Later this summer, Lees-McRae College will open a welcome center in the Cheese House, a historic building on campus located at the historic Mill Pond on Shawneehaw Avenue. In his revitalization plan to strengthen the College, President Barry Buxton identified the need to establish a more prominent sense of arrival for the College.
“Currently the campus is somewhat of an enigma. We want to define the boundaries of our campus, and encourage visitors to the area to stop by the welcome center and learn more about Lees-McRae College,” said President Buxton. “Because of its prominent location in the town, as well as its central location on campus, the Cheese House was the obvious choice for the welcome center.”
The Cheese House and Mill Pond bridge the gap between the main campus and the athletics facilities located on Hickory Nut Gap Road.
Staffed by volunteers, the welcome center will act as a mini-museum for the College stocked with information for visitors and prospective families. Volunteers will lead historic walking tours of campus from the Center.
“We want more people to connect to Lees-McRae and the community. The College has a fascinating history, and we hope visitors to the High Country will want to explore that history through our welcome center and tours,” said Buxton.
The welcome center is slated to open by September 1. College administrators requested that the Avery County Arts Council find a new home by August 1 in order to occupy the space as a welcome center by September. The Avery County Arts Council has occupied the Cheese House since 2007.
“The College and the Avery County Arts Council have been partners in arts education since the inception of the Arts Council many years ago,” said Buxton. “Lees-McRae has provided office space at no cost to the Arts Council for the last 12 years. However, Lees-McRae must recruit more students and families, and strengthen our financial base.”
The College offered additional office space on campus to the Arts Council, but that offer was declined. According to an article in the July 1 edition of the High Country Press, the Avery County Arts Council had an offer to move to Linville.
“The College has enjoyed the close relationship it’s maintained with the Avery County Arts Council. Our students have conducted service learning projects there and our students and graduates have been employed by the Arts Council,” said Kacy Crabtree, dean of the faculty at Lees-McRae College. “Lees-McRae and the Arts Council have enjoyed a longstanding relationship centered on collaborative arts experiences for Avery County, Banner Elk, and Lees-McRae.”
“The College looks forward to maintaining a close relationship with the Avery County Arts Council in many future endeavors,” said Buxton. “The arts are an important part of the education of our students, and maintaining a relationship with the Arts Council will benefit the College, the community and the Arts Council.”