Explore Great Smoky Mountains

Exploring the River Arts District in Asheville, N.C.

From clay to oil and from textiles to steel, Asheville’s art scene emanates from studios beside the river

Heading up to Asheville, N.C.? Don’t miss out on this North Carolina mountain town’s River Arts District. The second Saturday of each month and specially designated Studio Stroll weekends are the perfect times to go into all the River Arts District studios and galleries and talk with the artists directly as you hunt for your home. Your destination is the banks of the French Broad River where old industrial buildings, offices and warehouses have been converted into a mix of working artist studios, galleries, restaurants and theaters. The River Arts District is already home to local favorite Wedge Brewing, and Colorado brewer New Belgium has already purchased land to establish a brewery in the district as well.

Some top choices for art: The Curve Studios are home to clay specialists like Ecuadorian-native-turned-Asheville-potter Maria Andrade Troya (teapot, pictured above), as well as Akira Satake, Kyle Carpenter and Karen Newgard. Other wonderful destinations in the River Arts District to explore working studios include the Cotton Mill Studios, the Phil Mechanic Studios and the Wedge Studios (where you can quench your thirst with the Iron Rail IPA from Wedge Brewing after enjoying the lace-on-clay creations of Michael Hoffman, located in a studio above the brewery).

While you’re on the stroll, don’t miss the bold paintings from Jonas Gerard Fine Art. His studio on Clingman Avenue is next door to the Clingman Café, which is always a solid destination for breakfast and coffee in the River Arts District. On the northern end of the River Arts District, refuel at White Duck Taco Shop, where the taco has been re-explored with creative flavors that can’t be found at your standard taqueria. At the southern end of the arts district, you’ll find the Depot Street studios, where artist studios share space with apartments, restaurants and a theater, The Magnetic Field. Pink Dog Creative, in the Depot Street Studios, is home to Ralston Fox Smith, whose dream-like paintings (pictured above) echo themes of the North Carolina mountains.

Around the corner on Lyman Street in the Warehouse Studios (right beside the railroad tracks), Barbara Fisher creates ethereal paintings which are often replicated on textiles (including scarves) via FishCake Design. Wrap up your “stroll” by heading back to where you started at Curve Studios and close the day with paintings, whimsy, apparel and style all rolled into one package in the studio of Alena Hennessy.

Getting there: It’s a 2-hour drive from the Charlotte airport, or fly into Asheville directly. Driving in? Check out the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. In addition to arts and the mountains, Asheville’s tourism draw comes from The Biltmore Estate, which should be on anyone’s must-see list.