This weekend, Dave and I and the kids went to the lovely Blue Ridge mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville is about 350 miles northeast of Montgomery, Alabama, where we currently live: it’s not a bad drive, mostly I-85 northwest through Alabama, then Georgia, and once in South Carolina a jog north and uphill for approximately 60 miles.

Now the reason why we went to Asheville was for me to get a “mountains” fix and also get a little of the granola culture we miss from other places we’ve lived (and where I grew up, in New Mexico). Asheville certainly has that, and more– everywhere we went people were walking, and biking, people were more into the Dansko/Merrell/Prana clothing ethic than the Banana Republic/Nine West/Anne Taylor type of style (don’t get me wrong, I like and wear both 🙂

I think what I appreciated the most, coming from Alabama,  is the fact that all the eateries recycle and environmental consciousness is not a hippie fad but just part of what people do!  And I haven’t even gotten into one of the most important reasons to go to Asheville: they have an amazing arts scene in all media– from music, to the visual and performing arts, and beyond. Asheville’s River Arts District is home to sixty or seventy working artists (maybe more?) who have studio space in renovated industrial buildings in the River Arts area of Asheville.

I looked extensively through their website and the artists range from weavers, to wood craftsmen, to accomplished painters, to jewelry makers, to just about any type of art or craft you can imagine. It seems like an incredibly warm and supportive environment for the arts. I also had the opportunity to meet one artist who now calls Asheville her home.

I met Karen Weihs, and her husband, Chris, for coffee at the Clingman Cafe in the River Arts District. Karen is an accomplished contemporary oil painter, published author (Out of My Mind:Life Lessons as an Oil Painter) who has works in galleries in Houston, Texas, Charleston, South Carolina, and other locations (I didn’t write them all down!).  Her husband Chris, who is originally from Germany, retired from restaurant business in Charleston about 13 years ago, but still pursues his passion for food and hunting along with helping Karen manage her painting career and teaching commitments.

I had a wonderful time talking with them, as they are incredibly charming and cultured people, and they seem very interested in bringing a group of painters and food enthusiasts to La Romita School sometime soon. (PS I am NOT getting kickbacks from the Asheville chamber of commerce for plugging their city: I just really like it there, it was our second visit and it won’t be our last).

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