LEAF Community Arts, an Asheville nonprofit  that aims to connect people and cultures through music and the arts, is marking its 25 anniversary this year in a big way: with a new name and a new home.

The new name: The group is now officially known as LEAF Global Arts, says founder and executive director Jennifer Pickering, to reflect the nonprofit’s growth, as well as its global partners and programs. The goal for LEAF has always been to connect the local community with the bigger world, and the new name honors that, she says.

The new home: The LEAF Global Arts Center is on track to open in a brand new space in mid-February. The location is the Club Del Cardo building in downtown Asheville. The building is located in the middle of what was once the city’s bustling African-American business district known as The Block. The building has been brought to life by its owner Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation in partnership with Mountain Housing Opportunities, as well as a $705,000 grant from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s fund for tourism product development, as well as funding partners Bank of America Foundation, Dan Lucas Memorial Fund, Echo Mountain Recording Studio, the Gradison Family Foundation, Putumayo World Music, Sunnyside Trading Company, and Togar Rugs.

More about the LEAF Global Arts Center: The 3,300-square-foot​​ ​ space will feature an interactive world map where visitors can explore a range of cultural art forms, as well as an international immersion room and virtual reality mini-theater that will transport visitors across the globe through a sensory experience.  In the building’s basement, a “global sound underground” will encourage experimentation with unique musical instruments from around the world, an intimate performance stage and interactive artist workstations. LEAF Global Arts also plans to honor the area’s history by dedicating a space for elders to share stories and the local community to cultivate connections.

Small beginnings: LEAF is perhaps best known for the two music festivals it holds each year – one is spring and one in fall – at a campground in Black Mountain (the 50th music event at Lake Eden is set for May), as well as a summer music fest in downtown Asheville. LEAF has evolved into a full-spectrum global arts non-profit organization providing cultural arts education to more than 12,000 young people each year in Western North Carolina.

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