Set against an industrial landscape, where the historic buildings are every bit as fascinating as the artists who work in them, the studios of the River District artists will be open this weekend for the twice-yearly stroll. To make it extra easy on guests, a free trolley service has been added this year.
The trolley is scheduled to depart every 30 minutes from the Asheville Chamber of Commerce (36 Montford St.). The trolley will loop through the River Arts District, making eight stops. Visitors can get off at any stop and pick up another trolley at their convenience. Trolley drivers will provide a narrative history of the River District.
"The stroll really is about educating," says Constance Williams, an encaustic artist who will be giving demonstrations throughout the weekend. "Our job is to tell people that the arts are important, and that we make beautiful things, and this is how we do it." Williams also operates the Constance Williams Gallery, part of Curve Studios — an appealing space showcasing artwork that "invites the tactile experience."
Nestled between the railroad tracks and Riverside Drive, Curve is owned and operated by the notable fiber artist
Pattiy Torno, a driving force behind the development of the stroll since its 1998 inception. Torno will be showing her fleece dresses and quilts at Curve's south building. "It really was Pattiy who started it all," says Williams. "She put sweat equity into it. She's a powerhouse in the community."
Some stroll suggestions:
• Strollers can wander the dusty, sometimes challenging streets of the River District and enjoy the familiar company of veteran stroll artists like ceramic artist Michael Hofman, glass blower Robert Gardner of Studio C Glassworks, and impressionistic landscape painter Wendy Whitson, whose studio can be found in the Warehouse studio building.
• Along with the familiar faces comes a fresh crop of artists who have taken up studios in the River District this year. Even the most weathered strollers are guaranteed a novelty visit. For example, Una Barrett and Julie Armbruster (who share a studio on the north side of the Wedge Studios) recently relocated there with hopes of getting more public exposure. Barrett, a jeweler and book artist, is planning to display her leather wristbands and mini books alongside her studio mate's charming paintings of imaginative creatures. The two will sell jewelry they created together at the stroll.
• Feeling adventurous? Make the trip down Lyman Avenue to navigate the mysterious maze of hallways and staircases within Riverview Station (formally known as The Candle Factory.) There are two separate entrances (the building is divided by a dog school). The north side of the building is a little rougher around the edges than the newly remodeled south side. Wandering around that section, one might brush up against the socially charged paintings of Dustin Spagnola, or the abstract landscapes of Galen Frost Bernard. Both painters have studios in the building.
Strollers might also come across an artist like Mike Oghren hard at work in his studio. A recent transplant to Asheville from Washington D.C., Oghren is a sculptor whose current project involves a giant paper-mache wall-hanging of the face of the Old Salt Fisherman, which has taken over nearly his entire workspace.
Enter the Riverview Station building on the south side and go upstairs to see the extravagant medieval/Viking inspired costumes made entirely by hand out of latex by artist Paul Hersey. Hersey promises to be selling low-priced items like wrist cuffs, necklaces and headbands. That's in addition to displaying his mythological wares that have earned him a niche within the masquerade culture — his client base consists primarily of festival-goers that find him on the Internet. "People come to my studio to play and try things on," says Hersey.
And that's just the spirit of the stroll. Come to meet, learn and shop this weekend. Says Williams, "People want to know the story behind the person who made the art. At the stroll we can engage with them and I don't think the galleries can do that as well."
who: More than 100 artists
what: Twice-yearly River Arts District Studio Stroll featuring open studios, demonstrations and more
when: Saturday, Nov. 13 and Sunday, Nov. 14 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. www.riverdistrictartists.com)