Discover the Folk Art Center, The Most Popular Attraction On The Blue Ridge Parkway
Walking into the Folk Art Center feels like coming home to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Folk art and craft-making is an integral part of the mountain culture, and this craft center is such a friendly, welcoming place that people who love fine crafts love coming here.
Inside the modern stone and wood Folk Art Center building, the fabulous Allanstand Craft Shop is filled with a colorful profusion of quilts and wall hangings, woven textiles, fine ceramics, carved wood lamps, vessels and toys. Here too are mountain themed landscape paintings, a visual rainbow of art glass, fine woven baskets and so much more. The craft shop staff are knowledgeable and helpful, and they enjoy sharing information on craft technique and the artists when there is a quiet moment. Whether you are decorating your home, looking for a gift, or want something to take home that reminds you of the mountains, you can usually find it here. And every one of the handcrafted works of art found at the Folk Art Center is made by one of the 900 juried artists that are members of the prestigious Southern Highlands Craft Guild.
We really enjoy the craft demonstrations given by members of the Guild at the Folk Art Center. These skilled artisans create some of the regions finest mountain crafts. We've watched as a wood-turner fashioned fine hardwood bowls on a lathe, seen a weaver creating intricate woven fabrics on a loom, and watched a master glassworker carefully shape delicate and colorful glass art pieces. These friendly artisans enjoy talking about their craft, and every artist participating in these craft demonstrations also sells their work in the Folk Art Center's craft shop.
Plan to spend some time on the second floor of the Folk Art Center where you will find two galleries and a museum dedicated to mountain crafts old and new. The large Main Gallery offers fascinating multi-artist themed exhibitions. Exhibits might focus on a single craft, such as New Traditions in Cabinetmaking, or there could be a traveling exhibition that features a noted craft collection or school of craftsmanship.
The smaller Focus Gallery highlights works by a single outstanding guild member. Here rotating exhibits showcase the artist's range of creativity by displaying their finest new pieces, noted past works and perhaps offering glimpses into the artist's newest inspiration.
Also on this level, the Folk Art Center's Museum displays historic crafts from the Southern Highlands Craft Guild's permanent collection. Numerous traditional objects produced in the 19th century are on display, with craftworks dating from as early as 1855 to the present. A wide range of media are represented, offering insights into the evolution of traditional crafts from functional every-day use to the artistic and decorative modern pieces found in the craft shop downstairs.
Back downstairs near the entrance, the Lobby Book Shop offers an intriguing selection of how-to craft books, mountain culture and cook books, Blue Ridge Parkway guides and books and mountain toys for children. There is also an information desk where you can ask questions about travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The center also houses a craft reference and research library with more than 7,000 craft books, craft related videos and periodicals from around the world. Serious crafters may access these materials which always remain within the library.
Weekends during the high travel season from late spring through fall colors is an especially fun time to visit the Folk Art Center, as there are often several artists onsite simultaneously demonstrating their crafts. And on some weekends, a themed Craft Day focuses on the many variations of crafts made from a single media, such as wood, clay or fiber. On these Craft Days, several artists demonstrate the many facets and styles of craft making in that media, with lots of opportunities for visitors to participate in hands-on activities.
The annual Heritage Weekend, held one weekend in September, is a fun-for-the-entire-family craft celebration overflowing with music, dancing and storytelling as well as traditional craft making. Learn how to spin wool, whittle a toy, make a pot or participate in many more of the traditional mountain crafts. On Saturday, don't miss the World Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle Competition. What, you ask, is a Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle? A Whimmy Diddle is a traditional wooden mountain toy made of sticks that spin, and a master of the art can get the spin to change direction from right (gee) to left (haw) and back again.
Nearby Eats and Attractions
If you are ready to eat, you might want to head into Asheville by exiting the parkway at nearby Mile Post 382.5 and taking Hwy 70 for about 1.2 miles to Pomodoro's Greek & Italian Restaurant. The Mediterranean comfort food here is almost as good as home-made, and the menu is varied enough to satisfy the entire family.
If you have children with you, consider visiting the nearby WNC Nature Center to see many rescued-from-the-wild animals that are native to the Blue Ridge Mountains, including wolves, cougars and Black Bears. There is also a large petting zoo featuring domestic animals that are found on mountain farms.
Otherwise, continue to travel northeastward along the spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway toward Blowing Rock, or west toward Waynesville and Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Folk Art Center Visitor Information
The Folk Art Center is located at Mile Post 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is just a few miles from I-40 and downtown Asheville.
To get there from I-40, take exit 55 to Tunnel Road, Hwy 70, and turn left. It is about one mile to the parkway, drive under the parkway and exit to the right onto the parkway entrance ramp. Turn left (north) at the stop sign for a half mile and then turn left.
To get there from downtown Asheville, take Tunnel Road, Hwy 70, east to the parkway. Drive under the parkway and exit to the right onto the parkway entrance ramp. Turn left (north) at the stop sign for a half mile and then turn left.
The Folk Art Center is open daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. There is no charge to visit the Folk Art Center.
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