Nestled in the woods at milepost 382 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville’s Folk Art Center is an extraordinary exhibit of locally made arts and crafts. An eclectic rainbow of beautiful mountain art illustrates the significant role that craftwork has long played in the Southern Appalachians.
This cultural gem is the headquarters of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, an organization of over 900 juried artists from nine Southeastern states stretching from Maryland to Alabama. The Guild was formed in 1930 in the throes of the Great Depression, connecting a network of Appalachian craftspeople and cultivating a market for their work.
The Guild’s roots date back further still. It was born out of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic movement that emerged at the end of the 1800s as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution in England. The era saw the pendulum swing away from mass-produced items and refocused the emphasis on beautiful, fine-crafted objects made by hand.
The Folk Art Center’s vast collection of handmade items mixes contemporary work with traditional pieces that date back as far as the 19th century. The center’s three galleries showcase an assortment of woodworking, jewelry, glass-making, pottery, sculptures, quilts, paintings, and other items. The center also hosts demonstrations of rare and near-forgotten crafts that once thrived in the mountains, such as weaving, cabinetry, and broom-making. It also houses the Allanstand Craft Shop, the Guild’s oldest craft store, and one of the first such shops in the country.