Around Town: Arts and Crafts Conference and Shows celebrates 35 years in Asheville

CRAFT WORK: The Omni Grove Park Inn has hosted the annual National Arts and Crafts Conference and Shows since 1988. “The conference is the highlight of the year for anyone interested in this style,” says Bruce Johnson, director of the National Arts and Crafts Conference and Shows. Photo courtesy of NACS

For over a century, Asheville has had a strong association with the Arts and Crafts movement, an international trend in decorative and fine arts that swept the United States around 1900 after originating in the British Isles.

“The Asheville area’s long, rich heritage of mountain crafts was perfectly positioned to transition into the arts and crafts movement,” says Bruce Johnson, director of the National Arts and Crafts Conference and Shows, held annually at The Omni Grove Park Inn. “By 1920, several noted firms had blossomed here, including Biltmore Industries, Brown’s Pottery, the Artisan’s Shop, The Spinning Wheel and Pisgah Forest Pottery, making items by hand for sale to tourists and area residents.”

After going virtual in 2021, the conference returns to The Omni Grove Park Inn Friday-Sunday, Feb. 18-20.

The 35th annual conference will feature morning and evening seminars by leading authorities, daily demonstrations by artisans, walking tours, small group discussions and the country’s largest Arts and Crafts antiques show, which is open to the public each afternoon. The shows will run 1-6 p.m. Friday, noon-6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

“The afternoon shows are the highlight of the weekend,” Johnson says.

They will feature 100 national artisans and antiques dealers, all of whom are exhibiting works made during or influenced by the Arts and Crafts style. On display will be new and vintage Arts and Crafts style furniture, art pottery, tiles, textiles, lighting, jewelry, rugs and artwork.

Several local artisans will participate, including furniture maker Brian Brace, woodcarver Fran Moore, jeweler Amy Brandenburg and interior designer Karen Hovde.

Admission is $5, and tickets are good for all three days. Outdoor parking at The Omni Grove Park Inn is free that weekend. Garage parking is free for the first three hours. Masks are required. For more information, go to

Vinyl goes digital

Citizen Vinyl has launched “The Mezzanine,” a podcast series featuring interviews with artists and musicians. Guests will include people from Asheville as well as national acts passing through while on tour.

“The theme of the show is examining how history shows up in the present,” says Cass Herrington, the show’s producer. “We unpack artists’ backstories in a way that I think listeners will make connections to their own lives.”

The podcast is named after the second-floor lofts at Citizen Vinyl, housed in the historic Citizen Times building on O. Henry Avenue. “I wanted to reference a physical space where people can gather because the pandemic has put so much on hold — concerts, performances, festivals,” Herrington says.

The first episode, which was posted this month, features an interview with Asheville guitarist and singer Mike Martinez. Herrington says an exact schedule for future releases is still uncertain as Citizen Vinyl seeks sponsorships.

“The Mezzanine” can be found on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, as well as at

Take a tour

Hood Huggers International, which leads tours highlighting Asheville’s Black history, will offer free tours to African Americans who live in Buncombe County through the end of the month.

The driving tours cover the Burton Street community, downtown and East End/Valley Street, exploring such sites as the YMI Cultural Center, the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center, The Block, the Burton Street Community Peace Garden, Triangle Park and Pack Square, former site of slave auctions.

“The history of Black folks and Black resilience in Asheville is so rich, but often not fully understood, known or realized by the local community,” says Catherine Siravantha, communications specialist for Hood Huggers. “We’d like to make this deeper educational and cultural experience more accessible to the Black folks living in the area to help cultivate a deeper understanding of the history of these neighborhoods, encouraging deeper conversations about the state of Black Asheville.”

Tours can be scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

For more information or to book a tour, visit

Learning opportunity

Retired educator Betty J. Reed will discuss her research into the the Brevard Rosenwald School and other segregated schools in Western North Carolina during a Zoom presentation on Thursday, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. The Black History Month event is sponsored by the Western North Carolina Historical Association.

The Brevard Rosenwald School served Black students in Transylvania County from about 1923-66. Reed says it represents “a microcosm of Black education in southern Appalachia.”

Reed, who lives in Transylvania County, began researching Rosenwald schools as a surveyor for the State Archives of North Carolina in 2002. She is the author of three books: The Brevard Rosenwald School: Black Education and Community Building in a Southern Appalachian Town, 1920-1966School Segregation in Western North Carolina; and Soldiers in Petticoats.

Tickets are $5 for WNCHA members and $10 for others. Donations are encouraged. For more information, go to

Affair to remember

Art Affair, the annual fundraiser for OpenDoors of Asheville, takes place Saturday, March 5, at The Venue, 21 N. Market St. Doors open at 6 p.m. for those with VIP tickets and 7 p.m. for general admission.

The theme of this year’s event is “We Rise” and encompasses a VIP UNC-Duke basketball game watch party, live and mobile auctions that include artwork and travel experiences, along with food, live music and entertainment featuring OpenDoors students.

OpenDoors is a nonprofit that works with parents and schools to increase access to mentoring, tutoring, school events, sports and extracurricular activities, summer camp and more for underserved students.

General admission tickets are $125 and VIP tickets are $175. To buy tickets, visit


The Buncombe County Public Libraries systems has received an American Rescue Plan Act grant to launch the Flowstate Community Arts Initiative.

Throughout the year, the library will host six local artists or craftspeople, each for a term of one month, in Flowstate Community Arts Space at the East Asheville Public Library. In addition to concentrating on their own creative projects, artists will hold office hours to answer questions about their work. Each artist will also provide a program or take-home activity for community members during their residency.

Each artist will receive a small stipend as well as materials used for programs or activities. Artists were chosen in consultation with Noir Collective AVL at the YMI Cultural Center in Asheville.

The first Flowstate artist in residence is printmaker Heather Tolbert, co-owner of From the Ashes Cultural Arts & Counseling. Her term started on Feb. 1 and will run through Friday, Feb. 25.

East Asheville Public Library is at 3 Avon Road. For more information, visit


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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