Feast your eyes on the spectrum of WNC's art scene
PHOTO: See Dale Chihuly’s Sole d’Oro (14½ x 14 x 14 feet, 2017) during “Chihuly at Biltmore” through October 7.
Across the Blue Ridge this season, artists and admirers alike will be fired up about the ancient craft of glass-blowing during “Summer of Glass”—a host of events, including demonstrations, workshops, tours, and exhibits. Top of the list: “Chihuly at Biltmore” (through October 7), showcasing the glass master’s larger-than-life sculptures displayed throughout the estate’s expansive gardens. For a closer look at the colorfully crystalline objets d’art, sign up for one of three VIP weekend tours: July 13 to 15, August 17 to 19, and September 7 to 9.
But Biltmore is just one of more than 60 galleries, studios, and individual artists celebrating the art form across the region. At the Toe River Art Council’s Spruce Pine Gallery, “Sphere of Influence: Glass Artists of WNC” will showcase work from a handful of renowned local artisans, as well as a map illustrating the impact of those artists on the global stage; the exhibit runs July 28 through August 25.
Check out exploreasheville.com/summer-of-glass for a full line-up of the celebration’s events.
STATE OF THE ART
Art markets and festivals are scattered across the mountains, and like the region’s flora, these shows peak in the heat of summer
Pots on the Green Festival - June 30 & July 1, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. (Cashiers)
Western North Carolina has a rich history of pottery, from Cherokee wares to the adaptations of European settlers-turned-folk potters. This second annual festival celebrates that lengthy lineage and the modern potters who carry it forward. Sixteen renowned Southern potters, with styles ranging from traditional to whimsical to stark contemporary, gather on The Village Green to share and sell their work. Free. villagegreencashiersnc.com
Art in the Park - July 14, August 11, & September 8, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (Blowing Rock)
A much-anticipated tradition since 1962, the monthly summer markets host some 90 juried artists who exhibit the region’s best in wood, clay, jewelry, and more. Free. blowingrock.com
The Big Crafty - July 15, noon–7 p.m. (Asheville)
Now in its 10th year, The Big Crafty brings together artisans and makers to peddle their goods. Pottery and porcelain, cross stitch and cameo portraits are all on display—and for sale—in Pack Square Park, where artists and buyers mingle at more than 100 booths. To celebrate a decade of Big Crafties, the folks behind the show added another hour and live music to the semi-annual fest. 80 Court Plaza, thebigcrafty.com
PHOTO: Cashiers Plein Air Festival
Cashiers Plein Air Festival - July 17–21, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. (Cashiers)
Loosely translated, the French phrase “en plein air,” or “open air,” is commonly used to denote a style of painting which, as you might expect, takes place outside, where artists wield their brushes to capture the landscape before them. During this week-long fest, painters work around town, then display their handiwork at The Village Green Commons. cashierspleinairfestival.com
Check out family-friendly arts and cultural festivities this season—and did we mention they’re free?
Cherokee Heritage Days - July 14, August 11, & September 8 (Cherokee)
On the second Saturday of every month, kids and adults alike delight in the cultural history of the Cherokee people who originally inhabited these hills with storytelling, dancing, and hands-on workshops related to the monthly themes, like September’s Dulisdini, or “Nut Month.” Museum of the Cherokee Indian, 598 Tsali Blvd., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Free. visitcherokeenc.com
PHOTO: LEAF Downtown takes over Asheville’s Pack Square Park on August 3 and 4 with imagination and whimsy.
LEAF Downtown - August 3 & 4 (Asheville)
Sure, many festivals tout art and music as their foundation, but few manifest the crafts quite like LEAF. Precipitated by May’s even more expansive music fest in Black Mountain (which just celebrated its 46th year), LEAF Downtown celebrates more local, family-friendly arts in downtown Asheville. Three stages host some 200 musicians and performers, 70 vendors share handcrafted wares and eats, and kids dash between art activities. Pack Square Park, 80 Court Plaza. Friday, 3–10 p.m., & Saturday, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Free. theleaf.org
Goombay Festival - September 7–9 (Asheville)
The West African word goombay means “rhythm” or “drum,” making it an apt moniker for this annual celebration, when the thump of African drums sounds through downtown streets. It’s a feast for the senses—from booths auctioning sizzling, ambrosial dishes in a sea of prismatic dashikis to the sounds of spoken word, DJ music, and, of course, drums. Pack Square Park, 80 Court Plaza. Friday, 6–9 p.m. & Saturday, noon–9 p.m. Free. ashevillegoombayfestival.com
INSDIE THE ARTIST STUDIO
Artists studios are prevalent in Asheville, but getting inside them can seem a challenging feat. Take advantage of summer’s strolls and tours to gain access behind the scenes and meet the talents
River Arts District
With more than 200 artists in wide-windowed studios across 22 buildings (most of which still maintain the architectural features of their industrial past), touring the River Arts District (RAD) is more adventure than it is calculable circuit. Most of the spaces have an open-door policy: if it’s ajar, come in to chat with the artist and peruse their work; if not, try again tomorrow. If you’d like to plot a more formal course, visit RAD during the Fall Studio Stroll in November, when all the artists keep normal hours and welcome spectators. riverartsdistrict.com
In the early 20th century, Edith Vanderbilt (wife of famed Biltmore Estate proprietor George) devised Biltmore Industries, an incubator for local Ashevillians to master the crafts of weaving and woodworking. Today, the building that once spurred the artistry of the Vanderbilts’ pupils still fosters the creation of art, housing 10 resident artist studios and a gallery of American-made works. The Grovewood Gallery frequently hosts traveling exhibitions, and the artists open their studios to visitors on the third Saturday of every month through October, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 111 Grovewood Rd., grovewood.com
PHOTO: Marshall High Studios
Marshall High Studios
Just a 30-minute drive north of Asheville, this picturesque mountain town—and more specifically, a lush, 10-acre island in the middle of the French Broad River—is home to a veritable arts enclave. A restored schoolhouse holds 26 studios that host artists of all mediums (painting, sculpture, and music). Each studio maintains independent hours. 115 Blannahassett Island Rd., marshallhighstudios.com
Photographs (“Chihuly at Biltmore”) courtesy of Chihuly Studio, (LEAF) by Steve Atkins, (Marshall High Studios) by Michael Oppenheim, & (Cashiers) by Annell Metsker