This weekend for one special day — Saturday, Oct. 14 — local artists share their talents as several downtown Bryson City art galleries and studios will be open extra hours to showcase some of the finest crafts and artwork in the region. The 4th Annual Bryson City Art Walk will feature live music, art demonstrations, refreshments, and a chance to meet and learn from local artists. Though hours may vary among businesses and galleries, the art walk is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Dozens of artists will be participating, including 38 Western North Carolina arts and artisans exhibiting 140 works at the Swain County Center for the Arts at Swain County High School in Bryson City. This showcase will be up through Nov. 14. Other galleries participating in the art walk include Heath Creations Studio and Gallery, Homestead Gardens Gifts and Gallery, The Cottage Craftsman, The Elizabeth Ellison Gallery, The Michael Kesselring Gallery and The Artists’ House Gallery.
One of the newest galleries in the downtown Bryson City scene is The Cottage Craftsman, which sells everything from Biltmore House wines and moonshine jelly to furniture and photography. Everything sold at the store is made by local artists and Blue Ridge businesses. There are coffees from Smoky Mountain Roasters in Waynesville, handmade brooms from David Higgins of Whittier, homemade soaps from Spruce Pine, and goat cheeses from Stecoah. Artists range from 83-year-old cornshuck dollmaker Annie Lee Bryson of Cullowhee to 18-year-old soap maker Megan Orr of the Alarka community.
“The reception has been wonderful,” said Debra Mills, who opened the store Aug. 28. She plans to teach art classes at the
Cottage as well. Mills taught basket weaving through the heritage arts program at Southwestern Community College’s Swain Center and coordinated artist showcases at the Everett Street Diner.
“I’ll be the basket case,” she jokes, posing with a handmade basket behind the counter.
Art walks have been gaining popularity throughout Western North Carolina towns as art tourism links with leaf-looking season. The idea is for downtown strollers to sample different types of art in an inviting atmosphere. With balloons, refreshments and a little music, people might not feel as intimidated to come into a quiet art gallery and feel pressured to buy something.
“We’re not car salesmen,” quips photographer Charles Heath, owner of Heath Creations Studio and Gallery.
The art walk can be an opportunity for galleries to familiarize themselves with customers. They may not buy something on the first or second visit, but by the third visit, that familiarity may help bring in a sale, Heath said.
And with leaf season in full swing, there will be plenty of people in the region, so it makes perfect sense to host an art walk in October.
“We have an audience that’s out there already,” Heath said.
Closing out the art walk festivities will be a special performance at The Swain County Center for the Arts, where the bluegrass/gospel band Cornerstone will play at 7 p.m. The three-member, Bryson City-based band includes James Shuler on banjo and dobro, Michael Laws on guitar and mandolin, and Erchel Green on guitar and upright bass.