If you’ve ever been inside the immaculately revamped 1915 building in historic downtown Wilkesboro, you know it’s ready for its close-up, to borrow Norma Desmond’s classic line from “Sunset Boulevard.”
It’s been getting just that and more recently from UNC-TV crews, for broadcast on the state’s 13 PBS member television stations. Those stations reach 99% of N.C. households with televisions—in short, millions of potential viewers.
After the building’s grand opening on Aug. 1, 2018, the 1915 publicity ball got rolling on Nov. 19 when “Our State” magazine published an “Around Town” multimedia segment featuring the 1915—owned by Dale and Michelle Isom—and several other attractions in the Wilkesboros and Wilkes County.
The eight-plus minute video on Vimeo presents a county road trip hosted by the magazine’s “E.B.,” with waypoints that include the 1915, “Midtown Garden + Market” in North Wilkesboro and Call Family Distillers in Wilkesboro.
Master Distiller Brian Call even took E.B. and Dale Isom for a ride in his 1940 Ford Coupe to visit the Robert Cleveland Log House in Wilkesboro for an impromptu Kruger Brothers musical set. “Picking out something beautiful in Wilkes County just comes naturally, along with a deep appreciation for finely-crafted traditions and community,” says E.B. to close out the segment.
A four-minute video about the 1915 first aired March 11 on the “N.C. Weekend” program. It was produced and shot by John Litschke of Elkin. It features on-screen comments from the Isoms, event coordinator Caitlen Isom Wurdemen, café chef and partner Lia Chasar, musician Josh Day and artisans Kim Miller, Pat Moritz, Belinda Thomas and Steven Greene.
Litschke filmed and edited the latest segment at the 1915 on March 31, one that spotlights over 20 local students who are enrolled in the 12 Note MAP after-school music program directed by Larry Skipper of Wilkesboro. It was released on the UNC-TV website (unctv.org) on May 6 and broadcast over-the-air the following weekend on the UNC-TV program “MUSE: The Arts Show.”
Anne Foster co-produced the six-minute episode with Litschke. It also features comments from Dale Isom, musician Wayne Henderson, program chair Brenda Carter, instructor Rosemary Markle, Wilkesboro Elementary Principal Rodney Graham, music teacher Anita Wingler, and parents Keith Ferroni and Tammy Matthews.
Dale Isom said during a Wilkes Economic Development Corp. meeting last week that 12 Note MAP is growing, with about 100 students from seven schools enrolled. The program puts musical instruments in the hands of students at no cost to them. The goal of the program, said Isom, is for students to continue playing in high school and later pursue a two-year music degree in college, ideally at Wilkes Community College if it could be added there.
“It’s a grassroots effort and has the potential to become something special,” Isom added.
Going forward, Isom added, UNC-TV is considering doing a series of episodes filmed in the county which would feature musicians, artists and chefs—if the network can find local underwriting.
“We have had dozens of people come to the 1915 from Asheville, Raleigh and elsewhere after seeing it on ‘N.C. Weekend,’” he added.
Recognition for the 1915 has come in other forms, too: The Isoms received the 2018 Small Town Main Street Award for the “economic vitality” generated by the restoration and opening of the 1915. The award was announced on March 13 by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
The 1915 features an art gallery stocked by local artists that can be quickly transformed into a performance venue for concerts, contra dances and even an open mic night. Adjoining the artisan center is a café that supports local farmers. The building used to be the Federal Courthouse and Post Office in Wilkesboro that was built in—you guessed it—1915.
I think I speak for many who are thankful that this historic building was saved and repurposed for a mission that benefits the town and the entire county. It’s a certainty that more people will visit and bring tourism dollars to the building, town and county as a direct result of the continued exposure on UNC-TV, the only statewide public media network.