My Catawba County
More SALT, Please
Visitors are often amazed by the large number of arts and culture resources available in a community our size. Several of those resources – including the Catawba Science Center, Hickory Museum of Art, Hickory Choral Society, Hickory Public Library and Western Piedmont Symphony – are gathered under one “roof” at a special location in Hickory called the SALT Block (Science, the Arts, and Literature Together). The SALT Block Foundation is responsible for ensuring this space continues to serve as a community arts hub for years to come. We asked SALT Block Foundation Executive Director Tara Bland to help us learn more.
What is the SALT Block, and when was it established?
The SALT Block is the property located in downtown Hickory that was previously known as Claremont High School or Hickory High School from 1925-1974. Once Hickory High moved to its current location, the building sat empty for a number of years. In 1983, the Hickory Public School system passed the key of the building to Harley F. Shuford, a community advocate. Mr. Shuford’s vision was to create a space within the community where arts and culture would be housed together on one campus.
In 1986, the building was reopened as the Arts & Science Center of Catawba Valley and today is the home of the Catawba Science Center, Hickory Museum of Art, Hickory Choral Society and Western Piedmont Symphony. The Patrick Beaver Library was added by the City of Hickory to the campus in the late 90s. The SALT Block Foundation was officially established in 1997 as a non-profit organization with the mission of providing a home for “Science, the Arts and Literature together.”
What is the role of the SALT Block Foundation?
The SALT Block Foundation (SBF) is responsible for overseeing the operation of the SALT Block and provides the lion's share of the occupancy costs for the residents of the SALT Block: Catawba Science Center, Hickory Choral Society, Hickory Museum of Art, United Arts Council and Western Piedmont Symphony.
The beauty of this arrangement is that the Foundation funds the vast majority of generic building issues – things like utilities, building & grounds maintenance, capital replacement, building management, and security – leaving the resident organizations free to do what they do best: providing the wonderful programs, exhibits, and activities that enhance our area's quality of life. Learn more about the SALT Block Foundation and how it supports the residents of the SALT Block here.
What are some of the unique features of the SALT Block facility?
The original building on campus was built in 1925 and designed by C. Gadsen Sayer of Raleigh. It was the first public secondary school in the City of Hickory and opened with 14 teachers and 400 students. It is one of the finest remaining examples of the classical revival period of the early 20th Century. The exterior of the building remains pretty much the same, with additional buildings added onto the back section of the property.
The West Wing building added to the school in 1959 was the home for the school library and classes. This space is now home to the SALT Block Foundation and United Arts Council offices, as well as class space for the Catawba Science Center. The old shop building was renovated in the 90s to welcome the CSC Aquarium and Planetarium.
We have numerous outside gardens that include artistic sculpture and seating areas as well as a vegetable garden maintained by Hickory Greenway Harvest. Our auditorium is one of the finest in the southeast and hosts numerous events, dance recitals, concerts and speaker programs throughout the year.
How does the SALT Block Foundation accomplish its mission?
Our mission is accomplished with the help of our private donors through our annual campaign, planned gifts, grants and more that maintain our endowment. We also receive funding from Catawba County to assist with operations as well as funding from the City of Hickory to assist with capital expenditures. This public/private partnership is unique and works extremely well.
How can people get involved in supporting the SALT Block Foundation?
We recently hosted our 7th Derby Party on the lawn. You can see pictures from the event through our website and Facebook. We will hold this event again in 2024. On odd years, we host concerts and additional friend-raiser events to bring more visitors and patrons to our mission and cause. Our hours of operation are Wednesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. and Sundays from 1:00-4:00 p.m. You can learn more about our organizations through our website, www.saltblockfoundation.org.
Is there anything else you would like to add about the SALT Block Foundation?
The SALT Block Foundation is a great option when considering donating to all of the groups here on the block. All monies raised by the foundation are placed in our endowment that will fund the building and grounds for years to come.