Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Bascom: A Center for the Visual Arts

We were in town for the Highlands Food & Wine Festival, and on our way from one event to the next we made the most fortuitous wrong turn...

In attempt to turn around on Franklin Road we found ourselves crossing a little creek on a storybook covered bridge before pulling into a parking area surrounded by sculpture and the beautiful buildings of The Bascom: A Center for the Visual Arts. The six-acre campus has been the center’s home since 2009, and at its heart is the three-story, 27,500-square-foot Main Building by DeWolf Architecture and Lord Aeck & Sargent Architecture. The wood structure has a timeless look, easily fooling us into thinking that it was a restored historic barn or mill. This is where the permanent collection is housed, as well as the temporary exhibitions and a café. An outdoor terrace lies to one side, while in the rear are studios, an education amphitheater and the sculpture garden.

Nearby is a 2,500 square-foot barn rebuilt for use as the ceramics studio. The Dave Drake Studio Barn is home to workshops & year-round classes for adults and children, in addition to the “Art by Appointment" custom-designed classes for individuals or groups. The adjacent PcPhail Kiln Barn houses the kiln where all the pottery made on-site is fired.

The Horst Winkler Sculpture & Nature Trail winds through the property offering up-close looks at several of the large works of art, the native flora, a brook, and a small waterfall. Once a farm, the land still bears trace of native plants such as ferns, Solomon's seal and trillium. Outdoor classrooms and a rustic pavilion offer the perfect setting for group outings, and the lovely scenery lends itself well as a backdrop for private events. You can also attend one of the festivals held on its grounds; programming at The Bascom includes a wide range of exhibitions, a permanent art collection, the aforementioned workshops, and numerous community events including a wine festival, garden festival and Autumn festival. For a list of current and upcoming exhibitions, click here.

The Will Henry Stevens Covered Bridge we entered through was built and restored traditionally to form a unique entrance to the center in 2008/2009. The lattice work of the 87ft-long bridge was originally from the Bagley Covered Bridge of Warner, New Hampshire (circa 1807). Historically spanning the Warner River, it was deemed unfit for vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and what was possibly New Hampshire's oldest covered bridge, it spent the next 40 years in storage after being removed in 1966. Nearly 60% of old-growth white pine had to be replaced, but the bridge stayed true to its original construction and used no metal fasteners or supports; the over 1,100 tree-nails, dowels and trunnels are a work of art in its own.

The Bascom has developed into a creative resource for the community, and reflects western North Carolina’s passion for the arts. From the individual studios that dot the mountain roads of the area to the artists’ communities such as the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway and The Bascom, the region is awash with history and culture – and sometimes it takes a ‘wrong’ turn to reveal these treasures to the casual traveler.

The Bascom Center has a facebook page, a Wordpress blog (updated by the current artist in residence), Instagram and Twitter feeds, YouTube and LinkedIn accounts in addition to their website!

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