JEFFERSON — Lost Province Center for the Cultural Arts Executive Director Ann Rose requested $45,000 from the county during the Ashe County Board of Commissioners regular meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, July 15.
According to Rose, the funding would allow her nonprofit — which consists of Rose as the executive director, a six-person board, plus a plethora of potters, musicians, fiber artists and many other local artisans who form an advisory committee — to pay a one-year fee for a niche accounting firm that will help The Lost Province Center pair with investors.
With a vision to purchase the old Lansing School building along N.C. 194 and renovate the 1938 stone building and campus to its former glory as an educational institution, Rose said she and her nonprofit have been working since April 2018 to find funding.
Once the property is purchased and renovations are made, Rose said the plan is to open storefronts in the stone school building’s bottom floor, offering apartment rentals on the top floor and teaching Appalachian cultural arts skills within the brick middle school building also located on the Lansing School campus.
“The project will have an impact that will reach so far past Lansing,” Rose said.
With her involvement writing grants and helping develop Lansing’s Creeper Trail Park in recent years, Rose said she knows grant money is available to help make the Lost Province Center a reality, but the nonprofit does not want to rely on those grants, and most of them will not be attainable until the school building is under direct ownership of the Lost Province Center nonprofit.
A recent barbecue fundraiser at On the Windfall in Lansing raised $8,000 for the cause, with more fundraisers in the works, according to Rose. Some 15 people — representing a majority in the board of commissioners’ audience July 15 — stood to show their support for the project.
Commissioner Larry Rhodes said he liked the idea of the project, but he was unsure the county could put taxpayer dollars towards the nonprofit’s endeavor.
“I applaud you for what you’re wanting to do, and it sounds great,” Rhodes said. “But to my knowledge, this would be a private enterprise. We have never, as a county, given money to a private enterprise.”
Even with the Lost Province Center operating as a nonprofit, Rhodes said he was uncertain that taxpayer money, which is intended to be spent for a public purpose, could be put towards the effort, and finance officer Sandy Long agreed.
“Just the way that you’re describing it today, it does sound like a moneymaking venture,” Long said. “I know that the money that the commissioners are in charge of is for a public purpose, and that’s got some pretty clear definitions. I think we’d have to look into that.”
Commissioner Larry Dix said he was excited for the possibility that the Lost Province Center project presents, and chairman Todd McNeill agreed, voicing complete support. Vice Chairman William Sands also supported the project.
Despite the board’s vocal support for the Lansing School revitalization, further discussion was tabled until the legalities of county funding can be determined.
“The conversation certainly moves forward,” McNeill said. “This is just the first chapter.”