Walking to Asheville’s River Arts District

If the River Arts District (RAD) was anywhere but in my hometown of Asheville, it would be a coveted tourist spot. I would have remembered RAD as a highlight of my visit. I’m so busy hiking forest and park trails that I’ve neglected to explore the great Asheville neighborhood.

I confess, I just got to RAD today. I’m getting over something (you really don’t want to know) and I wasn’t ready to get back to the gym. So I parked downtown and walked about 1.5 miles to RAD and explored.

Asheville’s River Arts District hosts dozens of art studios and galleries in former industrial buildings by the French Broad River–painters, sculptors, potters, weavers… Today, most studios were open and artists were working and greeting visitors. Well, they weren’t exactly overwhelmed with visitors. In most places, it was just me.

The biggest celebrity is probably Jonas Gerard, whose colorful abstracts is seen all over Asheville. He’s 73 years old and has been an artist since he was 16. His work is distributed all over the world. Today, Jonas was in his gallery, but not painting.

Besides his paintings, his gallery gift shop sells prints, coffee mugs, sculptures and even a suitcase with his paintings. Before he came to Asheviile, he lived in Miami. I told him that his prolific work reminds me of Romero Britto, an artist with a store in Miami Beach. Jonas loved the comparison.

Further down, the Warehouse Studios housed several artists. It was like a treasure hunt, trying to walk up and around these old buildings and find the next set of galleries.

My last stop before I turned around was the Nourish and Flourish tea shop on Depot Street.

Really the building houses a wellness center but I was mainly interested in their lineup of teas and a scrumptious lemon bar. The tea shop was empty except for the server who was also a photographer.

RAD had much more than what I could explore in a couple of hours. But, hey, I live here; I can go anytime.

If there’s any downside to the area, it’s the parking, as usual. Many spaces were reserved for visitors of one specific gallery or building. Well, if you’re exploring, you’re going to go to several buildings and spend a good couple of hours there.

Park downtown where there’s never a parking problem. Take Patton Ave to Clingmans Ave. Pick up a map and just explore.

A fun walk, though probably not much exercise. Back to the gym tomorrow.


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