The biannual Toe River Arts Council (TRAC) Studio Tour, one of the largest and longest running art tours in the country, holds its Spring Tour Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 2, throughout Mitchell and Yancey counties. The more than 100 participating studios are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. After studios close on Friday, a Meet the Artist reception will be held from 5:30–7:30 p.m. at the TRAC Spruce Pine Gallery.
“What a wonder to live and work amongst so many nationally and internationally recognized craft artists,” says potter Gay Smith. Visitors find her Bakersville studio, a converted tobacco and cattle barn, on a winding road that crosses Cane Creek. “New friends and old make the sometimes adventurous journey to visit with us in our studios filled with unique and masterful artwork set in the exceptional beauty of the Western North Carolina mountains,” she says. “I imagine that it’s interesting for visitors to see where and how a potter lives and works.”
Her porcelain pottery is both functional and decorative. “I want it to look alive so it’s quite colorful and whimsical, and some pieces like my candelabra are technical tour de forces,” she says. Studio owners share their space with additional artists for the tour. Sarah Holt, who makes functional stoneware, will share Smith’s space and will demonstrate flower arranging in vases the two artists have created.
This will be the second tour for artist Marian Miller, whose studio is housed in Spruce Pine’s historic Crystal Palace. “I primarily make jewelry,” she says. “However, I enjoy making books and small sculpture as well.” Meeting the many visitors in a studio setting and answering questions about the creative process are what Miller and many other artists enjoy about the tour.
For painter Beth Kokol, this event will mark her debut on the tour as well as the grand opening of her newly constructed studio. She began attending workshops at Penland School of Craft about 11 years ago while working at her gallery in Florida. “Over time I fell in love with the school, the community and the wonderful artists who call this part of North Carolina home,” she says. “I am fortunate that both my new Spruce Pine studio and my Florida studio are in beautiful, scenic Beth Kokol, artist areas, and they provide me endless inspiration for my contemporary, nature-based painting. As a result, I will be showing paintings that reflect my feelings about nature and living in this simply breathtaking area.”
Visitors can purchase artwork of every medium and price range during the tour. Participating artists and businesses, including accommodations and restaurants, are listed by region on the website and maps for planning routes on the self- guided tour are available.
To learn more, visit ToeRiverArts.org or call 828.682.7215. The Toe River Arts Council Spruce Pine Gallery is located at 269 Oak Avenue, Spruce Pine. The Burnsville Gallery is located at 102 West Main Street, Burnsville. Regular hours for both galleries are 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.