Smith River Artisan Trail Highlighted on 'Daytime Blue Ridge'

Smith River Artisan Trail Highlighted on 'Daytime Blue Ridge'
Karen Despot leads a painting party at De Spot School of Art. (VisitMartinsville Photo)

June 10, 2016

Martinsville, VA (June 10, 2016) – Earlier this week, Martinsville-Henry County, Virginia took center stage as the Smith River Artisan Trail was featured on WSLS Channel 10’s “Daytime Blue Ridge.” The entertainment/lifestyle TV show, which airs daily at 12:30 p.m., features a segment called “In A Day’s Drive” that highlights day trip opportunities throughout the state of Virginia.

For the video, host Natalie Faunce began her trip with a visit to the state-certified Martinsville-Henry County Visitor Center in Martinsville where she picked up a copy of the new Smith River Artisan Trail guide. This fold out map is a driving tour that highlights more than 60 artisans, agri-artisans and supporting businesses throughout the community. 

During her journey, Faunce participated in a Painting Party at De Spot School of Art in Martinsville, where she learned to paint a scene under the instruction of artist Karen Despot. Natalie was initially nervous about the idea of painting but was quickly set at ease by Despot’s fun style of teaching. Faunce noted that the class was “Intense but really fun” and commented on the final product that she “was surprisingly proud of.”

The crew visited Gallery 22 in Martinsville, owned by glass artist Aleen Wilson and filmed the process of making fused glass sun catchers. This is a drop-in activity offered to the public during regular business hours at the studio or by appointment.

One of the most unique experiences for Faunce was visiting Mountain Valley Hops in Axton. On this farm owned by Herb Atwell and Peggy Donivan, hops are grown to sell to micro-breweries and home-brewers for production of craft beer. What makes this form of agriculture unique is that the crop is grown vertically on a grid of 20-foot tall telephone poles strung with strong cables. The farm is open for tours by appointment and will offer a pick-your-own hops harvesting experience for home-brewers later in the summer. Those wishing to learn about home brewing can purchase all the equipment needed at another stop on the Artisan Trail, Preston Ridge Winery which is owned by Lawrence Penn.

Faunce enjoyed lunch at Rising Sun Breads of Martinsville where she met agri-artisan Darla Main-Schneider. Each day Schneider and her team of talented bakers prepare fresh breads, deserts and baked goods to serve at the bakery. Schneider strives to use the best quality ingredients for all her products and sources locally when possible.

Following lunch, Faunce visited The Historic Little Post Office in Martinsville, which is an extension of Piedmont Arts. The building was constructed in 1893 as a mail distribution center for the Star Route and is now used as gallery space and hosts many special events throughout the year. It is maintained by “Postmaster” Will Gravely who oversees the property and books events there.

The five minute video was organized and funded by the Martinsville-Henry County EDC’s Tourism Division and produced by Ryan Anderson of WSLS 10. According to Jennifer Doss, Director of Tourism for Martinsville-Henry County, “Our community is home to many talented artisans and agri-artisans. We are proud to support the Smith River Artisan Trail in highlighting each of these individuals and the video produced gives a little teaser as to some of the wonderful experiences that guests can enjoy while touring along the trail.”

The video is available for viewing on, and on VisitMartinsville. Copies of the Smith River Artisan Trail guide can be picked up at the Martinsville-Henry County Visitor Center, located inside the New College Institute on Moss Street.

The mission of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation is to create new job opportunities and expand the tax base for the area.  The organization strives to support and develop local industry, as well as market Martinsville-Henry County globally as an exceptional place to live, work and play.

The EDC is a public-private partnership between the City of Martinsville, Henry County, the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth (C-PEG) and the Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont.


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