by Sandy McLeod Asheville has long been known as a Mecca for artists, and its reputation for having some of the best galleries in the country only continues to grow. This year, the First Friday Art Walks, will take place from 5-8 p.m. on the first Friday of every month from April to December.   This is an ideal showcase for artists’ work, which encourages locals and visitors to spend some time in the galleries in Downtown Asheville.   The Artwalk brings together the art community, collectors and many who visit specifically to gain a wider perspective on the Asheville art scene.  Attendees can also see historical exhibits, as well as some of the most striking and original painting and sculpture being produced today.   The first Artwalk began on April 5th. The second will occur on May 3rd. Galleries will open to the public again: June 7, July 5, August 2, September 6, October 4, November 1 and December 6. Local businesses will offer concurrent specials and Asheville’s local trolley service will be available to offer transportation to galleries.   Here are some highlights from the 26 spaces that are part of Asheville’s vibrant Downtown Gallery Association.   Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center [caption id="attachment_632" align="alignleft" width="226"] The Black Mountain College Museum celebrates the art produced by Black Mountain students, teachers and colleagues.[/caption] The Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center, which seeks to uphold the legacy of the internationally famous Black Mountain College, is one of Western North Carolina’s most highly regarded gallery spaces. Featuring vibrant and eclectic rotating exhibits, it has hosted everything from art workshops to poetry readings to lectures and community events. In cooperation with the University of North Carolina Special Collections Library, it’s become one of Asheville’s most important cultural centers. The space is always showcasing work by Black Mountain artists or those who have been taught by the College’s attendees and welcomes many visitors   Blue Spiral 1 The Blue Spiral 1 gallery, which describes itself as a “15,000 square-foot gallery that spans three floors catering to various tastes and aesthetics,” is one of Asheville’s most breathtaking gallery spaces. Blue Spiral has been in Asheville for some time and is well known among artists and art enthusiasts. The gallery hosts more than 15 shows annually, many of which feature work from renowned artists. The shows often run simultaneously, which means that visitors can enjoy a wonderful and diverse array of art—including photography, pottery, and printmaking, as well as painting.   Woolworth Walk [caption id="attachment_633" align="alignleft" width="433"] Woolworth Walk is a space where many types of traditional painting, sculpture, fabric art and craft are exhibited and sold.[/caption] Woolworth Walk, like its name suggests, is an historical Woolworth’s drugstore that was converted into an art gallery. As such, it is perhaps Asheville’s most unique gallery space, and certainly one of its most popular places for locals and tourists to purchase locally made art and craft. Boasting an old-fashioned soda fountain, Woolworth Walk has earned a beloved place in the Asheville community by representing almost exclusively local artists. This one-of-a-kind space is usually bustling, and is one of Asheville’s most popular family destinations.   American Folk Art and Framing The American Folk Art and Framing gallery prides itself as being host to a “generous helping of whimsy, exuberance, and inspiration”, and it is indeed home to a dazzling array of exhibits—from ancient Inca-like sculptures to avant-garde folk art. As a gallery that specializes in the rich tradition of Outsider Art, it is one of Asheville’s most critically acclaimed galleries, and artists who show there garner a share of press coverage. There is certainly something for everyone here, and a trip to the space is as entertaining as it is educational. Asheville’s “art renaissance” is continuing to blossom. A trip to the mountains of Western North Carolina would not be complete without a visit to the region’s locally and nationally noted art spaces. The grandeur of the Blue Ridge Mountains continues to inspire artists working in many mediums, and the work they produce reflects the unique culture and breathtaking scenery of the region. Book a cabin in Asheville online and schedule a reservation for the next ArtWalk.  Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds is a short drive to Downtown Asheville, where all participating galleries are located.