JOHN CHAPPELL: North Notes: Robbins Reeling From Setbacks
Robbins is reeling from a triple thwack at its economic recovery efforts.
Last week, the state pulled funding previously pledged for restoration of the historic Old Elise Depot -- a project that had been a central feature of every NCSTEP and RobbinsAlive! downtown plan.
Mayor Theron Bell and others in the northern Moore County area are trying to get the depot project funding back. They are working through the county's representatives in the General Assembly and others in hopes the N.C. Department of Transportation will reconsider in the light of the importance of this project.
The next blow was Fibrowatt's announcement that the company would accept $4.6 million in tax incentives and locate its new electric plant near Biscoe. That means Robbins won't have the water customer the town had hoped to gain if this renewable energy power plant had been built a few miles farther east off the same N.C. 24-27.
A third hit had come from the N.C. Rural Center itself when it rejected a proposed microloan program that would have been funded using part of the $200,000 grant Robbins obtained working as one of the first NCSTEP test towns. A microloan board would recommend job-creating enterprises to town commissioners so the board could approve startup money that would be paid back -- a revolving financial engine they hoped would churn out job after job over the years.
The Rural Center said such a plan would be too complicated for the town to operate. The money is still on the table, however. Town Marketing Director Randall Moore and volunteers working as the RobbinsAlive! support team are looking for other creative ways to make use of some $63,000 now available.
Any idea that could produce new jobs will be welcome, Moore said.
Pottery Showcase: In the meantime, following what they say was a very successful Celebration of Seagrove Potters last November, those potters are preparing another community event to showcase the authenticity of this area as "the pottery capital of the U.S."
On April 4, a group of Seagrove potters will gather at the North Carolina Pottery Center and jointly fire a double-chambered wood kiln. Visitors will be able to watch the whole process. Then they can view potters showing step-by-step how they create pieces of work.
Takuro Shibata, Director of STARworks Ceramics in nearby Star is donating the kind of clay that brought potters to this part of the state hundreds of years ago.
"STARworks Ceramics is excited to donate our local clay mixed here in Star for the potters to use to make pieces to be fired in the kiln at the N.C. Pottery Center," Shibata said. "This is a community event and using local clay is an element that makes this firing unique."
These events will coincide with the April 4 ending of the Owen/Owens Show at the Pottery Center. Since January, this exhibition has showcased one of the original extended area potter families. Members of the Owens families will perform their traditional mountain music, and there will be an opportunity to have souvenir catalogs signed by the exhibition participants from 1 to 4 p.m.
The day is intended to offer a variety of events both educational and historical to offer visitors a firsthand immersion in the life and art of pottery country.
"The state of North Carolina is amazing for its pottery and this day will showcase not only a long-standing family tradition that spans North Carolina, but also an authentic Seagrove experience," says Pam Owens, Pottery Center Board member and Jugtown potter. "The community kiln firing complements this exhibit and is a wonderful coming together of potters and a sharing of knowledge and ideas, an opportunity for the public to experience the community spirit of the Seagrove Potters and support the North Carolina Pottery Center."
The experiences continue through the month, with area potters planning kiln openings and special events at their potteries. The weekend of April 18-19 will see a new event of the Seagrove Area Potters Association which they call "Celebration of Spring in Seagrove" -- aptly coinciding with Earth Day.
The kiln that was fired at the Pottery Center will be unloaded during the week of April 18. Each participating potter will donate one piece to a Pottery Center fundraising auction on Saturday, April 18.
Their annual fundraising auction is a crucial event for the Pottery Center. Proceeds from the auction help to keep the museum and educational center open and operating. A silent auction will be held from 2:30 to 4 p.m. with light refreshments from 4 to 5. The live auction starts at 5:00, and all the events are free and open to the public.
"The Celebration of Seagrove Potters is a gathering of diverse clay artists joining forces to showcase the traditional and contemporary pottery of the historic Seagrove community," the group says in a press release. "Our goal is to maintain the authenticity of Seagrove pottery by working together in a community effort to promote the historical, educational and artistic aspects that can be experienced when visiting Seagrove, and to draw customers to the shops to have a firsthand Seagrove experience."
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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