Asheville is a gorgeous small city in the mountains of North Carolina. It’s known for Thomas Wolfe, great weather, wonderful outdoor options, good beer and food, and more and more as the western NC center for arts and fine crafts.
The downtown area is full of galleries including Blue Spiral, one of the best in North Carolina, as well as top restaurants, an excellent art museum, and terrific shopping. Though Asheville is not a SmART Initiative, the community is using the arts-driven economic development strategies that are hallmark of the initiative.
One of the characteristics of successful art and cultural communities is that the private sector, at some point, fully buys into the process; that all of the galleries, restaurants, clubs, etc. help each other by building critical mass that floats all boats.
Downtown Asheville has a terrific example, Lexington Glassworks. LG is the product of two young
entrepreneurial artists/craftsmen. They chose to renovate an old building on Lexington, a street in downtown that was still quite sleepy as compared to Patton and Biltmore avenues and College and Market streets.
They believe that Lexington Ave is destined to join the party that is downtown Asheville, but they also believe it will take more than just another gallery selling glass. So instead they embed the glassmaking process into the gallery itself as you can see above right.
Lexington Glassworks is the creation of two friends, Geoff Koslow and Billy Guilford, who met at Alfred University in upstate New York. They both later took classes at the Penland School of Crafts and ultimately settled in Asheville. They do good work.
But I’m more interested here in their strategy in developing the Glassworks. They feel that a studio that involves visitors is key to their success.
They’ll talk to you as much as you want. They can focus on the pure artistic angle but also discuss more commercial or design oriented questions. But they also let you watch them make their glass while describing the processes. The Laurel of Asheville has a terrific article on them and their business.
I’ll end with a short video I made of Billy making a piece. It’s from an iPhone and my video editing skills are not great, but you’ll get a feel for how they bring the customer into the process. Just click here or on the image of Geoff below.