The Museum is a collecting institution and the only organization of its kind serving all 24 counties of Western North Carolina. Through its Collection, the Museum provides an overview of significant movements and trends in American art of the 20th and 21st centuries and art of significance to the Southeast.
The Museum actively collects American art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Within the larger context of American art is a concentration on work with significance to the Southeast and in particular, regional contributions in three central categories:
- Artists related to Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia
- Artists who studied or taught at Black Mountain College (1933-1957)
- Fine handmade objects created in the region—from early residents, including Cherokee Indians and regional craftspeople, to contemporary studio craft as exemplified by the Penland School of Crafts
Works by artists of the region make up approximately one-half of the Museum’s Collection. This includes work by Joshua Adams, Virgil Crowe, Douglas D. Ellington, Maud Gatewood, Hoss Haley, Eric Knoche, Anne Lemanski, Sallie Ellington Middleton, Kenneth Noland, Mark Peiser, Will Henry Stevens, and Lucille Stonier. Outsider artists of the region include Raymond Coins, C.J. Dobbins, Kate Clayton “Granny” Donaldson, and James Harold Jennings.
One of the major focuses of the Collection is works of significance by artists associated with Black Mountain College, which was located 15 miles east of Asheville. From 1933 to 1957, BMC was a unique experiment in American education and a center for experimentation in all areas of the arts. Because of the College’s regional and international significance, and the impact that its revolutionary educational style had on modern art, the Museum is committed to preserving the legacy of BMC, with over 1,500 objects and documents by faculty and alumni such as by Josef & Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, John Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg. Within the BMC Collection, the Museum is also the repository of the Lorna Blaine Halper Estate.
The Museum has been particularly active in collecting historic and contemporary craft and studio glass with a focus on the Southeast and WNC, covering all media and dating from the early part of the 20th century through the present. Significant holdings by early 20th-century artists include William Waldo Dodge, Jr. and Walter B. Stephen. Important contemporary craft and studio craft collections include works by Cynthia Bringle, Shane Fero, Richard Jolley, Jon Kuhn, Robert Levin, Lore Lindenfeld, Harvey Littleton, Ben Owen III, Mark Peiser, Richard Ritter, Norm Schulman, Randy Shull, Billie Ruth Sudduth, and Yaffa & Jeff Todd.
A small but growing part of the Museum’s Collection is 60+ objects by Cherokee artists and artisans from the 19th century to the present, particularly by members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, a tribe based on the Qualla Boundary in nearby Cherokee, NC. Traditional media including wood carving, stone carving, ceramics, and basketry are represented.
The Museum’s Collection, by the Numbers
- 5,500+ total works
- 400+ paintings in oil, acrylic, watercolor, or mixed media
- 190+ drawings in media such as ink, charcoal, and pastel
- 650+ prints in a variety of techniques such as etching, lithography, screenprint, monotype, and woodcut
- 1,000+ photographs by national, regional, and local photographers such as William Henry Jackson, Kent Washburn, Jerry N. Uelsmann, David Levinthal, Frank Paulin, and Bruce Davidson
- 170+ sculptures with crossovers into Cherokee art, craft, and Outsider art
- 1,000+ studio and contemporary craft objects including glass, ceramic, fiber, metal, wood, and mixed media
In addition, the Museum holds 4,700+ architectural drawings that document the built environment of Asheville and its surroundings by Richard Sharp Smith and Douglas D. Ellington.
We are currently adding works from our Collection to an online database that will connect to our website and be fully searchable. Please check back soon! In the meantime, please explore selected works from our Collection in the galleries below.