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McDowell County Quilt Trail

A self-guided drive through rural countryside in search of quilt blocks

The McDowell County Quilt Trail began in June 2009 as part of a grassroots interest to extend the Quilt Trail of Western North Carolina to McDowell County. The purpose of the program is to promote tourism, preserve history, and help improve the economy. The quilt blocks located on this trail are connected by name or design to the history of the land, building, or family that is hosting the block. 

Besides the design itself, there is lot of effort that goes into creating the quilt blocks along the trail. Volunteers construct, paint, install, create crafts, and write stories. Blocks are constructed of exterior sign board on a 2” x 4” frame and painted with high quality exterior paint with a life expectance of 8 to 10 years. There can be as many as 90 hours in the construction and painting of just one block. There are now a total of 146 blocks installed throughout the county. Visitors can purchase a map at local visitor centers and take a self-guided tour. 

Rutherford Visual Arts Center

Find art where mountains meet the foothills

An hour east of Asheville, Rutherford is a quiet little town on the edge of the Appalachia’s wide expanse, where the mountains meet the foothills.  

The Visual Arts Center serves as the storefront for the Rutherford County Visual Arts Guild, a non-profit made up of artists, crafters and volunteers with a passion for growing the art community. The Guild’s main mission is to increase the visibility of art in the community and provide opportunities for artists. The Visual Arts Center serves as both a retail outlet for artists to display their art for sale, as well as a resource for art in the local community. They offer numerous classes and workshops throughout the year, including paint and pour, stained glass and open studio time for personal projects and professional guidance.  

For more information, visit the website.

 

Alleghany Arts and Crafts

Appreciate art in land of “beautiful stream”

The fifth smallest county in North Carolina, Alleghany County was created in 1859. According to legend, its name comes from the Allegewi Indian word “oolikhanna,” meaning“beautiful stream.” The county seat of Sparta sits a few miles from the Virginia border. Numerous dining, shopping and recreational activities can be found, from visiting Stone Mountain State Park to visiting the Alleghany Arts and Crafts Art Gallery.  

In an effort to promote artisans and develop sustainable enterprises while preserving Appalachia’s cultural heritage,  a group of handcrafters launched the Alleghany Arts & Crafts Cooperative in 2003.  

Conveniently located on Main Street in historic downtown Sparta, the cooperative houses approximately 30 members and keeps an exciting display of a large variety of crafts year round. The Art Gallery provides a central place for community members and tourists alike to stop in and appreciate local art and artists.

 

Woody’s Chair Shop

Chair-making magic passed down through generations

The Woody family started making handcrafted “mule-ear” chairs in Mitchell County in the 1800s.  The chairs got that name because of the way the back posts of the chairs stick up–like ears on a mule. Back in the day when most everything was handcrafted, most everything was bartered as well. Arthur Woody took his chairs on an ox-drawn cart to Marion and Forest City to exchange for coffee and sugar. During the craft revival, a period when mountain crafts came to the attention of northern markets, Arthur Woody shipped chairs by Railway Express to cities like Boston. 

Grandson Arvel Woody and his brother Walter entered the chair making business following World War II. Arval summed up the fine tradition of chair making in an oft-quoted sentence,“We get the tree in the forest, and when we finish it up, it’s in the living room.” With his workers, Wood harvests trees from the forest, cuts them on his own sawmill, and shapes them into heirloom chairs. 

The Woody family uses local hardwoods, such as black walnut, wild cherry, maple, oak, and ash. These are fashioned into chairs using a greenwood method, in which no metal fasteners or glue are used. Chair posts air-dried, then driven together tightly, rounds interlocking while the wood is still green (uncured). As the posts dry, they shrink onto the rounds, clamping them tight. At Woody’s Chair Shop that traditional technique is still used today. 

Woody’s Chairs have found their way into national collections. Their work is part of the American Craft Collection of the Smithsonian. Their chairs and the chair shop has been featured multiple times in National Geographic. Appalachian author Wilma Dykeman included their shop in her book, The French Broad. Arval Woody was named a North Carolina Living Treasure in 1995. 

For more information, visit the website

Fire on the Mountain

Blacksmiths bring  hammers and anvils to Spruce Pine 

It’s no accident that Spruce Pine is home to the annual Fire on the Mountain blacksmithing festival each spring. It was here that the brothers Boone operated a forge in the 1930s and 1940s and drew the attention of craft enthusiasts all along the Atlantic seaboard. Bea Hensley apprenticed with Boone and inherited his anvil. He and his son, Mike, operated Hensley & Son Forge adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Another local smith, Nat Howell worked for Boone in the 1950s at the Burnsville smithy. His son, David carries on the family tradition at his operation at Mineral City Forge.  

Nearby is the Penland School of Crafts where, since 1929, people have been coming from around the country to explore craft and creativity. The tradition of summer “institutes” continues today under the roof of the school’s large iron shop. Contributing to the ambiance of the festival, resident smith Elizabeth Brim created a public artwork that takes the form of a full-size iron tree, installed in the town’s park. 

The Fire on the Mountain festival brings together both seasoned and novice smiths. It is a day of demonstrations, exhibitions, and hands-on experience. A few lucky visitors get to try their hand at striking, a particular favorite of the ten-year-old set.  A striker alternately swings the hammer for a master smith. This has the effect of doubling the smith’s physical output, allowing the master two blows for his single effort. In conjunction with the one-day event, the Toe River Arts Council organizes an invitational Blacksmith Art Exhibit, representing North Carolina talent.   

For information, visit the website

Wilkes Art Gallery

From basement to post office to art gallery

The Wilkes Art Gallery first opened in the basement of local art patron Annie Wrinkle in 1962.  Today’s gallery is located in a stately brick building that once held North Wilkesboro’s post office and, later, the town’s library. Today, the 10,000-square-foot building is home to a thriving cultural art center in historic downtown North Wilkesboro.  

Monthly exhibitions  include at least three different media to make the exhibit more interesting and to provide something for everyone. Check out oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings; sculptures in metal, clay, wood and glass; fiber and paper artwork. Each year these exhibitions represent 100 artists from Western North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and South Carolina. 

There is no end to the variety of creativity found inside in the gallery gift shop: prints, jewelry, pottery, books, food stuffs, baskets, textiles, clothing, stained glass, and more. Gift certificates are available. The gift shop is open during regular gallery hours and during exhibit openings and events. 

 Four classrooms  support a thriving education program. Daily art classes and monthly workshops focus on  pottery, watercolors, knitting, basketry, drawing, and jewelry makingWorkshops are typically one day; classes run throughout the month. Over 50 artists a year teach workshops and classes.Summers Art Camps are offered to children eager to learn about film, sculpture, glass art, weaving, painting, drawing and pottery. 

 

 

Yadkin Cultural Arts Center

Vibrant center in foothills beckons with exhibits, food, performances

Yadkin County sits east of Wilkes County and south of Surry, in northwestern North Carolina. It is a vibrant destination with multiple recreational opportunities. Visitors enjoy fishing and canoeing on the Yadkin River, touring one of the county’s 13 vineyards, and stopping off at the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center.  

Located on Main Street in downtown Yadkinville, the Arts Center’s mission is to enrich the lives of every citizen of Yadkin County and beyond by providing opportunities for artists, no matter what their specific creative outlet. The Yadkin Arts Center houses two galleries, a performing arts academy, private space for rent, and is home to the Willingham theatre, which can seat up to 193 guests.  

Exhibitions draw from a large pool of talented artists throughout North Carolina and the Southeast. Welborn Gallery exhibits change every two months and feature a wide variety of mediums and styles. Past exhibits have showcased woodworking, textiles, oils and acrylics, watercolor, collage, steel and glass, pottery, and furniture making. 

The Red Wall Gallery is located inside the eclectic  Center Bistro. It is the newest gallery of the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center.  

For times and events, check out www.yadkinarts.org.

Black Mountain Center for the Arts

A beehive of exhibits, performances and workshops cooking with creativity

Woven into what was once the town’s courthouse and jail, the Black Mountain Center for the Arts pursues a mission of “bringing the arts to the people and people to the arts.” The center hosts a roundhouse of ceramic courses, taught in its stand-alone clay studio, including hand-building, wheel throwing, firing and glazing and a constant stream of workshops in other creative dimensions, from dance to poetry to travel journaling and on-the-fly sketching. The town’s Holly Jolly celebration on the first Friday evening of December marks the opening of the Center’s clay studio exhibit in the building’s upper gallery, a topflight show that stays up through December and January.

Since 2000, the Black Mountain Center for the Arts has been located in the beautifully renovated former Black Mountain town hall and jail. The Center offers public exhibits, concerts, theatre, festivals, special events, and myriad classes for all ages in music, dance, visual arts, writing, and more. The facility itself is nearly 100 years old, a wonderful site to visit as an historic landmark. 

For an insider’s look at what’s currently happening, visit www.blackmountainarts.org.

 

Haywood Community College Professional Crafts Program

State-of-the-art studio program nurtures next generation of crafters

The Professional Crafts Program at Haywood Community College  is a unique contribution to craft education and excellence in craft practice in western North Carolina.  The school offers a two-year intensive courses in Clay, Fiber, Jewelry and Wood.  Besides the specific medium, a student completing the program will also take classes in marketing, studio and business planning and craft photography. 

The HCC campus opens at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains.  Designated as arboretum, the campus invites visitors to use the walking trails, outdoor picnic tables and Frisbee golf course.  The Professional Crafts Program is housed in the school’s Creative Arts Facility, a state-of-the-art building that opened in 2013.  The building is a model for art and craft education with a dedicated studio for each craft discipline. 

For more information, visit their website

Gallery of the Mountains

Handmade pieces in a shop surrounded by Arts and Crafts originals

Since 1984, Gallery of the Mountains has featured handmade crafts by more than 100 local and regional artists living in the Southern Appalachians. The gallery is located inside the historic Grove Park Inn, a hotel that boasts the largest public collection of American Arts & Crafts style furnishings in the world. Gallery of the Mountains is the only hotel shop that carries 100% American handmade items by local and regional artisans.

The Grove Park Inn itself is outfitted with craftwork from Roycroft, one of the 20th century’s most important designers and manufacturers of American Arts & Crafts furniture, metal work, and accessories. Roycroft was established in 1895, first as a press, making intricately tooled leather-bound books, and evolving into an intentional utopian community. Led by the charismatic Elbert Hubbard, resident “Roycrofters” produced hallmark forms that today define the movement.

Both the Roycroft Copper Shop and the Roycroft Furniture Shop contributed pieces to the Grove Park Inn. Roycroft copper examples include the chandeliers in the Great Hall (since altered), wall sconces and ceiling lights in the Blue Ridge Dining Room, and table lamps. Furniture includes two large grandfather clocks, corner servers, and buffets.

The Grove Park Inn was built in the early 20th century by E. W. Grove with the help of his son-in-law Fred Seely. Constructed with enormous granite stones, 400 men worked 10-hour shifts six days a week to complete the massive undertaking. The workers used mules, wagons, and ropes, and a lone steam shovel to move material into place. The resort opened in 1913, less than a year after breaking ground. 

Nearby, at the foot of Sunset Mountain, a young architect William Waldo Dodge established Asheville Silvercraft. Opened in 1924, the enterprise produced metalwork in the shadow of the Grove Park Inn. Working alone, Dodge created sterling silver bowls, platters, buckles, and flatware bearing the “Asheville Silvercraft” shop mark. 

Annual Arts & Crafts Conference

Besides a treasure-trove of history found on the campus of the Grove Park Inn and Grovewood Village, the site has become a present day mecca for Arts & Crafts enthusiasts. What began as a small gathering of antique dealers and collectors in 1988 has grown into what the New York Times has called “the most important weekend of the year for Arts & Crafts collectors.”  

Besides the many Arts & Crafts aficionados who stay at the hotel, the Grove Park Inn has hosted numerous celebrities over the years. These include William Jennings Bryan (who spoke at the hotel’s opening), Thomas Edison, Elbert Hubbard, Helen Keller, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and Barack Obama. 

For hours and news about current offerings at Gallery of the Mountains, check out www.galleryofthemountains.com.

 

Rotunda Gallery

Picture-pretty courthouse showcases local crafts in Sylva

With 107 steps  up to its entrance, the Jackson County Courthouse and its picturesque location overlooking the mountain town of Sylva has contributed to its claim of being the “most photographed courthouse in North Carolina.” Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Classical Revival structure was built in 1913 and served as the county’s courthouse until 1994.  

In 2009, the building was renovated and re-constructed as the Jackson County Public Library. In 2011, a number of cultural organizations moved into the space, including the Jackson County Genealogical Society, Jackson County Arts Council,and Jackson County Historical Society.  The former main courtroom has been turned into a community auditorium. 

Of interest to craft aficionados is the  Rotunda Gallery located on the first floor of the historic building. Under the direction of the Jackson County Arts Council, the gallery hosts changing exhibits throughout the year. A high quality hanging and lighting system makes the Rotunda Gallery a good option for rotating art exhibits by the region’s artists. 

The Jackson County Arts Council was founded in 1976 to provide more artistic exposure and opportunities for school students. Today the Arts Council regularly funds local groups and individual artists through scholarships and grants. 

For hours and news on exhibits and workshops, go to jacksoncountyarts.org.

South Mountain Art Co-op

Explore ancient native villages and new crafts in Burke County

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, Burke County is home to Joara, an ancient settlement where Native Americans encountered Spanish conquistador Hernando De Soto in 1540. The Berry site near Morganton, NC, have been excavated by archaeologists,  revealing long-buried information that literally rewrites our understanding of  American history.

In 2017, the county became home to the South Mountain Co-op, an arts studio located in the Salem Community, south of Morganton. The co-op provides the people of Morganton with a place where they can learn about art and practice their craft.  Every week the South Mountain Co-op hosts an open figure session. They engage a model so members can draw from a live figure. Throughout the year, the co-op hosts a series of salon Fridays when members get together to make art supplies, like charcoal or painting supports. Occasionally, the salon includes a special opening or talk by an artist. Salon Fridays  include wine, dinner, and hors d’oeurvres.  

The co-op is also a go-to stop for art supplies. They sell handmade artist materials such as gesso painting boards, charcoal, conte, and pen and ink. Their space includes a gallery featuring area artists and a large studio space.  

For hours and news, visit their Facebook page.