WEST JEFFERSON — Recently, the Ashe County Arts Council announced that High Country native Joni Ray will be taking on the role of executive director for the organization. Ray, who will be coming from the neighboring Florence Thomas Art School, is slated to assume her new position starting in late September.

Having served as the Gallery Director at Florence Thomas Art School for seven years, Ray will bring a wealth experience and knowledge of both of the arts and working with the public to her new position at the arts council.

“I was fortunate to have that job because we have at least 30 to 40 artists on consignment there. So, I was able to meet all kinds or artists in that position and about half of them were local, so I’ll carry that into my new job,” Ray said regarding her current position at Florence Thomas Art School. “Also, I got to work hands on with a lot of our board members and volunteers and that’s really made a lasting impression on me.”

Wesley Barker, president of the Arts Council’s Board of Directors said, “We are excited to have Joni Ray join us as our next executive director. Joni brings a wealth of knowledge in arts programming across many mediums, possesses technology skills across many platforms and is an artist in her own right. Joni will bring a fresh perspective to our organization appealing to many demographics, while still holding onto the values that made the Ashe County Arts Council the solid, respected organization it is today. It’s being recognized across the state as one of the premier arts organizations.”

Ray attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville, Spain, and Appalachian State University, where she graduated Suma Cum Laude.

“I’m excited. I feel very excited about it, the art’s council does so much for the county, so it’s going to be a very big honor to take on this new role,” Ray said on accepting the new position. “Serving the community through the arts is my personal calling and it’s going to be a great honor for me to do so at the Ashe County Arts Council.”

Pointing out the many established programs that the arts council has provided over the years, Ray hopes to expand upon the organization’s successes and reach out to other communities within Ash County.

“As an Ashe County native, I benefited from the programming offered by the Arts Council while growing up. It’s my goal to continue all the cultural opportunities provided to the county by the Arts Council and I hope to broaden our reach over the next coming years,” Ray said. “Though I’m a visual artist, I have a deep love and appreciation for live music and theater. I can’t wait to dive into all areas of arts programming for Ashe County.”

“I’ll be bringing my dedication to providing experiences in the arts to the new role. The arts are for everyone and enrich our community,” Ray added.

For more information regarding the Ashe County Arts Council call (336) 846-2787 or visit ashecountyarts.org/.

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