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Charlotte Area News

Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby picked for $1.5M grant

Cleveland County Courthouse in Shelby, NC. Photo by lumierefl/Flickr. hspace=4

A museum to honor bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs and his hometown of Shelby, North Carolina has received a $1.5 million grant from the federal government. With unemployment of more than 15 percent and textile jobs in decline, Cleveland County could use an economic boost. A community group called Destination Cleveland County is hoping banjo music will do the trick. The The Earl Scruggs Center: Music and Stories of the Carolina Foothills got a big vote of confidence this week from the U.S. Department of Commerce with a $1.5 million economic development grant. That's one of the larger grants given by the Economic Development Administration and the single largest donation to the Earl Scruggs Center so far. Destination Cleveland County Executive Director Emily Epley says the entire project will cost about $6 million. Fundraising is now two-thirds complete. The group plans to renovate the old county courthouse in downtown Shelby and have exhibits featuring Scruggs as an archetype of the industry and musical innovation for which Cleveland County is known. "He worked on a farm and he worked in the textile industry and he basically invented this style of banjo playing - the three-finger picking style," says Epley. "And even in Nashville and in the world of music, (Scruggs) changed the way people looked at the banjo as an instrument." The proposed Earl Scruggs Center was chosen for a department of commerce grant because of the tourism and jobs it promises to bring to the distressed economy of Cleveland County. Epley says it could open by the end of 2011 if fundraising stays on track.