Western North Carolina is known as the artist’s enclave of the Southeast—but where should we layfolk go to enjoy the fruits of these labors? Here’s our guide to enjoying art—painted, sculpted, sketched, and otherwise crafted—across the region.
1. Asheville Art Museum – With its recent $24 million renovation and expansion, downtown Asheville’s art museum is a work of art in itself. Inside you’ll find traveling exhibitions (like Question Bridge: Black Males, a trans-media conversation between Black men that runs through March 15, 2021, and the ceramic exhibition Muddying the Waters, which runs through Feb. 1, 2021) and permanent collections.
2 South Pack Square, Asheville
11 a.m.–6 p.m. daily (closed Tuesdays)
2. River Arts District – Some 240+ artists call the River Arts District home—or rather, studio. Artists span a broad spectrum in the former manufacturing district, including mediums like basketry, photography, painting, sculpture, and jewelry. The Fall Studio Stroll is still on the calendar for Sat. and Sun., Nov. 14–15, 10 a.m.– 5 p.m., your chance to meet the area’s artists.
3. Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center – In the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, Black Mountain College—conceived by John A. Rice and based on John Dewey’s principles of progressive education—fostered some of the greatest artists of the century. While it closed in 1957, its legacy, and the legacies of its students, live on in the Black Mountain College Museum in downtown Asheville. The permanent collection alone houses 3,000+ works by faculty and alumni.
120 College Street, Asheville
Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
4. Grovewood Village – Formerly home to Biltmore Industries, where locals were trained in employable crafts like weaving and woodworking, Grovewood Village now hosts Grovewood Gallery with work in mediums like textiles, pottery, and glass from more than 400 American artists, eight working artist studios, the Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum, and the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum.
111 Grovewood Road, Asheville
Wed.–Sun., 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
5. Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Folk Art Center – Up on the Blue Ridge Parkway you’ll find the headquarters of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, which has supported the work of more than 800 Appalachian craftsmen over the past 90 years. This location is home to Allanstand, the oldest craft shop in the country (est. 1895), a museum of American Craft, three exhibition rooms, and an American Craft library. Makers present daily craft demonstrations in the lobby; glass beads, glassblowing, and woodcarving are on the calendar this month.
382 Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville
Tue.–Sun., 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
6. Marshall High Studios – More than 30 artists fill the 26 studios at Marshall High Studios, which occupies the old—you guessed it—Marshall High on a river island in Marshall. Artists in sculpture, illustration, ceramics, and more maintain their own studio hours. The annual Marshall Handmade Market is usually a one-stop shop for Christmas gifts, but you’ll have to wait for next year’s annual market in 2021.
115 Blannahassett Island Road, Marshall
7. Museum of the Cherokee Indian – The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is, of course, a wonderful destination for learning more about the original Western North Carolinians, but it’s also a place to admire the artwork by and of their descendants. Current traveling exhibits include All My Relations by Shan Goshorn, which features 40 black and white photographs taken of members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Trail of Tears Photographs, which includes twenty framed photographs by David Fitzgerald.
589 Tsali Boulevard, Cherokee
9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily
8. Blowing Rock Art & History Museum – The Blowing Rock Art & History Museum serves as a cultural center for this northern part of the mountains, with a spectrum of permanent and traveling history and art collections. The permanent collection includes works by the painter Philip Moose and American art in the Alexander Collection at BRAHM. As for traveling exhibitions, the museum is currently hosting Branching Out: Works in Wood from North Carolina and Terra Ludis: Play Ground, which profiles hiking, kayaking, climbing, fly fishing, mountain biking, and road cycling in WNC.
159 Ginny Stevens Lane, Blowing Rock
Tue.–Sat., 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
9. WCU Fine Art Museum – Western Carolina University’s Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center includes four galleries, a growing permanent collection, and exhibitions highlighting regional, national, and international artists. While the museum is currently closed to those outside the WCU community, check out virtual events online that explore the current exhibitions, like Cultivating Collections: Paintings, Ceramics, and Works by Latinx and Latin American Artists.
199 Centennial Drive, Cullowhee
10. Turchin Center for the Visual Arts – Like WCU, Appalachian State’s art museum is closed to the public (open only to students and faculty), but you can check out art outside from the annual Rosen Sculpture Competition and Exhibition. Next year’s exhibitions will include Retracing Audubon: Eco-Conversations with Krista Elrick, which opens June 4, 2021, and, in 2022, International Series: Chile.
423 West King Street, Boone