With so many artisans in the South, it makes sense to fill your itinerary with a visit to an artisan’s gallery.
The memory of a trip often survives in the souvenir purchased. When we were younger, it might have been a t-shirt from our first concert or a shot glass from a tacky souvenir dive. As we matured, it may have been a Christmas tree decoration, but more frequently when we visit historic destinations, we spent the time to seek out a treasure that was crafted in and indicative of the destinations where we were. For today’s group travelers, there’s no better spot to buy local memories than the craft community. Enjoy these 6 craft shopping attractions that preserve southern heritage.
Folk Art Center, Asheville, North Carolina
Home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Folk Art Center showcases the finest in traditional and contemporary crafts from the region. Seasonally, visitors can spend time with guild members as they demonstrate and talk about their craft. View the work of more than 300 artisans, many with offerings in the first-floor shop. Move up the quilt-lined ramp to experience the vibrant exhibitions in the Main Gallery, Focus Gallery and permanent collection. Although a visit to the center should be on every Asheville itinerary regardless of the year, 2022 was the 75th anniversary of the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands. Filling much of the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Asheville, makers will display a wide variety of crafts. southernhighlandguild.org/folk-art-center/
Florida Craftart, St. Petersburg, Florida
Formerly known as Florida Craftsmen, the organization was founded in 1951 and in 2014 became Florida Craftart. In the Fine Craft Gallery, 250 of Florida’s most talented craft artists display fine jewelry, clay, glass, ornaments and much more. New work arrives every week, so regardless of how many times you visit, there are always fresh offerings on display. In the Exhibition Gallery, seven curated shows are presented annually. In addition, educational programs, lectures, docent-led tours and workshops are available during the year. Plan your visit around any event, but allow time for shopping in the 2,500-square-foot retail gallery. floridacraftart.org
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Ozark Folk Center State Park, Mountain View, Arkansas
Combining crafts and regional music is not uncommon as they both have significant local importance. Arkansas has taken this grouping to a new level by bringing them together in a state park complete with lodging and dining. That’s exactly what you will find at Ozark Folk Center State Park, which preserves the crafts and music of the Ozarks. In the Craft Village, as many as 24 artisans create, demonstrate and sell their goods during the season. Each crafter has their own shop with a wide variety of products, from stained glass and pottery to jewelry, quilts and much more available for purchase. Music fills Thursday through Saturday evenings as the 1,000-seat theater hosts live Ozark Mountain Music concerts. Those looking to enjoy a fine meal can visit the Skillet Restaurant, which is popular with groups and features a Southern country menu. arkansasstateparks.com/parks/ozarkfolk-center-state-park/craft-village
Southwest Virginia Cultural Center and Marketplace, Abingdon, Virginia
The Southwest Virginia Cultural Center and Marketplace has become the hub to the area’s craft, music, food, history and culture. In the home to the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, visitors can listen to musicians play at regular concerts. Like the best of southwest Virginia music, The Gallery showcases the best of regional crafts. Here, you will discover an eclectic collection of items from the area’s most talented artisans. All types of media are presented, resulting in everything from home décor to fashion jewelry. Visitors will be sure to find something that delights them. Groups are welcome and there’s an onsite restaurant and meeting space available. swvaculturalcenter.com
Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
There are plenty of reasons to visit the Smoky Mountains area, from outdoor activities and scenic beauty to live entertainment and exciting attractions. Visitors and groups in the know “Do the Loop.” This eight-mile loop takes you to more than 100 artists and craftsmen. With so many artisans, you can expect a wide assortment of offerings from watercolors and ceramics to stuffed bears. Carvers, weavers, silversmiths and dozens of additional artisans demonstrate their talents to visitors every day. In many cases, the shops’ exteriors are a work of art providing an almost festive appearance. Twice yearly, the shopping opportunities extend to Gatlinburg’s downtown. From November 26 through December 8, the Gatlinburg Convention Center will host dozens of booths featuring handcrafted gifts, perfect for the holiday season. Watch for dates of the annual four-day Easter Craft Show in 2020. gatlinburgcrafts.com
The Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, Ridgeland, Mississippi
Mississippi has rich music, art and literature history. Governor Bill Waller believed crafts to be on that same platform and in 1973 began the development of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi. For more than 45 years, the governor’s insight was proven to be correct. Today, the guild has grown to more than 350 artisans, 80 percent of whom are from Mississippi. “To market” is an important part of the guild’s mission and in 2007, it moved to its 20,000-square-foot headquarters, which has since been renamed the William Lowe “Bill” Waller, Sr. Craft Center. The gallery showcases member artisans’ works from traditional folk items to more contemporary works. With each purchase, a biography of the craftsman who created the piece is included. craftsmensguildofms.org/ galleries/gallery-at-the-ms-craft-center/