Rob Levin describes it as “the Lake Wobegon of the craft world—where all the shy people work quietly in their studios, but twice a year gladly open things up and invite people in.” A maker of hand-blown functional and sculptural glass, Levin is one of 83 artists participating in this weekend’s Toe River Studio Tour.
Since 1993, the Toe River Arts Council (TRAC) has hosted studio tours twice a year that draw visitors from around the country to Mitchell and Yancey counties. Many make plans to spend the weekend in the area.
This season’s tour, Friday through Sunday, June 2–4, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, beckons these intrepid art seekers to follow the signs, search out studios along winding roads and step across thresholds into fascinating creative spaces to view and purchase paintings, drawings, photography, ceramics, glass, jewelry, wood, fiber, soap, basketry and metals. On Friday, June 2, the highly anticipated opening reception begins at 5:30 p.m. at TRAC’s Spruce Pine Gallery, which showcases the work of all participating artists and galleries throughout the weekend. Art is displayed geographically so routes can be mapped out and visits planned in a festive evening of relaxation in which visitors mingle with artists enjoying tasty tidbits, wine and beer, old friends, new friends and great conversation.
“This summer’s tour represents a time of change for the arts council,” says Denise Cook, TRAC’s executive director. “We’ve changed our look and our logo as well as our tour signs—and expanded our reach further into the region with a new web presence that focuses on the arts in the Toe River Valley, toeriverarts.com.”
The tour boasts six galleries and 53 studios. Among them is Speckled Dog Pottery, partnering with three other artists—including this issue’s feature artist, glass blower Colin O’Reilly—in welcoming visitors to experience quality silver jewelry, glass and, of course, lots of pots.
“I moved to Mitchell County five years ago and joined TRAC to meet other artists,” says potter Robbie Bell of Speckled Dog. “The TRAC Tour has proven to be highly successful for me and the Toe River Arts community. Folks can join us for a glass of wine and lunch on Sunday. We make the tour fun.”
With or without planned itineraries, people will travel from all over for this three-day event and head for the hills, keeping their eyes open for the new signs that guide and welcome them. A 44-page printed guide listing artists and galleries and providing maps is available on the website, at TRAC galleries in Burnsville and Spruce Pine and at retailers and organizations throughout Mitchell and Yancey counties.
TRAC’s Spruce Pine Gallery is located at 269 Oak Avenue. To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, visit toeriverarts.org or call 828.682.7215. Visit the newly designed site toeriverarts.com for information about where to stay, what to eat and other events happening in the Toe River Valley.