Winter’s chill doesn’t have to keep you indoors. The winter months are great times to visit local art galleries, many of which are less crowded when the weather is chilly.
The beauty of Western North Carolina’s mountains have long attracted professional artists, helping build one of the nation’s largest communities of creative professionals. Many are known internationally but choose to show their work locally. Here are some suggestions of galleries to visit.
12 S. Lexington Ave., Asheville
10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 12-5 p.m. Sunday
Miles Bender, co-owner of one of the few glass fine art galleries in the United States, is attracted to glass sculptures that have stories to tell. Color, shape, and texture that combine in representational and abstract forms are what he and many of the gallery’s fans like. A piece “has to make you think,” he said.
He has operated the gallery since moving to Asheville in 2005. The city’s reputation as an arts destination brings many people into the gallery, but much of its sales are to high-end collectors who never walk through the door. [quote float=”right”]“We are a destination within a destination,” Bender said.[/quote] Others make appointments for private viewings and leave with their purchases without visiting other galleries in this gallery-rich city. Such is the small world of high-end glass sculpture collecting.
Bender Gallery represents about four dozen glass artists from around the world, including Katherine Bernstein, a Burnsville crystal artist who was inspired to work in glass by Harvey Littleton, a Spruce Pine resident considered to be the father of the studio glass movement. The glass fine arts community is so small that artists come to Bender Gallery for representation. And Bender goes to them. “We look for work on a regular basis to change things up and to find emerging artists,” he said. “That way the gallery always looks fresh.”
People love glass sculpture for its fragility and for fluid forms that come from a hard medium. Glass is a study of contrasts—born of fire, yet seemingly set in ice. It amazes people, which makes Bender Gallery such an amazing place in an amazing arts city. “We are a destination within a destination,” Bender said. In February 2014, it is featuring new work by Michelle Knox and David Patchen.
The Bascom Center for the Visual Arts
323 Franklin Road, Highlands
Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 12-5 p.m.
A stroll between the six buildings on campus literally feels like a walk in the park, and a historic one at that. The entrance to the center is through the Will Henry Stevens Covered Bridge, an 87-foot-long span that was built in the early 1800’s and trucked to Highlands from New Hampshire. The road into campus leads to the main museum, built from a large 1838 hand-hewn post-and-beam barn. The Studio Barn nearby is a rebuilt rough-hewn barn that houses clay studios in one huge room.
The old-growth white pine floors in the Bascom’s main building are from several historic barns. Marked by the tools that farmers used to thresh wheat, the floors and their warm patina reflect the rural nature of a campus full of meadows, gardens, forests, walking trails, mountain views and sculpture gardens.
The Bascom has five galleries and provides opportunities to take classes. Exhibits change every three months, and there are always three or four going on. The Bascom recently had a photography exhibition of landscapes curated by Jane Jackson, who curated Sir Elton John’s extensive photo collection. Through March 2014, it will stage a show that features people choice award winners of art guilds and organizations in the area. March through May 18 it will have an exhibit of handcrafted, non-powered river and lake boats. The show will also feature antique rods, reels, and flies to coincide with the Three River Fly Fishing Tournament in Highlands.
“Our curator has been looking all over for these beautiful boats. It’s going to be amazing,” said Bascom membership coordinator, Pat Turnbull. “Our exhibitions are world-class. We have a lot of people from the Asheville area who go through the galleries, take a class and spend the day in downtown Highlands shopping and eating. It’s a nice way to spend the day.”
Drew Deane Gallery
114 West Main Street, Brevard
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
“It was the American dream to travel,” Deane said. “These signs were hand-created. The metal was cut by hand. The neon letters were all hand-built. They made a statement of individuality that you don’t see in modern travel. They’re dead, or they’re dying.”
Deane’s love for the signs developed early on. As a girl, she used to visit her three great-aunts at the motor court—the Camelia Court—that they owned in Silver Springs, Florida. The most exciting part of Deane’s day was turning it on.
A former architect, she happened upon her work in oils one day while walking with her daughter in the snow and seeing a big, red neon sign that said “Sunset Motel.” Captivated, she started searching out old signs for motels, bowling alleys, drugs stores and cafes.