Art means different things for different people and comes in many forms from music to paintings. It shows the culture, interests, and history of an area while showcasing the creativity and imagination of its people. For anyone who enjoys exploring artistic endeavors, Asheville, NC and the surrounding area is a mecca of art in all its forms. Filled with local artists, detailed architecture and businesses from formal art galleries to handmade crafts, everyone will find something to appreciate.
The city showcases its artsy soul in its downtown buildings with well-preserved art deco architecture. Historic buildings feature beautiful marble and intricate designs with playful gargoyles. Clearly, history is important in this town as they have made an effort to renovate historic buildings and preserve their beauty. One of the key developers of Asheville and influence on its buildings was Edwin Wiley Grove, who moved here for his health. After building the famous and gorgeous Grove Park Inn, he felt the downtown area needed more growth. He established Grove Arcade, where you can now shop or have dinner and visit local artists in the gallery along the street.
Grove Arcade was completed in 1929, and houses offices and stores.
The Central Methodist Church is made of limestone and is a mix of Romanesque Revival and Gothic Revival.
Many other buildings including several churches along the aptly named Church Street showcase a variety of architecture styles and artwork. The Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville is a beautiful church designed and constructed by Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino, renowned for his work on vaulted ceilings made with tiles and no interior support. In town to build the Biltmore Estate, Guastavino and his son built the church using his patented method of layers of thin tile and mortar to create curved horizontal surfaces. Each tile was kilned in their factory and all the floors, roofs, stairs and ceilings are formed with this system.
Proud of their heritage, Asheville created an Urban Walk that leads you through the city along to discover public art pieces, historical landmarks, and important buildings in Asheville’s history including the home of local son and author, Thomas Wolfe. Various pavement squares indicate the category and take you through the city.
Supporting local artists, downtown stores showcase local art in many forms including handmade artisan chocolate, a variety of beautiful honey flavors, gemstone jewelry and funky clothing.
These shoes are made of chocolate.
For those looking for local art, The Woolworth Walk is a two story collection, covering nearly every kind of artistic product imaginable. Like an indoor art festival, it houses hundreds of booths for you to shop and pick up a wonderful souvenir. We were intrigued by the work of a photographer who specializes in abandoned spaces like an old bookstore or broken down airplane. The eerie beauty of these scenes will have you seeing dilapidation in a whole new way.
One of my favorite art forms is books and Asheville has several unique bookstores that celebrate the artistry and magic of books. Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar literally lets you toast to reading and showcases their used and special edition books in unique settings. Here I found a first edition copy of Gone with the Wind and gorgeous editions of many classics. The Captain’s Bookshelf looks more like a personal library with thousands of choices and rare or special editions.
Many of the artists with booths at Woolworth work from River Arts District, a mile long area with multiple buildings housing artist studios and work areas. One, Pamela O’Connor, is an artist who intrigued us with her whimsical lamps made of hanji, a paper made in Asia from the bark of a mulberry. Combining her craft with her background in puppetry, Pamela makes lamps that seem to nod and dance.
And if River Arts was not enough, the Grovewood Village which was once home to Biltmore Industries has been renovated as a museum and home to local artists. Biltmore Industries was home to several crafts that employed many of Asheville’s citizens in either woodwork or producing the famous Homespun cloth, highly regarded for its quality and beauty. Several of the buildings now house artists who create original work that is showcased in the gallery.
Adding to the overall artsy vibe of Asheville, they boast an unique musical art avenue in addition to the many concerts and local musicians you can find at the many pubs and breweries. Every Friday night, you can attend a Drum Circle at Pritchard Park in the downtown area. A favorite tradition, everyone is free to join in to play, dance, or just move with the beat.
The atmosphere of creativity and level of artistic talent in Asheville is inspiring! In addition to these unique places are many galleries with fine art and of course, the Biltmore Estates which boasts many beautiful pieces. Anyone looking for a unique gift or addition to their home will find it here and enjoy the exploration just as much.