Artists and businesses have new Swannanoa studio space

Barbara Hootman

After a year of renovation, the old Drapery Arts Building at 2263 U.S. 70 in Swannanoa is now the home of the Swannanoa Business Center and the Black Door Artist Studios.

The Swannanoa Business Center and Black Door Artist Studios are located in the space once occupied by the Drapery Arts Building
Len and Gaye Baker are part of the owner -manager team for the Swannanoa Business Center and Black Door Artist Studios that opened recently.

Len and Gaye Baker, area artists, and Jennifer Baker Holt, a real estate agent, and her husband Lyle, own the new business. Jennifer Baker Holt is the manager. Owners of Black Mountain Pottery, the Bakers have more than 30 years of craft business experience.  Gaye Baker managed the Old Depot in Black Mountain for 12 years, retiring in 2004.  Len stayed on the board of directors of the Old Depot until 2007. They have spent several years investing in area property and managing it as their retirement project.

The Drapery Arts Building had been on the market for more than a decade.  The Bakers wanted to purchase the right of way from the Drapery Arts owners to get easier access to property  they owned close by. For little more than the right of way cost, they bought the Drapery Arts Building.

“We knew we were taking a chance with the neglected building, but we set out to breathe new life into it, doing most of the renovation work ourselves,” Gaye said.  “Len and I were aware that studio space for artists was needed in the Valley, so that helped determine the future of the building. Artists need space to leave work in progress and pick  up again when they return to their studio.  They also need individual space in which to work, and not have to share space.”

Local artist Libba Tracy and 19 other artists pay $1,000 a month for  space in the River Arts District in Asheville, an amount that  she feels makes it “super reasonable.”

“Every (rent)  in the River Arts District is probably different," she said.  “Some rents have increased and sent artists looking for space further and further.  The Swannanoa idea is intriguing as people are always looking. And  it is close enough to Asheville to be convenient.”

Holt “understands the need for reasonably priced office space for small, up-and-coming local businesses,” Gaye said.  “The front part of the business center will have individual business office space for rent.  There are six office spaces with two separate entrances.  The entire building is climate-controlled, has individually coded entry, security cameras, wireless Internet, trash pickup, restrooms and a ramp. Two of the offices are already rented.”

The Black Door Artist Studios are located through the large black door at the side of the Swannanoa Business Center.  There are 12 studios available to what Baker calls the “cleaner” arts such as painting, stained glass, fabric arts, jewelry-making, and related artistic expressions.

“The open floor plan allows for artist interaction, while still offering private work areas,” Gaye said.  “There is another workshop that will be divided for craft businesses like woodworking and pottery. We also have plans to hold arts and crafts shows in the future on site.”

The artists’ studios are flexible in size to fit individual needs.  The studios available for rent now are priced from $125 to $250 a month. There are storage cabinets, shelving and workspace in each studio.  The Black Door Artist Studios also has a large class room and break area.