Michael Booher photo
Folk Art Center
Allanstand Craft Shop, center.
The Blue Ridge Parkway not only provides panoramic views of nature. If you take the time, you will get a glimpse into the very soul of mountain culture through its rich arts and crafts traditions.
Back in the late 1890s, social workers and teachers came to communities in the Appalachians as part of various charity missions. Frances L. Goodrich came to the Asheville, N.C., area as a volunteer with the Presbyterian Home Mission Board. While teaching and counseling families in rural communities, she found a potential industry that could provide an economic boost to the region and give its women a connection to the wider world. One of the women Goodrich had been working with gave her a beautiful coverlet as a gift, and Goodrich was so impressed with the quality and craftsmanship of the weaving, that she began to organize local women to produce such pieces that could be sold regionally and nationally. In 1897, she began a modest enterprise out of a log cabin building and named it Allanstand Cottage Industries.
Goodrich’s entrepreneurship blossomed as part of a national movement known as the Craft Revival, which promoted hand-crafted items as a way to bolster education, community life and local economies—an upbeat, homespun contrast to what critics saw as oppressive conditions of the Industrial Age. Other schools in the Southern Appalachian region began with similar ideals—Berea College and the Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky; the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tenn.; the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C.; and the Penland School of Crafts in Penland, N.C.
These groups united in 1930 as the Southern Highland Craft Guild, which became a nationally recognized craft organization to preserve and promote its members and educate the public about the cultural value of craft arts. Before her death, Goodrich donated her craft collection to the Guild. It became the foundation of an excellent collection now on display at the Folk Art Center, located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 382.
The Folk Art Center opened in 1980 at its present site with galleries, a library, Guild archives, the Allanstand Craft Shop, and a bookstore. Open year-round, the Folk Art Center hosts craft exhibitions and demonstrations showcasing the finest craft artisans in the region. Its art exhibits and items for sale include Cherokee baskets, ceramics, jewelry, dolls made from natural materials, wood carvings, coverlets, quilts, and decorative wall hangings.
Parkway Craft Center offers art with a view
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and Flat Top Manor, located at milepost 294.1 on the Blue Ride Parkway near Blowing Rock, N.C., is home to one of the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s five shops. The shop features work from more than 300 Southern Appalachian craftspeople. Work on display includes objects of clay, glass, leather, fiber, jewelry, wood, natural materials, paper and metal.
Known as the Parkway Craft Center, the shop occupies the lower level of the historic house. Rooms are filled with vases, wooden boxes, woven placemats, hand-dyed scarves, window hangings, dolls, watercolors and more. In addition to viewing regular displays of works, visitors also may enjoy occasional craft demonstrations by Craft Guild members.
The Southern Highland Craft Guild has been recognized for seven decades as an industry leader in promoting the crafts of the Southern Highland region. Membership in the organization has always been regarded as an achievement in one's chosen craft. Its active juried membership of more than 900 craftspeople come from a nine-state region that includes counties within the Appalachian mountain area of Kentucky, Tennessee, the Virginias, the Carolinas, Georgia, Maryland and Alabama. These craftspeople produce both traditional and contemporary objects.
The Parkway Craft Center marks its 58th year in 2010. The Center’s annual Heritage Day celebration will be held in August and will feature multiple craft demonstrations, music, storytelling, children’s games, carriage exhibits, and tours of the second floor of the manor house.
Visitors to the Craft Center also will find a well-stocked bookstore that offers materials to help explore the area including maps, guidebooks and literary works.
The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seasonally March 15-Nov. 30. For more information, call 828.295.3782.