Open studio tours are opportunities to observe artists at work, ask questions about their techniques and develop relationships that lead to buying or collecting their locally made work. They’re free social events where you can also meet other people who share your interests, get together with friends or make new ones. More numerous in the fall, they are also a summer activity in the western part of the state. Make them a destination or part of a weekend getaway this summer.
Asheville’s River Arts District Studio Stroll, scheduled Saturday, June 11, and Sunday, June 12, features 150 artists in 19 historic buildings along the French Broad River. There will be artists’ demonstrations and hands-on activities throughout the weekend. Nationally known artist Randy Shull, the recipient of a N.C. Arts Council Fellowship in 1994, works in a variety of mediums, including furniture design, architecture, painting and landscape design. A longtime resident of Asheville, with studios in the River District as well as in Merida, Mexico, he offered some of his personal highlights on the upcoming Studio Stroll:
Visit http://ncartstrails.org/discovercraft/Explore/CraftFairsFestivalsandOpenStudioTours.aspx for current listings of event contacts.
The Toe River Studio Tour Friday, June 10, through Sunday, June 12, highlights more than 100 artists in Mitchell and Yancey counties and is a popular destination for travelers from around the region and around the world. Denise Cook, executive director, Toe River Arts Council, recalls “sisters meeting sisters to take the studio tours” in this article. For more information or to download a map, visit http://www.toeriverarts.org/studiotour.shtml or call (828) 765-0520 or (828) 682-7215.
While you’re in the area, choose from nine different driving trails featuring colorful traditional quilt squares, the majority installed on barns and buildings in Mitchell and Yancey counties. Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina recently celebrated the installation of its 200th quilt block, an 8-by-8 foot wooden square on the front of Mitchell High School. For downloadable maps of the driving trails showing the quilt squares you’ll find along each one, visit http://quilttrailswnc.org/maps.html or call (828) 682-7331.
Transylvania County’s Sesquicentennial 150th Celebration includes an arts and culture week featuring more than 65 art events from Friday, June 24, through Monday, July 4. Visitors to downtown Brevard and Transylvania County can enjoy an art show and sale featuring photographs, paintings and works in clay, fiber and other mediums, the opening of the Brevard Music Center, a summer institute and festival teaching young musicians to prepare and perform great musical works, Brevard’s 4th Friday Gallery Walk, street dances, music jams and more. For more information, visit www.artsofbrevard.org
Held since 1948, the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands showcases the work of members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, who create crafts rooted in Appalachian traditions as well as contemporary works. It’s a unique opportunity to meet the makers in person and watch them demonstrate their skills. More than 200 craftspeople will display and sell works in clay, fiber, glass, leather, metal, mixed media, natural materials, paper, wood and jewelry at the Asheville Civic Center Thursday, July 21, through Sunday July 24. For more information, visit http://craftguild.org/.
TRAC June and December Studio Tours a Tradition for Some
By Christopher Blake
Every year the high country of western N.C. beckons to new visitors to come take the Toe River Arts Council’s (TRAC) popular self-guided tour of galleries and artists’ studios. Folks from all over the United States and even overseas make a pilgrimage to seek and buy art right at its creative source, a tradition that started more than 26 years ago when a small group of emerging artists decided to open their studios for a weekend holiday sale. That little tour has grown into a major event. Twice a year hundreds of craft lovers come to the scenic mountain communities of Mitchell and Yancey counties to enjoy the Toe River Studio Tour. Some visitors become so enamored of this “trek with TRAC” that they return year after year. Their tradition of taking the studio tours sometimes surpasses two decades of annual and biannual visits.
TRAC’s executive director Denise Cook recalls “sisters meeting sisters to take the studio tours.” For over 16 years Chattanooga’s Denise Birchfield has made an annual rite out of coming with a group of friends, staying at Spruce Pine’s Richmond Inn and planning an itinerary that will include as many studios as possible in their three days of touring. Sam and Melissa McClure of Charlotte have been enjoying the tour for over 22 years. A group of former Atlanta public librarians escape the heat of the lowlands each summer and stay at the home of the mother of one of the group while studio-hunting the back roads of the art-rich area.
A N.C. couple explains in detail their passion for the TRAC Studio Tours. Bob and Veda Satterfield of Greensboro have been making the studio tours for 22 years now. Long-time collectors of N.C. folk art and pottery, they first heard of the area through learning about the Penland School of Crafts. When their son took a job with Mitchell County’s Mayland Community College and moved to Spruce Pine, they began making studio tours part of their visits to him. Do they have favorite artists? Bob cannot praise Jane Peiser highly enough as he warmly commends the “fine intricate art” of the Penland artist’s colored porcelain. Ceramic artist Cynthia Bringle of Penland, is an old favorite, but the Satterfields are always on the lookout for new talent. “We’re keeping an eye on [Bakersville's] Joy Tanner, a young potter on the rise.”
Two folk-oriented artists from Burnsville who have greatly impressed the Satterfields are John Richards and Susan Hayden; they are fascinated by John’s brilliance at pulling together all sorts of common materials into zany sculptures. Susan Hayden’s scrap iron yard art has the same sort of appeal for the couple; “my folk art side is magnetically attracted to her. I like the bench made out of heavy machine tools.”
For the Satterfields and other tour takers, the touring experience is about more than arts and craft collecting. Artists love to demonstrate their skills and explain the processes involved, and friendships are formed. There is always the thrill of discovering a new talent about to take wing and fly. The Studio Tour closes the gap between artists and public, Denise Cook explains. “Buying art at the source eliminates much of the impersonality and formality of the art market. Buyers can watch work being made; they can question the artists and make their purchases all the more significant to them by what they’ve seen and heard.”