Asheville’s River Arts District
The River Arts District, also known as the RAD, lives up to its name. A former industrial area on the banks of the French Broad River, the RAD now houses a brewery, many restaurants, and — just in case you wondered how the area got its name — more than 170 artist’s studios.
The area currently is experiencing a revitalization, although you can still find artists working in what look like dilapidated warehouses with names like Hatchery Studios and Cotton Mill Studios. These are working studios, so announce yourself if you wander in off the street. Artists are often, although not always, pleased to chat or show off their wares.
It was the artists, after all, who moved in when the area was just a rundown shell of its industrial past. The district is home to several well known artists past (like sculptor John Payne) and present (like painter Jonas Girard). Payne, whose Wedge Building now houses studios and the Wedge Brewery, is credited with bringing the first artists into the area.
A Closer Look
On the second Saturday of the month from May to December, the district’s studios open their doors for what it calls “A Second Look.” Usually focusing on a specific medium, such as pottery or fiber arts, the informal studio stroll encourages artists to open up and share their latest creations.
You can find textile artists, jewelers, sculptors, potters, photographers and more in the RAD. Each group has its day in the sun, thanks to the Second Saturday events.
In addition to the monthly Closer Looks, the RAD sponsors two annual studio strolls, when all the artist studios throw open their doors to the public. In 2016, the two weekend strolls are May 21 -22 and November 12 - 13. The events run from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. (Remember that artists sleep later than most of us.)
The studio stroll weekends — or any weekend, actually — are often crowded affairs, since even Asheville art snobs know that the area is crawling with talent. Besides, on a warm day, it’s a very pleasant way to spend a few hours. Most of the studios lie within an easy walk from one another.
And the Finest Dining!
The RAD also has some of the best restaurants in Asheville, and that’s no exaggeration:
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