Spring in the Mountains
Asheville, NC in the spring offers Floridians and other Southerners an escape from our heat and humidity. A short, direct flight from Orlando Sanford gets you there in one hour and five minutes of flight time for about $100. You can’t beat it. My husband and I even took the trip to see a concert at the Orange Peel two winters ago, it was just so convenient.
This weekend my family and I stayed at the Grand Bohemian Hotel which hosts my collage artwork in their Grand Bohemian Gallery. Nestled in the Biltmore Village, the hotel represents a Tudor Style architecture that fits the old world style of the Village. The general manager John and his staff make your stay at this five-star boutique hotel a unique experience in art and music. From the valet to the front desk, you are greeted with happy, helpful smiling faces. In the lounge and the restaurant, the service is impeccable. Art adorns all the hallways on every floor, live music by local musicians wafts out of the Red Stag Grill on weekends. The decor is elaborate and luxurious, with wood carved columns and oversized doors, to a huge stone fireplace in the center of the lobby. The entire Grand Bohemian staff is willing to go out of their way to be sure your every need is met. They are sincere when they say “my pleasure.”
The Hotel offers a 2-day admission ticket to the Biltmore Estate which is located just across the street. Built by George Vanderbuilt, The Biltmore House was his country home, a way to escape the heat of New York City. Vanderbilt’s 250-room French Renaissance chateau is a true marvel, the largest undertaking in residential architecture. Over a six-year period, an entire community of craftsmen came together to create America’s premier home and the environmental wonderland that surrounds it.
The sculpture of Cornelia and Cedric at the Biltmore’s Antler Hill Village was created by the late Vadim Bora, local Asheville artist. Vadim was also the husband of Constance Richards, the Grand Bohemian Gallery director who hosted my work this weekend. Constance is also an independent journalist, author and interpreter in addition to running the Grand Bohemian Gallery.
The Farm in Antler Hill Village at the Biltmore offered an opportunity for the kids to chase down some baby goats, and for Doug to take more amazing photos with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop.
The family experienced nature and the mountains at an exhilarating speed via the Navitat Zip Line. Spectacular views and tall as tree tops, the kids and Doug were zooming at upwards of 50 mph. Born out of a love for trees and the belief that we belong among them, Navitat opened its Asheville, North Carolina location in 2010.
If Zip Lining isn’t your pace, you can get a thrill with two feet on the ground visiting the working artist studios of the River Arts District as Doug and I did for their annual RAD Stroll over the weekend. The River Arts District is open year round and offers over 180 artists to be inspired by. Beginning in 1985, industrial buildings by the French Broad River were transformed and opened as working artists studios. 1994 marked the first Studio Stroll in which 14 artists participated. By 2004 there was huge growth in artist membership and studios/buildings began going up, and by 2013 over 180 artists participated in the Stroll, making the RAD an art destination for Asheville.
Doug and I stopped in the studio of a friend of mine at 352 Depot Street. Connie took my collage workshop last year in Asheville, and we have stayed in touch. Her mixed media work has brought her much success lately and I was super happy to see red dots and her smiling face!
Daniel McClendon Fine Art
Daniel McClendon is still my favorite RAD artist. I met him last year when I was in town teaching, and this year I brought Doug by to see his work and his amazing studio space, Lift Studios. Doug was as taken with Daniel’s work as I was, which doesn’t always happen. Kismet lead to a purchase of the piece that Doug appreciated the most, Squid.
Daniel and his wife Michelle are lovely people, they took plenty of time with us, showing us the space and telling us about their refurbishing project. Daniel told Doug and I all about his inspiration and his process. We were inspired by the fact that he starts with abstract black and white which he has no specific intention for, only after it’s done, does he “see” his animal in there and then hone it. Daniel says that his process is much like the instinct of the animal kingdom, how they use unconscious knowledge and instinct to drive them.
Food, Food, Food
So much activity requires refueling, Asheville is all about eating local. Local restaurants practice a “Farm to Table” or “Farm to Fork” philosophy, procuring as much locally farmed food as possible on their menu. There is something for every taste in Asheville, locally brewed beer, local cheese, chocolate, and restaurants GALORE. You could eat every meal, every day, in restaurants and it would still take forever for you to run out of places to try.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge
A stop not to be missed, here you an drink your chocolate cold or hot, eat it as a truffle, a cake, a brownie, a cookie, a bar. I think we visited the Chocolate Lounge at least three times this five day trip. That says something right there. They offer truffles in pretty blue boxes with brown ribbons that you can take home to your friends who couldn’t make the trip, but somehow it seems cruel to let them know what they were missing.
Ben’s Tune Up
A relatively new dining venue, Ben’s Tune Up was recommended by locals and so we had to go. A fusion of Asian and American, the menu offered everything from egg rolls and sake to burgers and beer. We all opted for food with an Asian flare, but Doug and I stuck to our beer. I think Saki is a bit like drinking hot nail polish remover, but that’s just me.
Ben’s offered Doug amazing opportunities for great images. So many textures in the old and exposed brick were creatively used as back drops behind the bar and dining area of this old and dilapidated building.
Early Girl Eatery
A breakfast place not to be missed, in my opinion. One morning when I was teaching, the family went to the Early Girl and had breakfast. We tried to go back on Saturday morning all together, but the Early Girl is apparently only “early” during the week, on Saturday they didn’t open until 9:00am.
Guess what? I actually missed eating there this trip. That’s a shame.
You can basically park and walk all of the downtown area. A blend of old and new, you can see so much history in the old buildings and storefronts of this town. Experience drum circles in Pritchard Park, take in a concert, shop, dine, people watch and my personal favorite, visit art galleries. The Asheville Art District sponsors First Friday Art Walks April through December from 5-8pm. There are 20 downtown galleries and museums featuring changing exhibitions and opening receptions all within a half mile radius. You really can walk.
I visited my favorite Blue Spiral Gallery and the Haen Gallery on our downtown day. We sent the kids for ice cream so we could linger at Blue Spiral where we really appreciated the work in the special exhibit POLLINATOR, celebrating the honey bee. I am always inspired by the work of other artists and media other than my own. I look close, examine, and deconstruct in my mind. “How did they do that?” “Which way do the brush marks go?” “Is that encaustic or cold wax?” and on and on. I typically linger longer than anyone else wants to. But hey, this was my day downtown… and everyone was very patient.
I’ll be back
It’s a hop skip and a jump from Orlando, so I’ll be back. I can’t get enough of the art and culture of Asheville, NC. After four years of teaching workshops and showing at the Gallery there, it feels like home. If you find yourself looking for an artful destination and a place to cool off in the heat of a Southern summer, you just might make a trip there yourself. If that’s the case, I hope that this blog may inspire you, in more ways than one.
for being part of my
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