In the gallery in Charleston, I have a map of the United States. It's under glass and shows the route I've taken so far. Under the glass is also a little info about my year of travel and an invitation for gallery go-ers to share their recommendations for my next stop.
Without question, the number one place that visitors to the gallery recommend is Asheville. In fact, about 1 in 4 people mention Asheville as a place to check out. I had been searching the short-term rental sites to find a place to stay since January and just wasn't having much luck. I'm not sure if all the great long-term rental places were already taken by others escaping COVID or if the inventory was just really low. But there were either basement apartments designed for college students or 5 bedroom mountain retreats and not much in between.
So last weekend I decided to leave my computer and Asheville google searches, hop in my car and drive the 4 hours north to see the town for myself. And see if it was a place that was going to make sense for me. Here's what I discovered:
This mountain town is absolutely picturesque. Even without leaves on the trees, it was beautiful. I stayed downtown and had easy access to everything.
Asheville's art scene is as eclectic as people said. From the galleries of the Downtown Arts District to the warehouse-filled artist studios at the River Arts District (RAD)I found everything from contemporary fine art to hand turned wood bowls. Despite COVID, most artists and galleries had their doors open and were welcoming visitors. There was an undeniable energy and the creative spirit. It seemed to wrap around the city and was palpable.
Most notable in my exploration were blocks upon blocks that RAD covered next to the French Broad River dotted with clusters of warehouses covered with incredible murals and graffiti. Tucked between these buildings were coffee shops, cafes, a bbq joint, restaurants and breweries. It was chilly and overcast when I visited, but I can see how it would be incredible to visit on a warm summer day.
But things didn't go as I'd expected.
I checked in on studio space for the last month and while I was there but was unsuccessful.
I drove by some of the available properties for rent and was disheartened. Seriously, some of the houses looked haunted, some looked like ticky-tacky additions, and others were next to construction sites. The one behind these trees looked like all three rolled into one.
I had scheduled two models for a photo shoot while I was in town and both canceled at the last minute.
I heard the food scene was awesome, but had a few "misses" with the meals I ate.
I left feeling confused. For the last month, I had assumed that Asheville was my next stop. But nothing seemed right. I've had experiences when everything falls into place. There was nothing smooth or easy for me and this visit.
I've had a few days to think about it, and I've decided to follow my gut and not plan an extended stay in Asheville. I have no doubt that I could make it work, meet some amazing people and collaborate with other artists in a meaningful way. But I think we all know when we've hit a vein where creative energy is surging. Whether you call yourself an artist or not, my guess is most of you have felt those times when things are aligned and you feel like things are going your way.
I'm so glad that when things weren't quite lining up, I packed up and just checked out Asheville for a few days.