It is Tuesday, and Pittsboro’s Small B&B Café is closed.
But owners Lisa Piper and Dave Clark are not at rest. They are on the prowl for used windows for a new building they hope to begin constructing this spring on the corner of Small and East streets, the future home of the Small Museum of Folk Art.
“One Saturday two years ago, one of our very lovely customers, Gilda McDaniel, who is one of the coordinators of the Fearrington Folk Art Show, came into the cafe on a Saturday,” said Piper, who had customers lined up out the door. When McDaniel said she had to talk, Piper turned her duties over to an employee.
“You don’t say no to Gilda,” Piper said.
But then she tried to say no. McDaniel said she had a gentleman who wanted to donate his collection of about 400 pieces of folk art to someone who would then share them with the public.
“Gilda told me that she thought we should do this,” Piper said. “I told her that she was out of her mind.”
This sentiment lasted all of 10 minutes. Clark, once he heard the idea had the same initial reaction but then jumped on board as well. “We thought it would be really cool.”
Before Clark and Piper moved to Pittsboro, they lived and ran a cafe in Minneapolis. Their vacations were planned around traveling to see art. The café and their home, connected to the café, is a testament to their hobby. Art is on the floor, in the garden, hanging from the ceiling, attached to the side of their buildings, sitting on bookshelves.
“When we came here we got a whiff of folk art, a whole new genre for us,” Clark said. They were as drawn to it as their customers are to one of their house specials, lemon ricotta hotcakes.
The next step in this wild adventure was for the couple to meet the collector, Jim Massey.
“Jim came to the café for lunch,” Piper said. “We fell in love with him. He said the idea of having a museum here gave him chills.”
Massey, who is now retired, was the curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium from 1971 to 2000, director of the Herbarium from 1983 to 1990, and also taught at UNC-Chapel Hill and at the N.C. Botanical Garden. A Moncure resident, Massey founded Holly Hill Daylily Farm on his property, where he displayed his folk art collection in the former Haywood post office he had moved there.
“After I closed my daylily business, friends said it was a travesty for my collection to be sitting here with no one getting to enjoy it,” Massey said. “We began to look for a possible home for it. Then Dave and Lisa came on to the scene. I was enamored with them. I think they will be a great home for it.”
The large Elvis sculpture hanging on one of Piper’s and Clark’s bed and breakfast guest houses is part of Massey’s collection. “I commissioned it from C.M. and Grace Kelly Laster who are in Kentucky,” he said. “They have a big Elvis at their place that I had seen in photos. I met them at the Fearrington Folk Art show. They said that their Elvis sculpture is the largest one of him anywhere and asked if it would be OK if they made mine a little shorter than theirs.”
Massey is thrilled about the plans for the museum to reach out into the community as well as provide on-site education.
“I wish I had been exposed to folk art when I was a child,” Massey said. “I may have been a great folk artist myself.”
The plans for the 18 foot by 36 foot, temperature-controlled museum were created by architect Scott Hefner. The small museum will resemble an old tobacco barn with some modern facets. In keeping with Piper’s and Clark’s other buildings, it will built with as much salvaged wood as possible.
Clark said, “The goal is to break ground in March, but we need to raise at least $100,000,” Clark said.
A fundraiser will be held on the site of the small museum from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 27. Tickets are $50. There will be live blues music by Eric Sommer, a pig roast, beer, and an art auction with donated art by Roger Lamanna, Steve Cote, and Clyde Jones among others. To sign up for this fundraiser, volunteer, or get future museum, go to smallmuseumfolkart.org.
“I can’t wait until we have the museum opening and people can start enjoying this,” Massey said, “It is so much fun. I am anxious for it to be unpacked and out where people can see it.”
Want to help?
A fundraiser will be held on the site of the small museum from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 27. Tickets are $50. There will be live blues music by Eric Sommer, a pig roast, beer, and an art auction with donated art by Roger Lamanna, Steve Cote, and Clyde Jones among others. To sign up for this fundraiser, volunteer, or get future museum, go to www.smallmuseumfolkart.org.