photograph by TIM ROBISON, MURAL BY KATHRYN CRAWFORD

Asheville’s vibrant River Arts District wasn’t always so colorful. The brick buildings along the French Broad River that are now home to restaurants, breweries, and studios for more than 200 artists were once abandoned industrial spaces that had been used for manufacturing and agriculture.

Then, in the 1970s, businessman Bill Goacher bought some of those old buildings and began renting them cheap to artists. Soon, drawn by airy spaces and affordable rent, more and more artists moved into the neighborhood, each bringing something new and personal to the growing waterfront district.

Today, the River Arts District is a nationally recognized tourist destination, drawing visitors from around the world. On any given day, dozens of working studios open their doors for curious customers to chat with artists and watch them transform paint, clay, glass, wood, and paper into stunning masterpieces. With the Blue Ridge Mountains as a constant source of inspiration, artists have embraced this diverse and welcoming community as a place to craft their own beauty.

The Bull and Beggar. Co-owners Drew Wallace, creator of The Admiral, and Chef Matt Dawes, formerly of Table, opened this upscale eatery in 2013. The European-inspired Appalachian menu features elegant cocktails, a raw bar, and a caviar service, but also casual “Burger Mondays.”

37 Paynes Way #007, Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 575-9443 or thebullandbeggar.com

 


 

White Duck Taco Shop. Inside a cave-like, refurbished Quonset hut by the river, one of Asheville’s most popular taco shops serves creative fare like (clockwise from top left) roasted duck confit tacos with mole and apple-cranberry salsa, Thai peanut chicken tacos, and Southwest Corn Chowder.

388 Riverside Drive, Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 254-1398 or whiteducktacoshop.com

 


 

Wedge Brewing Company. A 1916 agricultural building is now home to more than 20 art studios and the popular Wedge Brewing Company, where an expansive outdoor seating area allows visitors to enjoy live music, food trucks, and beers found almost exclusively in the River Arts District.

37 Paynes Way, Suite 001, Asheville, NC 28801
(828) – 505 – 2792 or wedgebrewing.com

 

 

North Carolina Glass Center. With works from nearly 30 glass artists on display, the NC Glass Center boasts an impressive gallery, but its main mission is education. The nonprofit offers classes, workshops, and demonstrations in glassblowing and flame-working for all skill levels — and equipment rentals for more advanced artists looking to perfect their craft.

140 c Roberts Street, Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 505-3552 or ncglasscenter.org

 


 

Hofman Studios. Artist Michael Hofman (left) has collected a vast assortment of antique lace — some of it centuries old — to imprint on his porcelain tableware and vases. Customers can also bring in their own fabrics — like heirloom embroidery or lace from a wedding gown — for Hofman to turn into deeply personal pieces, glazed with his own house-made blends.

 
111 Roberts Street, Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 232-1401 or livelifeartfully.com

 

This story was published on

Katie King is the assistant editor at Our State.

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