STUDIOS ALONG DEPOT STREET
The River Arts District is a must see for tourists and a go to haunt for locals. It is funky, fabulous and full to over-flowing with gifted artists. You will find potters, painters, fabric artists, sculptors and even glass blowers. It is the perfect place to pick up a unique piece of art. You will likely stumble upon an unexpected conversation piece that you have been looking for and couldn't seem to find anywhere else.
The following article highlights only a few of my personal favorite galleries and shops. There is so much to see in the River Arts District and I expect you will find your own favorite places. Artists move in and out of the River Arts District frequently. Fortunately, the buildings that house the artists remain the same. To help you navigate the district, I have laid out a strategic plan.
Give yourself at least 5 hours to drive and walk the River Arts District.
A Day Spent in the River Arts District Should Start No Earlier than 11:00am.
Most studios, and even the shops, keep artist's hours commonly ranging from 11:00am - 4:00pm. The River Arts District is contained within numerous historic industrial buildings along the French Broad River in Asheville, NC. Beginning in 1985, these historic mills, factories and warehouses were converted into working artist’s studios.
1. Begin Your Tour at the Riverview Station.
The Riverview Station is known as “The gateway to Asheville’s River Arts District”. The huge 110,000 square foot building was constructed in 1902 and originally housed the Hans Rees Tannery. Make sure to pick up a "Studio Guide" in one of the shops.
THE RIVERVIEW STATION (GPS Address 191 Lyman Street, Asheville, NC 28801) | (828) 231-7120
Make The Jonas Gerard Fine Art Gallery Your First Stop.
Here is why this local loves the Jonas Gerard Gallery so much. Upon my arrival, I was greeted warmly by an extremely personable, impeccably dressed, young man, ironically named Jerard. He showed my friend and me around and encouraged us to touch the art. From the moment we entered this awesome space we were made to feel welcome. This is a high end gallery where we might otherwise, have felt a bit out of our element. The paintings are extraordinary and available in many different sizes to accommodate both the discerning collector and those of us on a budget.
JONAS GERARD'S ACTUAL ARTIST WORK SPACE INSIDE THE RIVERVIEW STATION GALLERY
There are many, many gifted artisans inside the Riverview Station. Take your time exploring each studio. Ladies, don't miss Cara May Knits. You will die!
Another personal favorite of mine is Matt Tommey's Sculptural Art Baskets.
Who doesn't want a basket as beautiful as this? Everything I saw in Matt's studio was top notch, incredibly creative and a conversation piece. "Since the mid-1990's Matt's been creating woven sculpture using basketry techniques for his clients that reflect the rustic elegance of nature.He also has woven sculptures. These days, Matt's woven art is featured in some of the most beautiful mountain homes in the country and is created from locally harvested bark, vines and branches."
Matt also offers basket weaving classes.
Finished at the Riverview Station? Great time to grab some lunch.
An excellent choice is the 12 Bones Smokehouse, a local favorite for southern barbecue. Also, there is a Wedge Brewery attached if you want to taste test some local craft beers. Another perk, the restaurant is surrounded on all sides by graffiti art.
12 BONES STEAKHOUSE (GPS Address 5 Foundy Street, Asheville, NC 28801) | (828) 253-4499
Once you have enjoyed the artwork of our local graffiti artists...
2. Head Up to Curve Studios and Garden
Curve Studios and Garden is the brain child of Textile Artist Pattiy Torno. She bought the warehouse in 1989 and "has helped create a new model for bringing people to art, art to life and a livelihood to the artist". Curve Studios houses a dozen artists.
CURVE STUDIO (GPS Address 6 Riverside Drive, Asheville, NC 28801) | (828) 388-3526
I am fascinated by the ceramic artistry of Curve Potter Karen Newgard. She creates salt fired porcelain and every piece that I saw in her shop was exquisite.
In her words, "I have chosen to use the sgrafitto carving technique on porcelain because it gives me a graphic quality and clarity of image. I finish the wheel thrown pots in a salt kiln that does the glazing for me and preserves the carved areas. I am influenced by many pottery traditions as well as my peers in Western North Carolina".
I expect that I will be collecting her stunning black and white pottery for years to come.
3. Our Next Stop is The Cotton Mills Studio
The Cotton Mill building is one of the oldest structures in the district. Part of a complex built in 1887, the two-story, brick factory produced denim and flannel.
COTTON MILL STUDIOS (GPS Address 122 Riverside Drive, Asheville, NC 28801)
One particular Cotton Mill Studios artist, who will bring me back time and again, is Frances Domingues. She "is a three dimensional found object visual artist and interior stylist. She is drawn to patina, rust and things that over the years have acquired an energy of their own by living an authentic life. Frances takes everyday objects out of their context to become inspired objects d’art for your home, office, restaurant, business, and life. Frances transforms industrial found objects into art, furniture, and lighting".
I don't know about you, but this consumer and art lover can not get enough of avant-guard repurposed industrial art. Way to go Frances! NOTE: F D Found Design Studio And Gallery has re-located in the Wedge Studio, 129 Roberts St., Asheville, NC 28801
Did you think all this was exciting? We are just getting started. Wait until you see...
4. Wedge Studios
Wedge Studios was built in 1916 and was originally home to the Farmer’s Federated Ag Co-op. It was purchased in 2002 by visionary metal artist John Payne. John was always the first to help art students by giving them space to live and work. Wedge Studios boasts 30 plus professional working artists studios, a brewery, dining and retail stores.
WEDGE STUDIOS (GPS Address 123 Roberts Street, Asheville, NC 28801)
Wedge Studios is home to another one of my favorite shops. You already know that I am into industrial art and repurposing. Well, imagine my surprise the first time I walked into Splurge. It felt like heaven had opened its doors to me. All of these wonderful, unique and strange collectibles under one roof. Now all I need is more disposable income!
Did I mention the lighting?
The River Arts District makes me so happy!
Splurge is that sort of shop you will want
to visit every time you are in Asheville.
Now, for the ladies, I have something alarmingly special. If you adore vintage 1970's textiles and handbags, you will need to go upstairs and find Naomi Diamond Rogers. She has a shop called Dyed in the Wool that carries Zizalu handmade handbags.
At this juncture, I always need some sort of pick me up. If you enjoy local craft beer, you are in luck. Stop in at the Wedge Brewery. If you are in need of caffeine, a treat awaits down the street at the Ultra Coffee Bar. Double espresso please...
ULTRA COFFEE BAR (GPS Address 242 Clingman Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801) | (828) 253-2177
We have one more section of the River Arts District to hit before dinner.
5. Depot Street
Depot Street has always been the first image that comes to mind when I think of the River Arts District. And why shouldn't it? It embodies that funky spirit we have all grown to love. It is colorful and quaint and utterly special. And then there are the artists...
STUDIOS ALONG DEPOT STREET
Hopefully, you have caught a second wind, as there are so many studios along this stretch of Depot Street. If not, make sure to come back another day and start at this end of the district. Again, I am highlighting only one artist. The article would be ridiculously long if I told you about every one. Besides, what is the fun in that?
Okay, my pick is a particular artist that is so far out of my price range, it isn't funny. But, I'm going to get it together and buy one anyway. I can only hope for a liberal layaway plan. His name is Daniel McClendon and he owns The Lift Studios. This is a painting in progress that I have my eye on. I'm telling you, I love this painting just as it is!
Here is how Daniel describes his work, "My paintings are primitive. Honest. Transparent. I tap into the instinctual nature of my creative process, using the animals as a catalyst, and work to obtain an open-ended, energetic, yet purposeful aesthetic".
THE LIFT STUDIOS (GPS Address 349 Depot Street, Asheville, NC 28801) | (269) 267-4113
Make it a point to visit Daniel McClendon's studio. Remember, you are dealing with artists who do not keep regular hours. If you want to meet with a particular artist, it is best to call ahead and make an appointment. Happy treasure hunting!
This ends our tour of the River Arts District. I hope you enjoyed it as much as this local.
A Note from the Holiday Inn Biltmore East
We are so excited to have you as our guest at the Holiday Inn Biltmore East. When you get back to the hotel let us know how your day went. Our front desk personnel and our restaurant staff look forward to seeing you. We are available to answer your questions and make recommendations. See you Soon!