Road Trip: Christmas among Toe River artists

Staff reports

Beginning Friday Dec. 2, the landscape of Mitchell and Yancey counties changes for a weekend. As if blooming from beneath the muted grays and shadowy rusts of fallen leaves, hundreds of big red and white "Studio Tour" signs will dot the roadways, intersections, and front and side yards. All lead the way to a magical tour of arts and artists.

Each day through Sunday, Dec. 4 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. determined visitors will travel the highways and back roads in search of a piece of art and the creative artist behind it. The second of two open studio tours that the Toe River Arts Council sponsored this year, the event has been happening for over two decades in the beautiful Toe River Valley.

The studio of Swedish-born artist and birdhouse  maker Rolf Eric Holmquist is part of the TRAC tour.

People plan their vacations around these TRAC fall tours, seeing artists they've gotten to know over the years. Many people will embark on the tour for the first time this year. Studio tour signs will help them navigate the new territory and give them comfort in knowing they are on the right path. Still others will continue to marvel at the numbers of artists who live and work so close to the Swannanoa Valley.

The signs point to studios of new, established and visiting artists working in clay, glass, fiber, wood, metal, photography and paint. Many mix media. Some make jewelry, craft soap or weave blankets. All open their studios every year for one magical weekend in December.

The tour - as much or as little as you want of it - is an adventure. And it’s free. There are excellent restaurants and hotels in the area, and gorgeous scenery to be seen.

Follow the Toe River Arts Council Holiday Studio Tour signs to artists throughout Yancey and Mitchell counties.

The Toe River Arts Council hosts a reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at its Spruce Pine gallery, 269 Oak Ave. There one will find works from the participants, displayed geographically to make the tour easy to plan (the work will be on display through the end of the year). There are too many artists to visit in a day, but with the tour guide brochure, available at TRAC galleries in Spruce Pine and Burnsville, will give visitors directions.

The Toe River Arts Council, a 40-year-old, not-for-profit organization, can be contacted at, 828-682-7215 and 828-765-0520.