Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center in Asheville

For a taste of local Appalachian culture, the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center is a must-stop destination for travelers along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Just eight miles outside of Asheville, the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center houses three art exhibitions, an auditorium for special events, and a National Park Service bookstore and library.

Located at milepost 382 off the Blue Ridge Parkway, visitors are welcome to shop fine American crafts and enjoy daily demonstrations with Guild artisans showcasing their craft in the lobby from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

The Center also provides a Parkway Store that offers souvenirs and travel information. The Folk Center has been the most popular attraction on the Parkway, with over a quarter of a million visitors each year. The Craft Guild is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., except on national holidays.

Beyond featuring original arts and crafts native to the region, this museum of the Appalachians houses offices for three separate Parkway partners, The Southern Highland Craft Guild, Eastern National, and the National Park Service.

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The upstairs of the Guild includes more than 250 works from the Guild’s Permanent Collection “Craft Tradition." The Focus Gallery and the Main Gallery feature numerous artists throughout the year.

Fun Fact: Appalachian culture is a way of life that dates back to the 1700s when Europeans began immigrating to America.

Some of these fantastic items date back to the 1850s.  The Folk Art Center also promotes Allanstand Interiors and includes their studio furniture and home accessories.

Looking down over the railing at the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center with people looking at the exhibits and quilts lining the walls in Asheville, North Carolina, USA

photo credit: Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center via Facebook

Special Folk Art Center Guild Events

The Folk Art Center hosts many events and contains a library with craft books and videos.

  • In June, the Guild features “Clay Day,” a day showcasing potters and ceramic artists of the Southern Highlands Guild. Clay Day allows artists to share their techniques such as throwing, sculpting, coil-building, and fire glazing of raku pots.
  • Check the website for several different “Craft Fairs” throughout the year. These fairs allow visitors to see and buy traditional and contemporary fine art and crafts direct from Guild members. These craft fairs offer the artists a platform to showcase their handcrafted items. The Guild hires local musicians who play live on the arena stage.
  • Heritage Weekend in September is a free festival with traditional music, dancing, and heritage craft demonstrations. Visitors can learn about beekeeping, heritage toy making, natural dyeing, spinning, broom making, and furniture making. Hands-on activities and demonstrations like sheep shearing are offered for guests of all ages.

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A group of older people with a quilt hanging behind them and four women in the front hold a sign that says Heritage Weekend at Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center in Asheville, North Carolina, USA

photo credit: Southern Highland Craft Guild via Facebook

Southern Highland Craft Guild History

Founded in 1897, the Folk Art Center is the official home to the oldest operating craft shop in the United States. More than 100 years ago, Presbyterian missionary Frances Goodrich began the shop under the name of Allanstand. Goodrich donated the shop to the Guild, which was founded in 1930.

With a combined effort from the National Park Service, the Southern Highland Craft Guild sought to preserve local history and culture by investing in the Folk Art Center, the central meeting place of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. Since 1930 the Southern Highland Craft Guild has encouraged high-quality craftmanship and goods from artists in the Southern Highland region.

The Guild promotes education throughout the arts community to impact craft making and its capacity to influence the local economy. Through craft demonstrations, special events, and craft fairs – the Craft Guild fosters talent and creativity.

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The Guild consists of members over nine states, and provides opportunities for makers to build, market, and maintain their creative lifestyles through education, retail outlets, and mentorship. The Guild’s primary goal is to give artists the resources to refine and sell their crafts.

Fun Fact: The culture of Appalachia consists of art and crafts, food, myths and folklore, multiple ethnic influences that include German, African and Native American.

The Craft Guild grew into one of the most influential craft organizations in the country. Today the Guild represents over 200 members. The Southern Highland Craft Guild’s mission is to cultivate the crafts and makers of the Southern Highlands and to share resources, education, and conservation ideas.

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The center showcases three galleries, an Eastern National bookstore, library, craft shop, and Blue Ridge Parkway information desk where visitors can learn about the area, watch craft demonstrations, and experience Southern Appalachian art and culture. Past demonstrations include work with clay, glass, metal, and wood.

View from Grandview Overlook on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at sunset in Asheville, North Carolina, USA

photo credit: Mountains-to-Sea Trail via Facebook

Hiking Near the Southern Highland Folk Art Center

The Folk Art Center parking lot provides access to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. This trail runs along a large section of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville.

Two cars are recommended for a through-hike, or visitors can use the Folk Art Center parking lot as a home base for an out and back trek. The is also a 1/4-mile wheelchair-accessible trail in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Pro Tip: After a long day driving along the incredible Blue Ridge Parkway-stretch your legs with one of these amazing hikes near the Folks Art Center

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Easy: For a perfect, lazy day a .5-mile hike, try the Cumberland Knob Trail; great for visitors who just want an easy-paced trek. This trail’s elevation change is only 100 feet and is suitable for taking young children.

Moderate: The Cedar Ridge Trail is an ideal day hike that includes gorgeous mountain vistas and tree-lined views. This trail begins near the Brinegar Cabin and descends a forested ridgeline 4.4 miles to the Grassy Gap Fire Road. With a 2,000 foot change in elevation, this is for more advanced hikers.

Strenuous: For more adventurous hiking, try the Gully Creek Trail. A rewarding, two-mile loop trail that offers views of a delightful mountain stream. Allow two hours for this hike.

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Written By Erin

Erin Poche` is a Utah-based writer and editor for Tripster and contributing writer for BeyondType1. She also writes and edits for an indie publisher of fanta ...

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