If you are traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, it will be worth your while to pull in at Milepost 382 and visit the Folk Art Center. The Folk Art Center is home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, which has another smaller Blue Ridge Parkway location at Milepost 294.
The Folk Art Center is a joint undertaking of the National Park Service and the guild. The two came together with the mutual goal of building a center on the parkway to support and interpret mountain culture. There is also a Blue Ridge Parkway information center and bookstore on the premises.
The Folk Art Center is an extravaganza of Appalachian arts and crafts. There are exhibits up in three galleries; open studios every day where visitors can watch artists at work, who also patiently explain their craft to onlookers and a store where the work of the artists and crafts people can be purchased. In fact, there are daily crafts demonstrations from April through December.
The guild is the second oldest crafts organization in the United States, after the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts. It represents 900 craftspeople in 293 counties of nine southeastern states.
Don’t think about making this a quick stop. There is too much to see and you will want to see it. There are two stories. The building and the grounds are a treasure trove of Appalachian arts and crafts. The grounds are beautifully landscaped; there are some short trails to wander and picnic tables, too. And when the weather permits, artists may be at work outdoors.