Asheville and its neighboring mountain towns are not lacking in talent! From the potters, painters, and jewelry makers in the River Arts District to the broom makers and ceramic artists in Leicester, expressive artistic talent abounds.
Tucked away in West Asheville along the railroad tracks is a very unique art studio unlike any other in the town. It’s called the Open Hearts Art Center; a non-profit arts education program for adults with physical and mental health challenges. Serving approximately 60 adults annually, Open Hearts was incorporated in 2005 by three artistic woman (Sonia Pitts, Jessie Francis, and Debbie Harris) with a passion to serve western North Carolina’s underserved community. Weekly art teachers at Open Hearts include students from local colleges/universities and retired community volunteers.
Although North Carolina offers other day programs for adults with disabilities, Open Hearts is unique, due in no small part to its Boundless Arts program. Boundless Arts offers participants/artists the opportunity to explore local art galleries and studios (travel!), while simultaneously building community volunteer skills at festivals, recreational events, and unique arts exhibits. In short, Open Hearts allows its special artists the opportunity to operate physically and artistically in a non-restrictive, creative environment that embraces physical, emotional, and mental health challenges. The opportunity to express raw emotion and life frustration with the stroke of a brush produces powerful art work.
Asheville’s broader professional artistic community has enthusiastically embraced the Open Hearts Center, with frequent invitations to display work in local galleries, at fundraisers, on the walls of restaurants, and even in local homes. Perhaps you’ve read other media articles about Open Hearts, including a January 2016 Asheville Citizen-Times piece, or you’ve seen their artistic work on display. If not, then you’re missing a treat! Stop by the Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood Street) in downtown Asheville during the month of February, as Open Hearts is the “featured artist.”
If you’re reading this and thinking, “That’s pretty cool! I’d like to get involved with this unique arts effort and give back to my community,” then have no worries. Open Hearts has plenty of volunteer and donation opportunities.
If you’re also reading this blog and thinking, “I’d like to explore Asheville’s broader arts scene,” or “I’d like to volunteer, but the arts are not really my thing,” then we can hook you up with information. Click on the links below to identify galleries, studios, festivals, and other volunteer opportunities.
Plan now to hit the streets of Asheville and its vibrant arts scene, with special attention to the artists who have made “giving back” their life’s mission.
Local Volunteer Opportunities
This blog post was brought to you by Lori Brown!