The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Folk Art Center

By Folk Art Center

Issue: February, 1987

Just off the Blue Ride Parkway in Asheville, North Carolina lies a treasure house displaying exquisite works of art. Not fine art, but folk art, some of the finest craftsmen in the southeastern United States exhibit their pottery, quilts, weaving, woodcraft and other folk crafts here at the Folk Art Center.

The joint product of an agreement between the National Park Service and the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, the Folk Art Center prides itself as a showcase of the crafts which visually portray America's heritage. Beautiful ceramic dishes and lamps, quilts in colorful fabrics and fanciful designs and weavings of brilliant tints and textures decorate the walls and airy spaces of the building. All of the pieces in the Center serve both an ornamental and functional purpose. While crafts traditionally considered folk art, like woodcraft, basketry and pottery certainly have a place at the Center, visitors can also find less well known arts here. Tatted lace, scrimshaw, handmade dolls, stained glass and decorative brooms show some of the diversity which folk art encompasses.

The artisans who create most of the work displayed are members of the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, the organization largely responsible for starting the Folk Art Center. The Guild's membership extends through nine southeastern states and its members may be professional or part-time craftspeople.

Not solely a gallery, the Folk Art Center also serves as an educational and entertainment center. Those interested may take classes such as patchworking, quilting, weaving and crafts business management. The Center sponsors frequent crafts demonstrations; at least one takes place on most days in areas such as pot throwing, quilting and weaving.

The building which houses the Folk Art Center is a work of art itself. Designed by Asheville architect John Cort, the contemporary, natural wood structure creates airy open spaces which enhance the displayed pieces' beauty. The upstairs is mainly a museum and showplace. Upstairs also is the crafts library, which boasts one of the finest collections of books on crafts in the United States. The library checks out books only to Guild members, but the public may use it for reference. Downstairs, visitors may purchase crafts at the Allanstand Craft Shop.

The Folk Art Center is located just east of Asheville, about half a mile off US 70 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, at milepost 382. It opens every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.