Downtown Asheville Art Walks
Every first Friday, Asheville
A downtown filled with independent businesses celebrates its entrepreneurial spirit in the arts the first Friday of the month, April through December. Though not festivals, the Downtown Asheville Art Walks prompt two dozen galleries, museums and studios to set out wine, water and whatever for guests to sample while they take in new art offerings.
A typical evening might find friends meeting at one of the galleries, such as street art-friendly Satellite Gallery, and then walking to others within a half-mile downtown art district. A stop might be made for refreshments at, say, The Imperial Life (above Table restaurant) for a Clearly Welcome, a tasty cocktail made of Don Q Rum, Neisson Rhum Agricole, pineapple shrub, caraway and a splash of soda, accompanied by the delicious European charcuterie.
Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands
July 18-21 and Oct. 17-20, Asheville
The grandmother of area craft shows is the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, ongoing since 1948. The fair highlights the work of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild’s 900 members, all of whom live in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Artists are allowed to join only if a committee of peers deems their work worthy. The ticketed craft fairs ($8, children under 12 free) at the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Asheville convenes more than 200 exhibitors creating traditional and contemporary work in clay, fiber, glass, leather, metal, paper, wood and more.[quote float=”right”]“I like to think the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands created the template for other crafts fairs in the area. All the exhibitors have proven that they’re masters of their craft.”[/quote]
“I like to think the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands created the template for other crafts fairs in the area. It sets itself apart because of its history and tradition of excellence,” Nance said. “All the exhibitors have proven that they’re masters of their craft.”
Craft fair visitors have the opportunity to get to meet these creators and ask them about their work. Often the conversations fire an interest to visit the cove or valley from which the artist hails. It’s almost as if all of Western North Carolina – a very creative set, anyway – comes to Asheville for residents and visitors to meet.
Fine Arts and Master Craft Festival
July 19-21, Aug. 16-18, Banner Elk
Banner Elk has one stoplight and a whole lot of charm. Home of Lees-McRae College and nestled between the ski resorts of Sugar and Beech mountains, it holds one of the most interesting arts festivals of the summer.
The Fine Arts and Master Craft Festival, in its 22nd year, is juried, meaning that a group of artists decides whose work gets in, which, like the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, keeps the quality high. Organizers have signed 89 local, national and international artists for this summer’s festival, to be held at the historic Banner Elk Elementary School.
“It’s funny, but we get two different crowds for the two different weekends,” said Freeman, Avery County Chamber of Commerce executive director. “The July crowd is very high-end, and in August we get a more earthy high-end crowd that’s more like the Asheville crowd.”
The quality of work is very high, Freeman said, even for the globe-trotting fine arts painter who paints children’s faces (for free). Area restaurants keep up the pace as well. Pop into Banner Elk Café and Lodge Espresso Bar on Main Street for a strawberry smoothie or killer Bloody Mary.
International Festival Day
July 20, Waynesville
International Festival Day is Waynesville’s fine arts and crafts festival with a twist – it inspires impromptu street performances by dancers and musicians in town for Folkmoot USA. This year Folkmoot, a 12-day international dance and music festival, has invited performers from France, Martinique, Thailand, Slovakia, Paraguay, Mexico, Japan and Canada.
“With the dancers walking up and down the street and all the artists we have, people always have a fun time,” said Brittany Martin of the Haywood County Arts Council, which stages International Festival Day. The free event attracts several thousand people to Waynesville’s Main Street to cruise the juried work of nearly 100 Southeastern artists, many from Haywood County. Sharing the street with painters and performers will be crafters, whose population here has boomed in recent years largely because of Haywood Community College’s highly regarded professional crafts program.
Take a break from the fun at City Bakery on Main Street for a knock-out ham and gruyere sandwich on homemade bread with zesty Lusty Monk mustard (made in Asheville). Then head back onto the street. “This is a really fun festival,” Martin said.