Found this by The Laurel of Asheville
River Arts District Shines in Studio Stroll
By Tim W. Jackson: Photos by Meherdil Irani
Despite some periods of clouds and rain over the recent two-day Asheville River Arts District Studio Stroll, the resurgent area showed throngs of visitors just how far it has come in recent years.
Barbara Fisher is a veteran of the River Arts District (RAD). Having a RAD studio for 12 years provides her with a veteran’s perspective.
“I have seen vast changes in the nature and size of the Studio Stroll,” Barbara said. The most recent RAD Studio Stroll took place June 11-12.
Barbara said that while the number of visitors on the stroll has increased dramatically in recent years, so has the number of artists. “When I first got here there were maybe 25 artists,” she said. “Now there are 150-plus. So in terms of how it feels in each studio, I don’t think it’s really changed much.”
While each artist may not see huge increases in the numbers of visitors, the overall numbers have definitely grown. As Barbara indicated, RAD has grown in general.
Food and beverage options are now more plentiful. The venerable 12 Bones was open on Saturday. Clingman Café and Wedge Brewery were packed both days. Brian Lumb of Nourish & Flourish says the stroll is a great way for people to find out about his new juice bar. “We haven’t been here long,” Brian said, “so this is beneficial to us to have so many people down here to see what we’re about.”
In addition to those establishments, RAD now offers Roots Café inside The Grey Eagle, White Duck Taco Shop, and The Junction as dining options.
But the real draw to the stroll is the artists, who are many and varied. Take for instance Julie Armbruster. Julie, who creates wild and whimsical surreal pop art, said she sees the stroll as more of a community day, as opposed to a fund-raiser. “It is an opportunity for everyone to come into the studio and ask questions, see the space, and get a better understanding of the artistic process. Many of my visitors were verbally encouraging and excited about my new work. My studio-mate and I worked hard to fix up our space. It is now much more visitor-friendly and inviting. So in many ways (the Stroll) was a success.”
Speaking of that studio mate, Una Barrett, who makes beautiful jewelry under the name Relics of a New Age, shares a space with Julie. Una said that the general feeling among artists was that sales were down but the Stroll is always a good opportunity for artists to be seen and show their work.
Spencer Herr creates paintings that he views as journal entries that document places, relationships, and places in time. Spencer said that while the Stroll was a bit slower than usual, it allowed him to get to know the folks who stopped by. “I had a good stroll,” he said. “I made some connections and met with gallery owners and collectors. Sales were down during the stroll but I had some callbacks that led to sales the following week.”
Jennifer Barrineau echoed Spencer’s thoughts on the Stroll. “It was slow for sales but I met some nice folks and made a few connections. Feedback on my work was great, people just could not spend on art right now.”
Constance Williams is a fine art encaustic painter who had some amazing works on display at the Stroll. She offered a good encapsulation of what the Stroll is all about.
“The River Arts District Studio Stroll continues to attract visitors who are amazed with the breadth and depth of art, working artists’ studios, and great food, as well as camaraderie and fun,” Constance said. “While many studios are open seven days a week, the energy of having all 150-plus artists available to and interacting with the public at the same time is priceless.”
Constance also assessed the Stroll from a business perspective. “While as a whole we are affected by economic realities, the same as any other sector, we also gain much from the continued exposure. Existing customers and new fans come back again and again for shopping and dining, and to entertain their guests, because they’ve experienced that layered effect of learning about hand-made art by local artists in their studios, seeing it made right before their eyes, and discovering what’s new since the artists are always creating new works, which means the displays are always changing, too.”
Constance suggested that the Studio Stroll has laid the foundation for potential new activities, such as “partnering with the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau on the Collect Art Asheville tourism initiative, which has led to some of us having monthly Second Saturday openings and events.” In the end though, she said, “Any activity where artists and their art connect with the public, and where people have a good time within the community, and where business for Asheville is fostered, should be looked at as a good thing.”
And from that perspective, the June 2011 Studio Stroll did indeed shine brightly.
The next RAD Studio Stroll takes place Nov. 12-13. For more information about the River Arts District, visit online.