Classical art gets new digs

Depot Street in the River District, already swimming with some of Asheville’s cutting-edge art studios, has a new neighbor with the arrival of the Fine Arts League school and galleries.

Home is where the art is: The Fine Arts League has opened its new home on Depot Street. photos by jonathan welch

The nonprofit, which focuses on classical-art disciplines and techniques, opened doors at the new location with a ceremonial ribbon cutting on Sept. 17.

At nearly double the size of the league’s previous Rankin Avenue home, the former packing plant is a perfect fit for the school, says Executive Director Anne Rawson.

“It is wonderful to be among a community of other artists,” she told Xpress. But the symmetry doesn’t end there. The league has partnered with affordable-housing nonprofit Mountain Housing Opportunities, which owns the building and is planning an adjacent mixed-used development called Glen Rock.

“Having this world-class, well-established art school at the Glen Rock is a huge win for Mountain Housing Opportunities, the neighborhood and the River Arts District,” said MHO Project Director Cindy Weeks in a press release.

Even the stars seem aligned for the facility’s debut, points out FAL artist Christopher Holt. The building gets primarily northern sunlight during the day, the kind of constant natural glow favored for figure drawing. The league is exploiting this by installing skylights and large north-side windows. At 6,200 square feet, the building has eight studios surrounding a central gallery. While the Rankin location boasted six studios, Holt said, “each was nowhere near the size of the studios we have now.”

(Left to right) Mountain Housing Opportunities Project Director Cindy Weeks, Mayor Terry Bellamy and league Executive Director Anne Rawson at the ribbon cutting.

This is the latest in a series of expansions by the school, which was started by noted fresco artist Ben Long at his studio in 2002. Long considered a wide rage of locales for his school—including Italy—before settling on Asheville, where he continues to be a draw for students.

Mayor Terry Bellamy, who until recently worked for MHO, was on hand to congratulate both organizations for the partnership. “Thank you for believing in the concept of what’s going to happen here,” she said at the ribbon cutting.

The Fine Arts League offers courses in figure and landscape drawing, as well as anatomy lessons helpful for realist artworks. Open-drawing classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 7 to 9 p.m., for $5. For more on the curriculum, visit www.fineartsleague.org or call 252-5050.

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