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The River Arts District, Asheville

Even on a sweltering hot afternoon, a kinetic, creative energy permeates the air in Asheville’s River Arts District. Artists are busy at work in their studios with fans buzzing and music playing, while tourists and locals alike are sauntering the streets, turning here and there to enter different industrial brick buildings. They are on a hunt—an expedition to find an open studio, a certain artist, a recognizable medium, or even an antique treasure. It is the burgeoning reputation of the River Arts District that has drawn them all here for a chance to interact with artists and see first hand the creative process. rad sign and me bw The River Arts District has transformed Asheville’s neglected industrial quarter once home to slaughter houses, tanneries, cotton mills, and warehouses into a vibrant artists’ community that defies the stereotypical image of the isolated artist. The District has by no means been fully re-developed instead the rough brick warehouses have been converted to studio spaces leaving the industrial grit intact, and the Norfolk Southern Railroad still chugs its way through the heart of the District.  The infiltration of artists truly began in the 1980’s with the re-location of Highwater Clays into 292 Riverside Drive, but in the last ten years the River Arts District has grown exponentially in artist memberships and studio genesis. studio3 With 22 different buildings to explore and over 180 artists working in the District, it can be a bit daunting to first time visitors.  But don’t be discouraged! The members of the River Arts District have an informative and easy to use guide to the District with maps, studio locations, artist by medium lists, and more. A great place to start with access to a variety of artists is the Wedge Studios building Use the on-street parking; it’s free! Here you’ll find the intricate lace patterns of porcelain maker Michael Hofman, the encaustic paintings of Constance Williams, the charming landscapes of Lisa Oberreuter, and the mixed media creations of Julie Armbruster among others. The artists in Wedge Studios are eager to discuss their latest work and even explain the techniques behind it. wedge studios Next head across the street to the Roberts Street Studios where you will find the Asheville Glass Center, a gallery, studio space, and classroom all in one.  The Asheville Glass Center features a hot shop and cold shop in addition to the flame-working studio. You can even take a half hour beginner class to make your own paperweight or cup from hot glass. glass After traversing these two buildings, stop for a cold beer at the Wedge Brewery  where “beer is just another form of art.” The Brewery is down the hill in the level below the studios.  Don’t miss the industrial fence designed from re-purposed mechanical parts and scrap metal by Wedge Studios original owner John Payne. For summer, try the Witbier; it is a Belgian style wheat beer with a touch of chamomile and coriander aroma and a hint of lemonade. wedge brewery mechanic wall After your refreshing pick-me-up at Wedge Brewery, grab your car and continue your journey through the District, heading over to Riverview Station on Lyman Street.  You will find a variety of artists here too: potters, painters, woodworkers, sculptors, metalsmiths, and photographers.  Don’t miss Jonas Gerard’s gallery and studio, the Innerer Klang Letterpress, or Antiques at Riverview:

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Enchanted Forest #4 by Jonas Gerard
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Innerer Klang Letterpress
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Antiques at Riverview Station

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