by Sandy McLeod
One of the most exciting sections of Asheville, N.C. is the River Arts District. This district is home to 180 or more working artists, galleries, a microbrewery, new restaurants and bars. The River Arts District (RAD) expansion has made it the heart of the creative pulse of Asheville. In 2013, New Belgium Brewing will break ground on their new East Coast brewery, a 150,000 square foot facility that will encompass 17.5 acres in the District. By 2015, New Belgium will be open and producing beer for distribution all over the East. A tasting room will provide beer lovers a chance to sample some of the craft beer.
This is all exciting news for the artists who work everyday in the District, bringing more attention to their work and more traffic to the River Arts District. With the growth of RAD, there is now a central place close to downtown where artists and the community established here can easily co-mingle with a curious and supportive public audience.
The River Arts District development is now on the fast track, with new venues, bars and restaurants opening. I will highlight some of the larger art studios, the new restaurants and bars, and entertainment venues. Go to the River Arts District website for a complete list and a map. Visit RAD November 10-11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and see the whole district come alive for the pre-holiday studio stroll. Most studios are open to the public all day long with plenty of live music and entertainment, and easy transportation around the district by trolley. The second Saturday of every month is also an open studio stroll.
See Artists at Work: The Wedge, Phil Mechanic Studios, Curve Studios and Pink Dog Creative
Asheville has long been known for its thriving art scene. RAD began as a way to re-purpose the empty, old, industrial buildings that lined the French Broad River. Recognizing that art is a revenue source, the City of Asheville has successfully nurtured a working artists district and garnered support from residents and visitors. Asheville’s RAD evolved from a true need for space where visual artists can work to a desirable place to enjoy a cup of coffee or cocktail, dine, or be entertained. Gradually, Asheville began to develop a public image as a city where the creative class could nest and express themselves freely.
Visitors can stroll the streets of the River Arts District any day of the week and see many different types of artists at work: sculptors, painters, fabric artists, potters, metal workers and more.
The Wedge and Phil Mechanic Studios are at the base of Clingman Avenue, just before crossing the bridge from Downtown into West Asheville. Both buildings house numerous artists working in a variety of media. The Wedge is also home to The Wedge Brewery (downstairs and around the back), which is open from 5-10 p.m. Curve Studios is located at 6,9, and 12 Riverside Drive. Many of the artists here are working in ceramics, porcelain, pottery and fabric. Pink Dog Creative is located on 342-48 Depot Street, the part of the district that was most recently renovated. There are working artist studios here, The Artery gallery and headquarters for the Asheville Area Arts Council (AAAC), and The Junction, a new café/bar open at 5 p.m. Tues.-Sat. and for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
Restaurants that Defined the River Arts District
There used to be only two main restaurants in the River Arts District. One is the 12 Bones Smokehouse, an excellent spot for some of the best ribs and smoked meats in town. 12 Bones is located at 5 Riverside Drive and is only open for lunch, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. The Clingman Café is located at 242 Clingman Avenue and has been a central meeting place in the River Arts District for many years. It started out as a coffee house and has developed into a great place for breakfast or lunch, with draft beer on tap and a new patio. Hours are 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sat. and Sun.
New Restaurants in the River Arts District
Residents, visitors and the press love the White Duck Taco Shop, near Hatchery Studios on West Haywood Street. Tacos and quesadillas here are slightly different than traditional Mexican fare, and innovations on these recipes (such as the tofu taco, the lump crab and Thai peanut chicken) are delicious. Hours are 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
The Asheville Public is located at 175 Clingman Avenue, just above The Wedge and Phil Mechanic Studios. Step into The Asheville Public for a drink made by the resident mixologist or a locally brewed beer and an affordable, well cooked meal. Eat a traditional southern dish like smoked pork belly or shrimp and grits, or feast on a more eclectic meal. The retro furnishings and décor will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into Asheville’s past. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday Brunch is from 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
The Magnetic Field Café & Bar is located at 372 Depot Street, near Pink Dog Creative. Enjoy classic mixed drinks, local brews and continental fare for dinner (beginning at 5 p.m.) Tues. – Sat. Vegetarian dishes and seasonal and regional dishes are on the menu. The Magnetic Field Café and Bar is open from 3 p.m.- Midnight Tues.-Sat. Live shows are performed in the black box theater right next door.
Stroll the River Arts District any day of the week. Or, come out to a second Saturday stroll or one of the bi-annual strolls in June or November. Buy something unique for yourself or a loved one and support an artist directly with your purchase. Take some time out for a drink and a meal at one of the River Arts District restaurants to get a real feel for the neighborhood.
Book a cabin in Asheville, less than 10 miles from the River Arts District.