15 mostly-free art galleries in NC where you can support local artists

Artist Carlos Tolentino at Gallery 13 in Fayetteville showcases his work in various mediums such as bleach, epoxy, paint and tattoo ink. (Image via Distinctly Fayetteville)

By Vanessa Infanzon

July 6, 2023

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.

Read More: Meet the artists behind the NC murals you love. Click here to read. 

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
Hendersonville

Art on 7th in Hendersonville

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.

Free admission

Art on the Greene
Banner Elk

Art on the Greene in Banner Elk (Photo via Todd Bush)

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. 

Free admission

Cain Center for the Arts
Cornelius

Cain Center for the Arts (Image via Visit Lake Norman)

Through August 4, art from the ArtPop Street Gallery’s Charlotte Class of 2023 will be featured in the “ArtPop Street Gallery: 10th Anniversary” exhibit.

Free admission to the gallery. Classes and performances are ticketed events.

Cary Arts Center
Cary

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.” 

Meet artists Katherine Diuguid, Chip Freund and Jean Gray Mohs from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 28.

Free admission

Eclipse Artisan Boutique
Wilmington

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. 

Free admission

First Friday Art Walks
Elizabeth City

First Friday Artwalk in Elizabeth City (Image via Visit Elizabeth City)

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. 

Free admission

Gallery 13
Fayetteville

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.

Free admission

Gallery 339
Hot Springs

Gallery 339 in Hot Springs, NC

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.

Free admission

Hickory Museum of Art

Hickory

Hickory Museum of Art

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.

While in Hickory, check out Full Circle Art, Trade Alley Art and Taste Full Beans Coffee, Tea & Cafe.

Free admission

North Carolina Pottery Center
Seagrove

North Carolina Pottery Center (Image via HeartofNorthCarolina.com)

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.” 

Admission fee

Sallie Woodring Gallery
Beech Mountain

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.

Free admission

SOCO Gallery
Charlotte

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“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.

Free admission

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Wilkesboro 

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.

Free admission

Taupe Gallery

North Wilkesboro

Taupe Gallery

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.

Free admission

Wilkes Art Gallery

North Wilkesboro

Wilkes Art Gallery (Image via Blue Ridge National Heritage Area)

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.

Free admission

Author

  • Vanessa Infanzon

    Vanessa Infanzon moved from New York to NC for college and never left. When she’s not writing, she’s paddle boarding at the Whitewater Center.

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