- A 10-minute trip north of the city will bring you to the picturesque setting of Grovewood Gallery.
In the past decade, Asheville, N.C., has experienced a rebirth of sorts. Once booming, its downtown suffered a slump in the 1980s and became almost desolate. Today there are few reminders of that grim period, as the city’s heart pulses with a menagerie of new condos, cafes, entertainment and, of course, art.
Ranked by AmericanStyle readers as one of America’s Top Arts Destinations, Asheville is much more than just a naturally beautiful locale in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It practically qualifies as a work of art itself, with stunning Art Deco architecture, outdoor sculptures lining a creative 1.7-mile Urban Trail that winds through downtown, and a work-in-progress: the Pack Square Park. When completed later this year, this newly updated 6.5-acre public area, located in front of the Buncombe County Courthouse and Asheville City Hall, will boast the work of several area artists, including Weaverville, N.C., artist Kathy Triplett, whose one-of-a-kind sculptural ceramic tiles will decorate the main stage of the park.
There are many points of entry to begin an Arts Walk in Asheville, but you can’t go wrong by starting on Biltmore Avenue at some of John Cram’s successful enterprises: Blue Spiral 1 (38 Biltmore Ave., 828-251-0202) and the new Bellagio Everyday (40 Biltmore Ave., 828-255-0221). Cram’s first store, New Morning Gallery (7 Boston Way, 828-274-2831), and the original Bellagio (5 Biltmore Plaza, 828-277-8100) are both located in historic Biltmore Village, about 10 minutes south of the downtown area. Biltmore Village is at the entrance to George Vanderbilt’s famed Biltmore Estate—a tour through the estate, America’s largest private residence, is another treat for art lovers.
Last year, Cram bought the building next to Blue Spiral 1 and expanded the gallery, and also opened Bellagio Everyday, which offers innovative art-to-wear at a variety of price points. The new building included something that Cram says he loves dearly. It’s a freight elevator, which makes moving large objects among the building’s three floors a much simpler task. Blue Spiral 1 features 30 annual exhibitions, as well as works by more than 100 Southeastern fine artists and craftsmen. “The gallery keeps reinventing itself,” says gallery director Jordan Ahlers. “There’s always a different group of artists.”
- If you’re ready to escape the hustle and bustle, Asheville offers plenty of opportunities, including the gardens of the Biltmore Estate.
Pick up a copy of the 2008 Asheville Downtown Gallery Guide before you leave Blue Spiral 1. It provides a map of locations for area galleries, studios and museums.
A few streets over, across from the popular Malaprop’s Bookstore, is Ariel Gallery (46 Haywood St., 828-236-2660), a cooperative featuring the work of about 20 local artists. Weaver Vicki Essig is one of Ariel’s founding artists, who came together in 2002. The gallery features handcarved pottery by Karen Newgard and glasswork by William and Katherine Bernstein, as well as exquisite jewelry, handcrafted furniture and works in clay and metal.
Eclectic and whimsical art fills Asheville’s former Woolworth store. Now called Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood St., 828-254-9234), the two-level space features booths offering jewelry, paintings of Asheville landscapes and familiar downtown buildings by artist Jeff Pittman, pottery and other art for sale. Plus, the old Woolworth soda fountain has been updated and is back in business.
From Haywood Street, turn up Battery Park and stroll to the Grove Arcade (1 Page Ave.), which contains stores like Mountain Made (1 Page Ave., Suite 123, 828-350-0307), boasting the work of more than 80 western North Carolina artists. Manager Melinda Knies points to Tommy Williams, who created the tile on the front of the store’s counter, as one of the rising stars in the pottery world. Mountain Made also features hand-blown ornaments and goblets by Jason Probstein and handcrafted furniture by Ronno L. Cooke. Profits from Mountain Made support Mountain BizWorks’ small business development services.
Another stop in the Grove Arcade is the Arts & Heritage Gallery (1 Page Ave., Suite 115, 828-255-0775). This gallery features rotating exhibits and demonstrations by artists in residence, as well as regular artwork for sale, including traditional Cherokee crafts, basketry by Billie Ruth Sudduth and small, layered wood bowls by Jim McPhail. Gallery manager Sylvia Organ shows off a unique part of this store—a huge Mountain Stories laser map. There’s an interactive screen to help viewers explore the history of crafts in this region.
And don’t miss the famed Grove Park Inn (290 Macon Ave., 800-438-5800), created by E.W. Grove, the same man behind the downtown Arcade. Located about 10 minutes north of downtown, the inn is decorated with Arts & Crafts furniture. A stop at the next-door Grovewood Gallery (111 Grovewood Road, 828-253-7651) is a must for its impressive display of garden sculpture, handcrafted furniture, ceramics, jewelry, glass and more.