Performing and visual arts are alive and thriving in the Alleghany Highlands. Local organizations, such as the Alleghany Highlands Orchestra, the Alleghany Highlands Chorale and the Alleghany Highlands Theatre, offer performances close to home. And special events fill the calendar. Other opportunities are just a quick drive away in the Greater Roanoke Region.
The future of the local arts scene is very much tied to a proud past. The Historic Masonic Theatre in downtown Clifton Forge (and operated by the town), was built in 1905 and is embarking on an ambitious fundraising program to restore the hall to its former glory.
The Clifton Forge Masonic Amphitheatre opened in June 2012 behind the Masonic Theatre on the site of the former Wholesale Tire Company warehouse. The Alleghany Foundation awarded a $150,000 grant to The Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation for the project. The area has repeatedly been included in long range downtown planning studies for development as an outdoor performance and public gathering space. Third-year architecture students from the design/buildLab of Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture and Design are currently developing plans for the amphitheatre and also will execute the construction. Keith and Marie Zawistowski, architects for the Historic Masonic Theatre’s renovation, head the design/buildLab team of 17 students. Read more about it here.
The Alleghany Highlands Arts & Crafts Center, also located in downtown Clifton Forge, is a not-for-profit volunteer organization which encourages creative experience and appreciation of the visual arts. The gallery’s changing exhibits feature works produced by local and other artists. The shop sells juried handmade items marketed by the artists and craftsmen, including pottery, wooden ware, jewelry, stained glass, needlework, quilts, and other fiber arts, as well as watercolor, oil, and graphic arts, framed and unframed.
A new Virginia initiative, Virginia’s Rail Heritage Region, highlights and promotes the state’s rich rail history, including the role of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in the Alleghany Highlands. Clifton Forge was an important place on the C&O. It was where locomotives were serviced and readied for the trip west over the Alleghany Mountains and east over the Blue Ridge Mountains and down the James River. It served as the division headquarters for the region. A large shop facility overhauled and repaired locomotives and a large rail yard performed other functions. That history is told – and preserved – at the C&O Railway Heritage Center.