If I were looking for a perfect place to live, a medium sized town with great cultural amenities, good restaurants, home crafted beer, an active arts population, sitting at the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains and the Appalachian Trail? I'd choose Asheville, North Carolina.
The Montford district, part of a hillside, beautiful homes, fabulous church, the St. Lawrence Basilica, sort of reminds one of the Montmartre district of Paris. Here you can play speed chess in the park and lose your money quickly.
It has a Wall Street, a Flat Iron building like San Francisco, an old timey Woolworths and Kresge Store, and a Do It Yourself Doggie Wash? Yup!
Old fashioned phosphates and banana splits can still be purchased here at the counter in Woolworths.
This sculpture points the way to the Flat Iron Building, just so you won't miss it. But the River Arts District really blew me away.
Marston Blow makes singing bowls. A former light tech and tent worker for Cirque du soliel, pottery isn't as lucrative, but money isn't everything.
A painter of steel. If its rusty its better and the music must play or the paint won't flow.
The Iron Handmaidens worked a piece of jewelry with an arc welder on a wooden anvil, next to a real anvil.
Even Jim was impressed with this fence that continued on for another 20 feet.
Now, none of this was here when George Vanderbuilt came to town. He loved the area so much he bought 125,000 acres of privacy for himself and settled in. In an unheard of policy of the times, George Vanderbuilt paid black workers the same wages as white workers. He built a church and a school for blacks in town without a social movement to do so. What a guy, huh? A great town and great people.
Carl Sandburg lived nearby. It became the home of the writer O'Henry, William Jennings Bryan, Thomas Wolf, who tragically died at age 38, and other notables. Hey, if its good enough for the Vanderbuilts?
This is a seriously lovely place to visit and live.
Websites for some of the artists I met and talked too:
www.dyedinthewooldesigns.com , Naomi Diamond Rogers, who learned to mesh wool with silk and makes shimmering scarves and other fabric art.
Eric Knoche, forms huge architectural type pottery pieces in a wood fired kiln. No web site but watch for this young man to become famous. Very different work.
www.mattcjacobs.com does many raw, unglazed pieces like the hut with houses on top above.
Iron Maiden Studios no web site. Here is where the iron fencing and many, many other exciting pieces are made by a consortium of artists. Look for Tres Martin and Rheta Grimsley Johnson at frederickarts.homestead.com. And potter Julie Covington