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30+ ways to explore AVL’s art scene

Lexington Glassworks

Lexington Glassworks

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Even though I’m an Asheville native and I write about my city every day, I still have a lot to learn about Asheville.

This past weekend, I went on a Craft City Tour, organized by the Center for Craft and led by food writer Stu Helm + crafts expert/artist Anna Helgeson. And I learned so much, including that this region was one of the primary producers of bricks in the United States after WWII, that the first official glass arts programs started at Penland School of Crafts, and that vermouth is delicious (thanks, Cúrate Bar de Tapas).

So, in the spirit of playing tourist + supporting our hundreds of impressive artists in town, we rounded up some 30+ studios, self-guided art walks, and curated tours to put on your local bucket list.

Curated art tours

Asheville Art Studio Tours | $39 | Tours meet at 242 Clingman Ave. (outside Ultra Coffee Bar) | 2 – 4 p.m.

These two-hour tours created by RAD glass artist John Miguel Almaguer focus on the River Arts District, with behind-the-scenes peeks into the studios of working artists. Tours are also led by artists + are capped at 6 adults ($39 each).

Also on offer: the all-day Experience Tour, which includes the walking tour and gives participants the chance to work in different mediums.

Craft City Tour | $75 | Tours meet at the Center for Craft (67 Broadway St.) | 3 – 6 p.m.

For those seeking a curated experience, the Center for Craft’s Craft City Tours happen the first Saturday of each month from April – December. On the three-hour tour, you’ll meander through downtown with stops that highlight Asheville’s arts + food scenes.

Participants walk approximately two miles and visit ten spots that showcase the best of Asheville’s crafts, food + drinks, including East Fork Pottery, Lexington Glassworks, the Rhu, Cúrate, Rustic Grape + French Broad Chocolate Lounge. At each stop, you’ll learn something about the history of the business, the city, or both. Tours are led by crafts expert Anna Helgeson and food critic Stu Helm.

Protip: This isn’t just for tourists–I’m an Asheville native, and I was surprised at how much I learned (and how many new places I discovered). I also left feeling like I’d had plenty to eat, so don’t plan to head to dinner right after.

Tours cost $75 and must be booked in advance. They’re capped at 10 people.

Hood Huggers International Hood Tours | Tour location sent upon reservation | Adults $30 for driving tour, $20 for walking tour | 10 a.m. & 1 p.m.

Led by DeWayne Barton, an artist from West Asheville’s Burton St. community, Hood Tours focus on arts and crafts in historically black neighborhoods in Asheville + include background on the city’s African-American communities.

Driving tours, which go through downtown, the Burton St. area, and East End Valley, are $30/adult and $15/youth. Walking tours are $20/adult and $10/youth. Advance registration is required. Tours last 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Want to experience the art scene on your own? Click the yellow button below ⬇ or go here for three more ways to art it up in Asheville.

Self guided art walks

First Friday Art Walk

On the first Friday of every month between April and December, 25+ downtown art galleries + museums open their doors and celebrate exhibition openings, special events like artists’ talks and more, from around 5 – 8 p.m. The spots are concentrated within a half-mile radius of downtown, so you can easily hop between them. Events are free and often include a reception with wine, beer and light bites (bring some money for the tip jar).

Top spots:

BAD (Broadway Arts District): Includes Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, the Center for Craft, Satellite Gallery, and the upstairs space at Henco Reprographics

Biltmore Ave. area: Includes Blue Spiral 1, the Haen Gallery, Silverbird, Momentum Gallery, Contemporaneo Asheville, Bender Gallery, Push Skateshop, and Horse + Hero

South Slope: Includes the Asheville Area Arts Council, Tracey Morgan Gallery, Lexington Glassworks, and ZaPow

For a full list of Downtown Art District member galleries (and a map), click here.

Second Saturday Art Walk

On Saturdays from March – June, the River Arts District invites wanderers in to see working artists’ studios + gallery spaces, with demos, special performances and more in the 20+ buildings in the RAD, many of which are in historic spaces. Studios house over 200 artists and span a mile stretch of the French Broad River.

For a full guide to studios in the RAD, click here.

Don’t miss: the Phil Mechanic Building + Stand Gallery, North Carolina Glass Center, the Cotton Mill Studios, the Wedge Studios, Pink Dog Creative, Riverview Station, Revolve

RAD Studio Stroll

During the second weekend of November (November 10 – 11 this year), the RAD hosts its Studio Stroll. With even more special events than Second Saturdays, including live music, parties, food trucks and more, the Studio Stroll offers a full weekend of immersion into the arts scene.

Protip: A free trolley runs every 15 minutes throughout the RAD on Studio Stroll weekends if you don’t want to walk. Two City buses, the W1 and W2, also serve the RAD. Find the schedules here.

Studios to check out

Downtown

South Slope

River Arts District

West Asheville

For more galleries and studios, check out this list from Explore Asheville.

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