Pittsboro B&B Owners Paint New Vision

by Sarah Chaney

He points to a carved Santa Claus and then to a painting of lined-up men playing banjos.

These are models of the sort of art our new museum will display, Dave Clark said.

“It’s going right out there,” he said, pointing to a space outside his and Lisa Piper’s green bed-and-breakfast, within eyeshot of the Chatham County Courthouse.

“It will be visionary art, outsider, folk — whatever you want to call it,” Piper said.

The couple moved from Minneapolis to Pittsboro three years ago to be closer to Piper’s parents. They’ve grown their B&B and cafe business, the Small B&B Cafe, in what they think of as the funky enclave of Pittsboro.

A few cats and a dog roam the home, which is an eclectic mixture of custom-made quilts, folk artwork and quirky door handles. Pittsboro tourists and natives alike regularly share a cup of Joe at the cafe attached to their B&B.

Their latest venture builds on their appreciation for the arts. The two are planning to break ground this summer on a small museum built of salvaged materials. It will display a collection of 400 art pieces from former UNC professor Jim Massey, as well as sculptures and drawings from predominantly Southern artists such as Vollis Simpson and Jimmy Suddeth. Outsider artists usually have no previous contact with art institutions.

“It was a total shock, not planned at all,” Piper said. “Jim Massey didn’t want to gift the art to an organization or a university — he wanted to gift it to people. We both fell in love with each other.”

The museum was recently granted official nonprofit status and is overseen by a board of directors.

Fundraising is at the heart of their concerns. The couple will host their first fundraising event in March outside of their B&B.

“We’re hoping as soon as it’s warm enough, we’ll pour concrete and break ground,” Clark said.

The couple agreed that, in Pittsboro, there’s nothing quite like what they’re anticipating to build.

Even though the museum has the potential to generate revenue, Piper and Clark have never held a Wall Street-focused view of business. For them, community is of utmost importance.

“We’re not doing this as a business builder,” Piper said. “It’s more of a community service and education opportunity. It’s more to share art and expose as many people as possible to the folk art world.”

Collections will not be for sale.