“There was a notion that the arts could anchor the conversation and be central to Asheville’s rebirth,” Myers explained, “and what they hoped for has happened.” Local galleries like Revolve and Momentum
are cornerstones of the arts community; Blue Spiral 1
, a former radio supply shop in downtown Asheville, is now a 15,000-square-foot gallery with 24 shows of local and global artists per year. The Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center offers invaluable historical context, archives, and rotating exhibitions. And the River Arts District is home to more than 200 artists within former industrial sites. Local artist Frances Domingues describes Asheville as “a place where you can continually reinvent yourself; a place of constant renewal.”
In step with Asheville as a place of renewal, the Asheville Art Museum has installed artist Henry Richardson’s Reflections on Unity (2016) on a locally quarried boulder in its entry plaza. The 5,000-pound orb is comprised of thousands of pieces of cut and chiseled glass, and positioned directly across from a granite obelisk built in 1897 to honor Zebulon B. Vance, a former Confederate colonel, U.S. senator, and North Carolina governor. Light emanates from Richardson’s composition, metaphorically suggesting an ongoing and indefinite exchange between the museum and Asheville’s history.
Critically, “Appalachia Now!” demonstrates the breadth of art production coming out of southern Appalachia. These artists are not just tapping into the region’s rich artistic legacies, but creating work in dialogue with their peers around the world.
“A show like this is long overdue,” said artist Danielle Burke, whose series of woven coverlets, “Stars Over Appalachia” (2015), is featured in the show. “The material culture of this region is associated with being homey and domesticated, or with products made for a market, for sale for pocket change—but there is overt contemporary art in this region that is varied and diverse. People have claimed that material culture.”