Preserving and Promoting Southern Appalachian Culture
The Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center is a vital contributor to the preservation of the southern Appalachian Mountain heritage of Western North Carolina.
Throughout the year, we celebrate mountain traditions through our music programs, old-time festivals, workshops and other events that appeal to all age groups. The Center’s contributions to the continuation and appreciation of state folklife have been recognized with a Community Traditions Award given by the North Carolina Folklore Society.
Our mission is to serve the people of Stecoah and Graham County through programs and services that benefit all members of the community, through the preservation and promotion of Southern Appalachian Mountain culture and through the restoration of the historic old Stecoah School to its original role as the center of the community.
Tour our art center
Growing from an abandoned school building to the vibrant center of the community today, Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center now offers over 20 programs to approximately 10,000 people annually. The Center brings music to the mountains through the summer performing arts series An Appalachian Evening, as well as the Annual Harvest Festival and other events. Additionally, the Stecoah Artisans Gallery provides sales promotion and support for local and regional artists.
The Center also provides many other services to the community, including the award-winning 21st Century Learning Centers funded after-school program that serves the students of Graham County. The Junior Appalachian Musicians kids program offers students the opportunity to play stringed instruments such as the banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin, thus helping preserve the Appalachian heritage of the area.
Read more about our history.
Historic Rock Schoolhouse
The Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center is housed in a schoolhouse completed in 1926. The structure was built of native rock with the skill and labor of many local residents. On Dedication Day, the proud community posed for the panoramic photograph featured in our auditorium. After sixty-eight years of service to the community, consolidation closed the school in 1994. The Stecoah community banded together to save the schoolhouse and the Center was founded in 1996. Read more about our history.
The Stecoah Artisans Gallery represents more than 100 local and regional artists. In addition to creating retail opportunities for artists Stecoah also provides promotion and support for its gallery artists. One prominent arts program is our biannual Artisan Drive About which is scheduled the last weekend of June and Thanksgiving weekend each year.
The Artisan’s Gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm from March through December. It is closed for the winter in January & February. We operate with extended hours during special events.
It’s our pleasure to welcome visitors to Graham County by serving as a Welcome Center. We offer a large amount of information and brochures on local natural features, scenic drives, historic sites, local graveyards, Cherokee culture, art galleries, recreation, lodging, and dining. Take advantage of the beautiful grounds, friendly staff, and free WiFi to take a break from traveling and find your next destination.
Music programming is where Stecoah shines. With more than a dozen concerts annually we offer opportunities for local, regional, and industry musicians performing and keeping the traditions of Appalachian and American roots music alive. Our grand old stage, built in 1926, faces a fully restored wooden auditorium with original vaulted ceilings. The natural acoustics are incredible. Pair that with our state of the art sound system and very talented and experienced engineer, and you have an experience like no other in Western NC.
We like to say that we’re the little rock schoolhouse with the great big sound!
The name Stecoah is derived from the Cherokee language. The term “Usdi Gohi,” meaning “little place” was applied to many places by the Cherokee, but here the words became “Stecoah” and the name stuck.
At any time during the year, stop by to view our permanent Cherokee history exhibit that documents the history of the Cherokee in Stecoah Valley; the Courtyard of the Cherokee which authentically represents the Tribe’s seven clans through exhibit panels, native plantings, and original artwork made by members of the EBCI reflecting the arts and culture of the Tribe. We are also proud to display a set of Cherokee clan masks – Seven hand-carved masks by acclaimed Snowbird Cherokee artist Billy Welch.
We celebrate two annual festivals each year. The Smoky Mountain SpringFest, held the weekend after Easter, is a celebration of spring and our beautiful Great Smoky Mountains! We have access to so many outdoor activities through which we can enjoy our mountain home and our native plants and wildlife. This is an opportunity to experience why Graham County truly is ‘Your Natural Destination’.
Ten Acre Campus
The Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center is located on a ten acre campus in the heart of the Stecoah valley. A third mile walking trail winds the perimeter passing by The Courtyard of the Cherokee which features native plants. One corner of the campus contains a windgarden overlooking a neighboring field and traditional Appalachian barn. Five kinetic sculptures by sculptor Lyman Whitaker are featured in the wind garden – one for each element (earth, air, fire, water) and the fifth representing the human element. The path parallels a rushing creek and a children’s play area. Guests are welcome to roam the grounds and flower beds as well as picnic on our decks or pavilion. Outdoor restrooms are accessible after hours during the warmer seasons.
Cultural Arts Classes
In keeping with our mission of preserving and promoting our southern Appalachian culture the Stecoah Valley Center offers a variety of adult classes from basket making, various textiles, printmaking and culinary workshops. Give us a call to find out what classes are planned for the future. Prices and hours vary; please note details before you register.
Junior Appalachian Musicians
Since 2001, Stecoah JAM has taught the children of Graham County about their musical heritage and traditions by offering classes in traditional Appalachian music. The program is one of the longest running JAM programs in Appalachia. We serve both Graham County School and homeschool students in grades 4 – 12.
Instruction is held twice weekly (Tuesdays & Thursdays) from 4 pm to 6 pm; we offer beginner and intermediate fiddle and guitar. We now offer JAM Band which focuses on playing as a group. Our JAM Band is available for performance opportunities; please contact us with your inquiries.
Our textile studio is so named because one of our first arts related grants supported the development of a cottage industry weaving program. This program operated for many years – we still have a few remaining looms from that program and have a couple of artists from that guild who produce woven goods for our gallery.
Recently the studio was the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Spark the Arts grant which is allowing us to transform the space into a working studio. The studio which features sewing, quilting, weaving and printmaking equipment is open during business hours and some special after hours to any working artist free of charge whenever there are no classes scheduled. Learn more about using our textile studio.
The Stecoah Valley Center supports local economic enterprise for small food-related businesses through affordable access to a commercial kitchen. Our commercial kitchen also serves as a food truck commissary. Please contact us for more information.
- Jennifer West, Executive Director
- Amber Benton, Program Director
- Melinda DeHart, Gallery Manager
Board of Directors
- Rick Davis, Board Chair
- Sara Davis, President
- Karen Mickler, Vice President
- Christy Norcross, Secretary/Treasurer
- Marcia Hollifield
- Marcia Davies
- Bill Prather
- Mitch Hyde
- Anne Eck
- Karla Jones
- Julie Nelms
- Roger Smoker
- Roanne Gordon