The Western North Carolina “Artists Count” project is hosting a series of exhibitions to highlight the rich visual contributions made by area artists. The first such exhibit, “Smoky Mountains Sampler” is now open at the Welcome Center north of Asheville on Interstate 26. Eighteen artists from Jackson and Swain counties are included in the premier exhibit along with six illustrated panels that direct visitors to places where they can see and buy art. Sites include artisan studios, galleries, museums, shops, and community organizations in Bryson City, Cherokee, Dillsboro, and Sylva.
The Artists Count project was inspired by the fact that western North Carolina is celebrated for its heritage arts and crafts, but there is a gap between the excellent work produced here and its exposure to wider markets. Merging art and tourism made sense because data suggests that 60 percent of surveyed craft consumers came from outside the state. The project strives for authenticity and promotes “homegrown” entrepreneurs. A quarter million people stop at this Welcome Center each year. Visitors who travel through western North Carolina want to see what the area has to offer. The six display panels are aimed at helping to connect visitors to the arts and to encourage them to buy local art during their stay.
Artists in the exhibition include potters Susan Coe and Ed and Kari McIlvaine along with painter Barbara Robinson from Bryson City. Artworks from Cherokee include a cornhusk doll by Polly Rattler, a “Seven Clans” bowl by Dean Reed, a mask by Judson Bradley, and a basket by Ramona Lossie.
Sylva artist Sharon Bunting is showing a series of colored pencil drawings, while Isabella R. Jacovino is exhibiting a digital print. Blown glass by Judy McManus and digital photography by Teri Leigh Teed are also on view.
Cullowhee artists Neal Howard is showing her woven silk, metalsmith William Rogers is displaying a set of forged candlesticks, painter Susan Lingg has a watercolor on view, and Lee Budahl is showing a trompe l’oeil painting. Glenville is represented by Beth Bowser with a fused and slumped glass piece and Ken Bowser who is showing an oil painting.
Smoky Mountains Sampler is supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, Jackson County Arts Council, and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. The inaugural exhibit will remain on view until July.
Direct questions to ArtistsCount@gmail.com