LMU expansion good news for Cumberland Gap

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CUMBERLAND GAP, Tenn. (WVLT) - The expansion of an east Tennessee university is good news for students, and for one town.

Lincoln Memorial University's School of Arts and Humanities just started holding classes in near-by Cumberland Gap.

Right now, the center of the expansion is an old night club that now holds pottery, wood-working, and metals classes.

"Means that we can offer more classes and expand the programming to the kinds of things, the larger objects, sculptures we couldn't do. The paintings we couldn't do in the past. It's a wonderful opportunity," said Arts and Humanities Dean Martin Sellers.

LMU didn't stop there, buying several other buildings that make up a block in the downtown area.

The empty log cabin next door will serve as a welcome center for the school. There is another building that will hold art classes and galleries.

The university also bought the town's convention center, which is available for formal dances, wedding receptions and community dinners.

But this expanded program isn't just good news for students, it could be a financial boom for the struggling mountain town.

"The university itself will bring a lot more foot traffic in the town, and it should be an economic boost to the community," said Neal Pucciarelli, who lives in Cumberland Gap. "I think that's gonna motivate some people to come in and set up some businesses and some shops."

The school will host a five-week class this summer. The program will incorporate the arts, music, and dance of the Appalachian culture, something very much a part of the town.

"Melting pot's a good analogy, making pots here. More like a clay pot that's being formed, but yeah that's exactly it," said Sellers.

LMU will also bring a police presence to town because Cumberland Gap does not have a 24-hour department.

Pucciarelli says that reassures businesses they will be safe when the lights go out.

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