officials.
The public will have a chance to visit the heritage center property for the Back to School Bash Aug. 17, which will include a “touch-the-truck” event where children and adults will get a chance to see fire trucks, police cars, tractors, diggers, backhoes and other town and county vehicles. There will be community groups on hand with informational booths and a food truck.
As far as the exhibits are concerned, Schlender said she wanted to make residents aware that officials will be going out into the community to approach people for sponsorships, or those who are interested should reach out to Schlender to sponsor a display. The town also is open to anyone who wants to provide enough funding for naming rights.
“A lot of people are asking what’s going on, there is nothing happening? But that is not the case,” Cornelison said. “Even when I was driving back and forth to Statesville, I’m asking the same things, but once you understand everything that has to take place to get to where you are going, we’re not just sitting here waiting, twiddling our thumbs, things are happening. Things just don’t happen overnight, and not for free.”
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.