At 12:30 pm Saturday “morning,” I awoke to a bright, beautiful summer day. Two of my fellow Nich School Asheville interns, Liz and Maura, and I decided to enjoy the sunshine at the River Arts District, a truly unique sector of Asheville known for its conglomeration of truly unique artistic creations.
Found along the French Broad River and still-operational railroad lines, the River Arts District (for fun, let’s call it RAD) consists of a series of vacant warehouses that have been converted into art galleries.
The entire Asheville area is certainly an artistic hub – in downtown Asheville, you can easily encounter five or six galleries down any given city block. So what I think is really awesome – rad? – about RAD is that this branch of the Asheville artistic community rallied to revitalize what simply could have been left as an abandoned industrial area.
We began our afternoon on the outdoor patio at Wedge Brewing Company, home of a variety of iron-wrought creations and a solid IPA. While we kicked back in the sunshine, the bartenders had no such opportunity: the Wedge was a hopping place. Over the course of an hour, we and the other everyday customers were joined by a rather large wedding party (ranging from women in feather hats and five-inch heels hobbling over the cobblestone, to classy five-year-old boys wearing suspenders and bow-ties), followed quickly by an entire motorcoach of resourceful old folks who unloaded their own chairs, tables, walkers, and smorgasbord of food in the gravel parking area between the Wedge and the French Broad River.
When we left the Wedge, we wandered into “Singing Bowl” Studio, home of a variety of fire-glazed pottery bowls that audibly resonate when budding “musicians” run a wooden rod around their rims. Imagine wetting your finger and running it around the edge of a wine glass. Now multiply that sound by ten and, if done correctly, you’ve got a singing bowl that can serve all your harmonic needs. By the time five minutes had passed, Liz was bowl-singing like a pro, and Maura facetiously resolved to return to practice until her skills could match.
We popped into the Phil Mechanic Studio next, five stories of independent studios with art ranging from metal-wrought armchair rickshaws to pottery flowers in Coca-Cola bottle vases. But my favorite gallery was undoubtedly that of painter Jonas Gerard.
I’m a huge sucker for colors. Walking into this place was like stepping into a Lucky Charms commercial, a rainbow of color bursting from each canvas without looking overdone or losing the integrity of each shade. The man himself is exceedingly prolific – His gallery alone holds at least 200 original creations. He’s going on 70, and, from a handful of half-finished canvases in the back studio, it appears he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Jonas Gerard, if you ever step away from your canvases long enough to read this blog and feel like taking a day off, call me. I would happily spend an hour painting in your studio with your palette of colors!