City Tours feature art, community, and tradition!
The history of Asheville’s art legacy traces back to early Appalachian culture. Scotch, Irish, and German settlers migrated to the region in the 1700s and brought with them their traditional methods of making handmade quilts, coverlets, pottery, wood carvings, and woven baskets, all created with natural dyes and raw materials. While the objects were functional and necessary for survival, they were also beautiful and decorative. European settlers to the region were also influenced by Cherokee crafts and the styles created by Native Americans over centuries before Europeans arrived on the continent. This unique combination of traditions was passed down through generations and is still a part of Asheville’s art culture.
In the 1920s the John C Campbell Folk School in Brasstown and the Penland School For Craft established an educational foundation for Appalachian crafts that attracted visitors and artists from all over the country. The Southern Highland Craft Guild established their headquarters in Asheville in 1930. Their showcase of the creations of area artisans transformed the handicraft tradition into a meaningful part of the region’s economy.
The planning and construction of the home and grounds of the Biltmore Estate attracted famous architects to Asheville, including Richard Morris, Richard Sharp Smith, Raphael Guastavino, and Frederick Law Olmstead. Following them were brilliant young architects who designed landmark buildings in downtown Asheville, such as Douglas Ellington’s brick and stone art deco style City Hall and the colorful S&W Cafeteria. They made Asheville an architecture destination that featured a variety of styles: Art Deco, Neoclassical, Romanesque Revival, Beaux Arts, Gothic, and Spanish Renaissance. The Biltmore Estate also housed a hidden vault of our nation’s most valuable artworks, including a classic portrait of George Washington by artist Gilbert Stuart.
The revitalization of the River Arts District (RAD) over the last two decades also drew local artisans to affordable studio space. The concentration of artists created by this district cemented Asheville’s reputation as a world-class arts and crafts destination. More recently, in 2019, the Asheville Art Museum underwent major renovations and now houses an extraordinary collection of 20th and 21st-century art that demonstrates the rich, unique, and remarkable artistic history of Western North Carolina
Take an Art Tour
There are many ways to experience Asheville’s art culture, including multiple guided tours. Sherry Masters’ Art Connections creates tours customized to your interests. She also offers art consulting services to assist clients with selecting works for their homes or offices. Sherry has 27 years of gallery experience with strong connections to artists across Western North Carolina. “Some of my tour participants are artists themselves, and they love the opportunity to meet other artists,” she said. “Others guests are collectors who know of the art scene in Asheville and want to find artworks specific to their interests.” Other guests are just excited to get to know the artists and make connections and follow their work.
The Asheville Art Experience, owned by long-time River Arts District glass artist John Miguel Almaguer and his wife, provides public and private art tours to over 200 RAD galleries. His goal is to allow visitors to observe the spaces where artists create. “It’s a small, intimate experience,” Alaguer said. “You’re getting a chance to truly connect with the artists and their work and really have a more personal experience, not only with artists but with your guide and with each other.” Visitors can embark on an art-buying tour or enjoy an active art experience and make their own creations. Art experiences are available for both children and adults, and classes are offered for families.
Mountain Mural Tours offers both private and public tours of Asheville’s urban art, including street pieces, murals, graffiti, and more. Guests will travel through the River Arts District, downtown, and West Asheville to learn about the artists’ stories and inspirations, local history, and the community businesses that make Asheville a national tourist destination. Long-time local entrepreneurs Krista Stearns and Lewis Lankford love creating an experience that is enjoyable for tourists and residents alike, and that celebrates the artists that make our city so vibrant.
A great way to experience Asheville is to take a tour and learn about the artists that have shaped Asheville into a beloved destination. You won’t leave Asheville empty-handed!