Local Artists and Sellers
I’ve heard Wytheville described as an old town with a new heart. A blossoming scene of business and culture in the region. Which could describe Southwest Virginia in general. A region with roots that stretch through the soil of history for hundreds of years in the middle of a reawakening. A newfound appreciation of old and new, a marriage of tradition and innovation. If you live here you can see it happening, unfolding on our own streets. If you don’t, never has there been a better time to see it for yourself.
Wytheville is the perfect city for travelers. Some might even call it a traveler’s city. Sitting on the intersection of interstates 77 and 81, it’s a gateway for places near and far. An introduction to Southwest Virginia? That was the question I set out to answer several weeks ago. To see for myself how it had grown since I had last walked its streets many years ago.
And the answer is yes. Not only is Wytheville an introduction to Southwest Virginia, a taste of the culture, food, beauty, and history that define the identity of the region, but a hidden gem. An embodiment of what SWVA is growing to be.
I walked around for several hours and on the way back to my car I saw the most vibrant building. Conveniently sitting right on Main Street and painted in colors that instantly brought warmth and joy to the otherwise cold winter streets, “Local Artists and Sellers.”
Through the windows, I could spy a collection of beautiful artwork and a lovely little painted guitar. I wrote the name down in my notepad so I could look it up later.
The more I learned about it, the more blown away I was that something as unique and eclectic as Local Artists and Sellers exists right here in Southwest Virginia. Nestled in our own mountains, right in the heart of Downtown Wytheville, when it’s something you would expect to find exploring a city the likes of Asheville with all its quirks and eccentricities.
Coincidentally, the owner, Lily Formato, is an alumnus to the esteemed “Asheville School.” I had the pleasure of talking with Lily about Local Artists and Sellers.
She recounted how exciting Asheville was when she was there. The ample amount of ways to spend an evening, the embraced diversity that conjoins the food, the art, the many ways of just having a plain good time. From coffee shops to blues dancing.
Which she brought back with her to Wytheville. She explained her desire to bring new and exciting activities to liven the nights in Downtown Wytheville. You might not believe me when I say there is a single space in Southwest Virginia where you can catch a drag show one day and test your chops at improv in another.
Thankfully you don’t have to believe me, you can see it for yourself at Local Artists and Sellers. From swing dance lessons to improv to game nights to art lessons to so much more. Lily is using her space to create an atmosphere where “No one is excluded from having fun.”
As inspirational as the art gallery is itself, her dedication to helping Wytheville grow to be an inclusive scene that celebrates its own culture while embracing the excitement at the intersection of old and new is inspirational in its own right.
Local Artists and Sellers has already invigorated the youth scene in Wytheville. In addition to offering the events above, she also offers a safe and inviting space to anyone who wants to learn more about art as well as an internship program.
Also, the art itself creates a unique atmosphere as soon as you walk through the doors. Like the space she’s carved for Local Artists and Sellers in the region, the art is a unique collection derived from a broad expanse of different locations, styles, and inclinations.
She has hosted nationally renowned glass artist Elliot Todd in the past and currently features the macrame artist Yulia Savenko-Connolly. Although as the name suggests, you’re also guaranteed to see a variety of local artists on display such as
- Eden Miller
- Liliana Martinez
- Chuck Johnson
- Ed Terrell
- Kirk Chamberlain
- Jen Otey
- Aurora Lucas
- Rick Radman
- Robert Smith
- Andrea Cadle
- Brenda Walker
- Robby Suthers
- Pauline Murphy
- Jason Dunford
Seeing vibrant greens hills rolling off into autumnal orange sunsets in scenes depicting Southwest Virginia farmland alongside the coast of California set ablaze in ethereal light creates a juxtaposition that leaves you at the convergence of beauty that’s beyond space. Local Artists and Sellers celebrates and promotes the local art scene while also providing a taste of the world beyond our borders.
There aren’t many people I’ve met or places I’ve been that are as passionate about art as Lily Formato and Local Artists and Sellers. Although, perhaps what is most surprising is that she opened her business at the age of 18. She juggles running her art gallery alongside being a fulltime student.
I learned a lot when we had the chance to speak but what keeps echoing through my mind is something she said talking about the growth of Wytheville over the last several years.
That it’s in the middle of a “renaissance.” Which is the absolute perfect word for the transformation happening in Wytheville. Which is the absolute perfect word for the growth we’ve seen happening recently in Southwest Virginia. A word that bridges inspiration from the past and potential for the future. A word that celebrates where we are now but excitingly looks ahead.
That’s what I found in Wytheville. A renaissance. And that’s what you’ll find at Local Artists and Sellers.
If you’re anxious to learn more, you can find the gallery at 100 West Main Street in Wytheville, Virginia. I encourage you to find Local Artists and Sellers on social media to keep tabs on the fun events planned for the future. Currently, a game night is scheduled to happen on February 15th and John Ross will be at the gallery on March 7th. The gallery is open every day aside from Thursday and Sunday from 12pm-7pm.