The YMI Cultural Center in Asheville, North Carolina features exhibits on local African-American history and African culture and is the most celebrated African-American cultural institution in the region.
Commissioned by George Vanderbilt in 1892, the 18,000 square foot Tudor-style structure was built by and for the several hundred African-American craftsmen who helped construct and furnish the Biltmore House. The Young Man’s Institute (YMI) quickly became the center of cultural, commercial, and religious life for local African-Americans. Over the course of the next century it housed a kindergarten, gymnasium, public library, corner drugstore, funeral parlor, and a doctor’s office. The YMI Cultural Center even offered a place of worship for congregations without a church. The YMI Cultural Center building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Permanent exhibits include African masks and sculpture, drawings by the renowned African-American artist Charles W. White, and a collection of photographs that highlight the history of the YMI and its ties to the Biltmore Estate.
The YMI Cultural Center sponsors many cultural events including the Goombay Festival in late August.
Click on the audio link below to hear more in a Living Traditions Moment.
Hours of Operation
The exhibit gallery is open Tuesday – Friday, 10 am – 5 pm, or on Saturdays by appointment.
Group tours are offered by appointment only.
Gallery admission: $5
Hours of operation and fees are subject to change. Contact directly for most current information.
The YMI Cultural Center is located in downtown Asheville, NC near Pack Square.