On the hunt for great art or just want to view it? This list includes (mostly) free places to see local and regional artists’ work.
Last summer I stopped in Fred’s General Mercantile in Beech Mountain for breakfast before returning to Charlotte. I’ve wandered the rambling old house in the past, looking for gifts and gadgets, but hadn’t been to the third floor. This time, I ventured to the top and was rewarded with a gallery filled with local photographer Sallie J. Woodring’s work. I left with three pieces – all nature and wildlife images – perfect for our son’s new room in his group home.
Discovering an art gallery in an unexpected place such as a coffee shop, church or on a walk through a small town is the highlight of my adventures. The treasures I find decorate my house – each tied to a story about where and when I saw it.
Next time you visit a new place, keep an eye out for a hidden gallery. In the meantime, plan a day trip or weekend getaway to one of these places to scope out the local art scene.
Art on 7th Gallery
Seventh Avenue district within Hendersonville is home to a contemporary art gallery featuring artists from Asheville, Flat Rock, Hendersonville, Horse Shoe and throughout the Southeast. Fiber, glass, sculpture, wood and various forms of painting from artists with diverse backgrounds fill the gallery.
Art on the Greene
Cool off in the mountains at the Historic Banner Elk School on August 5 and 6, and Sept. 2 and 3. More than 50 vendors carrying fine art from select regional and national artisans will be on display and part of a juried show.
Cain Center for the Arts
Free admission to the gallery. Classes and performances are ticketed events.
Cary Arts Center
The Cary Arts Center serves as a hub for art activity in the town. Three new exhibits run from July 12 through August 27: “Blue Glacier Then and Now: A Personal Photographic Story of Climate Change Spanning 40 Years,” “Longing to Belong,” and “Woven Strangers.”
Eclipse Artisan Boutique
Voted Best Gallery in Wilmington by readers of Wilmington Magazine for the past 9 years, this shop carries original fine art, glass, jewelry, pottery and custom furniture from local and regional artisans. Blue Moon Gift Shop, featuring the work of more than 100 makers, artisans and local food purveyors, is in the same area.
First Friday Art Walks
For more than a decade, Elizabeth City’s downtown businesses have been hosting community art strolls year-round from 4-7 p.m., on the first Friday of every month. Thirty to 40 businesses stay open late and partner with local artists to bring exposure to their work. The suggested walking route is posted each week.
Artist Carlos Tolentino showcases his work in various mediums such as bleach, epoxy, paint and tattoo ink. Gallery 13 is in Fayetteville’s Social District – visitors can sip and walk as they visit the gallery and the rest of the city’s attractions.
Peruse through paintings, sculptures, fine prints and more by Terry Thirion and other regional artists. Art-related books and magazines are available to view while there.
More than 1,500 art objects are on display in North Carolina’s second-oldest art museum. Permanent and rotating exhibits focus on American art, especially in the Unifour region – Catawba, Caldwell, Burke and Alexander Counties.
North Carolina Pottery Center
Before visiting the potters’ studios in Seagrove, stop at the North Carolina Pottery Center to learn the history of pottery in the state. A variety of current potter’s work is on display and may help you select which studios to see first. The newest exhibits run through mid-December and include “Woodfired Grande” and “Face Jugs & More: NC Folk Art Pottery.”
Sallie Woodring Gallery
First, eat a delicious breakfast at Backside Deli inside Fred’s General Mercantile. Fully fueled, head to the third floor for photography by Sallie Woodring. About 20 nature scenes and animal photographs, many from the Blue Ridge Mountains area, hang on the walls, and 40 to 50 pieces are in bins.
“Potentially Everywhere” is on display through August 2. Holly Keigh’s oil and acrylic paintings join Jillian Mayer’s ceramic vessels and hanging glass pieces in this two-person exhibit. Grab a coffee at Not Just Coffee and browse through the bookshop and gallery. The front porch is perfect for contemplating the experience.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Several of North Carolina native Ben Long’s frescoes may be seen throughout the state. The NC High Country Frescoe Trail highlights several works in churches. The two in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church represent Paul’s time of conversion.
Gallery owners Jim Lyall and Steve Key bring modern and contemporary jewelry, paintings, pottery and more to the downtown arts district of North Wilkesboro. I’ve heard it’s worth the drive.
This 1925 building, once a post office, was transformed into ceramics, painting and drawing studios; two multi-purpose classrooms and a gift shop with works from regional artisans. A juried exhibition of artists from or near northwest North Carolina is on display from July 21 to August 30.
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