River Arts District Celebrates Community’s Unique Artists and Positive Progress with RADical Daze Weekend


Driving into Asheville on 240 East, it comes into view on your right. Colorful houses set into the hill above the river, industrial smoke stacks, vibrant graffiti script that might make you slow down if it’s your first time visiting Asheville, that might make you smile if you’re a local who knows that what it promises is true – “Good Vibes.”  This is Asheville’s River Arts District, where good vibes and great art abound.


Occupying a mile-long stretch of 22 historical and industrial buildings along the French Broad River, the River Arts District, or RAD, is an ever-growing center of creativity, great eats, and craft brewing. Year around, visitors to the district have a unique opportunity to explore the studios of more than 200 artists specializing in paint, pottery, metal, glass, woodwork, fiber, wax, and more.


Over the next week, the Arts District will be gearing up for one of it’s most exciting times of the year: RADical Daze. The whole District comes alive for three days of art-centric events and its Bi-annual Studio Stroll. Held on May 21 – Sunday May 22, the studio stroll is your best chance to catch almost all of RAD’s artists at work. Visitors will be able to meet the artists, watch demonstrations, buy unique pieces of art directly from the source, and even try their hand at some of the processes.


You can expect many of the studios to hold demonstrations or special events over the course of the weekend. “When folks visit us during Studio Stroll weekend, they will find the working studios of seven full-time potters and ceramic artists, as well as a Teaching Center that offers ongoing classes in wheel, handbuilding, and sculpture,” says Lori Theriault of RAD’s The Village Potters. Friday May 20th marks the opening of a special show in The Village Potters’ Feature Gallery, Apprentices: The Next Generation, which shows the work of four of their Apprentices. The Village Potters will host a reception for the opening on Friday afternoon.

“Over the weekend, while we do not have specifically scheduled demonstrations, artists will be working in studio during Studio Stroll, and our entire facility will be open for tours,” Theriault says. “As well as the tours, a limited number of “Create Your Own Workshop” events may be available that weekend.” This includes trying out the pottery wheel and completing a hand-built project, which can later be shipped to you.
The Village Potters is just one of many studios you’ll want to make time for during RADical Daze. Fleta Monaghan of 310 ART, which showcases the work of 27 fine artists and houses the oldest independent art school for adults in the region, says that “During the stroll, visitors can see demos by the resident 310 artists including work in experimental watercolor techniques, painting with beer (to use as paint, not to drink!), encaustic painting with hot wax, oil and wax painting and more. You can also get a peek inside the classroom where a bookbinding class will be taking place.”
“The building, Riverview Station, is the Southern Gateway to the River Arts District and is the largest building in the River Arts District,” Monaghan says. “Opened galleries along the front ground floor feature work of the region’s finest potters, wood turners, basket makers, fiber artists, painters and sculptors. Upstairs you will find many more artists working in jewelry, photography, old master style painting and more. Right next door a fantastic mural project will be taking place starting that Friday May 20th, to run through the entire weekend. It is a place to be!”

IMG_20160512_123254451_HDR-2The mural project next door, another event taking place as part of RADical Daze, is Asheville’s Third Annual Burners and Barbecue. Burners and Barbecue is an annual outdoor mural event that unfolds over the course of three days. This year, 50+ street artists are combining their talents to give Asheville its largest mural to date, and you can watch it happen. The event is family-friendly, and there will be plenty of food and music.


The Days Warehouse, which will soon be Asheville’s biggest mural project

The third big RADical Daze event is Saturday’s Foundation Hellraiser, a fundraiser to support the growth of the Foundation Spot’s skateable sculpture park. The Spot, located in the emerging Foundation Studios behind Riverview Station, is a DIY sculpture park open to anyone who wants to ride the volunteer-built terrain or just appreciate the art on foot. The park is surrounded by a collection or murals created by some of Asheville’s best street artists. The Foundation Spot promises Saturday fun for all with live music & DJs, local beer & food vendors, free activities for the whole family, and a Skateboard Extravaganza! More information about the event in the Mountain Xpress can be found here.

Spend some time in Asheville’s River Arts District and you’ll understand why it’s artists are excited to share their space with you – it truly is a special community. Maeve Hendrix, creative source behind Wigwam Jewelry and an artist of RAD’s Phil Mechanic Studios, explains, “It’s amazing being a part of the RAD and especially the Phil Mechanic Studios because of the creative energy and synthesis that happens with all the artists housed in one location. It is really therapeutic to be in my studio working for hours and know that there are other artists all around me doing the same thing, feeling their creative flow.”


Wigwam Jewelry, located in the Phil Mechanic Studios building

In this video from NPR’s Sense of Place, Clayspace Co-op founder Josh Copus echoes this idea of the importance of others in his own experience as he takes us on a tour of RAD to meet some of his fellow artists.  “For me the River Arts District has always been about people first,” Copus says. “That’s the whole art scene in Asheville – The reason its good is because the people make it so. I think moving forward that’s probably the best chance we have.”

And moving forward it is. RAD is evolving and expanding every year, as more of the area’s formerly industrial lots are transformed into something new. New Belgium Brewing Company, one of the country’s largest craft breweries, opened its tasting center this week on the west bank of the French Broad River. The construction of the brewery on the 18-acre brownfield site has been a huge project in the River Arts District for the past several years. This video, from Our State Magazine, tells the story of the new location and the help it has gotten from neighborhood artists. A New Belgium greenway project is underway as well, which will eventually connect the property to existing greenway segments.  The Wedge Brewery, a longtime RAD favorite and Asheville institution, has also recently announced that they will be expanding and opening a second location nearby.


Despite the growth, the River Arts District is holding onto its creative charm and good vibes. If you’re in Asheville next weekend, head over to RADical Daze to explore the new and the old, while being a part of what makes the River Arts District so great – the people.








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