If you hear someone saying that Asheville is a museum without walls, you better believe them. Asheville’s Urban Trail alone features thirty stations of art around downtown. The local government and its citizens in 1991. It has been a staple tourist attraction drawing people from around the country and the globe ever since. Some people have been calling the Urban Trail a scavenger hunt of art and memories.
Since you won’t be inside a traditional museum to enjoy the art featured in the trail, you can have fun with your family or your group as you learn about the city. You can walk from one station to another and discuss what you’ve learned. You will be sure to learn more about the city and our country as you walk through the streets of the downtown area. Some locals will even oblige in sharing a few more stories you won’t find on the plaque of the stations. It will pave the way for you to enjoy the city more in its fullness and welcoming spirit.
We will share some of these stations with you and a few actual events that lead to the creation of these artistic masterpieces that have gained popularity for our little town. We hope to give you a portion of our history so that you can get a feel of how the city of Asheville has valued our history, people, art, and culture altogether through these pieces. It is one of the most time-worthy attractions we are proud to offer you while you stay with us.
On this station, you will find turkey and pig bronze sculptures along a trail. The beautiful people behind the art are Robert Gursky and John Ransmeier. They have captured the history of a road that once carried flocks and herds from Tennessee to the markets. Children and adults alike have fun riding the sculptures and taking photos of a piece of history that will forever be embedded in their hearts. Some of the animal statues needed repair due to a few vandalism accounts. For instance, at one time, a car hit the mother pig sending it into the air. It took two years to restore the station to what it once was.
Now, this art is a direct homage to the Flat Iron Building in the town. It is based on a skyscraper in New York which was built in a triangular form of land. This massive structure which was designed by Albert Wirth also serves as a remembrance of the first ever steam laundry in the city of Asheville.
A sculptor by the name of Vadim Bora created this iconic station. You can find three cats, a rat, and a mouse to commemorate the retaining wall that served as the foundation to allow accessibility to second floors by means of footbridges. Locals say that around ninety percent of people only see the cats but don’t see the rat and mouse because they are too small. Try and see if you are part of the ten percent who can!
This renaissance building has a Victorian frieze up in front. The architect of the Drhumor building is Allen Leroy Melton and the artist responsible for the frieze work in no other than Frederick Miles. What makes this frieze interesting is that at first glance; you’ll notice that it has a familiar face, which kind of looks likes Santa Claus. However, the truth of the matter is the now famous face belongs to Cyrus Deake. He was a local who loves to watch the carvers work on the building. It’s incredible how a simple act of appreciation can inspire an artist to include you in something that turned out to be monumental for the town.
Go back in time in the 1920s and try to see Asheville from the eyes of Thomas Wolfe through this diorama. This three-dimensional masterpiece features a laser cut screen with bronze cast houses attached to it. You will be able to see all the Victorian homes, trees and buildings that once stood right before Wolfe’s eyes as he gazed upon the town. Tucker Cook and Susan Hoggins and Kate Kohn designed this.
The saying, “walking in someone else’s shoes” is taken to a whole new level by this station. This historic home and museum of the famous author, Thomas Wolfe also features bronze shoes in his size. Note that locals said they weren’t allowed to use his actual shoes for the sculpture, so they just found the same shoes of the same size which was a size thirteen. Nowadays, children stand in the shoes and learn about a great literary genius.
On Eagle Street, you can find a stunning creation by Dan Millspaugh, 1995. It was given in memory of a beloved teacher. This displays an ornamental bronze eagle sculpture that overlooks the hotel district. The hotels in the area served as places of rest for the drovers who brought animals through. As experts have stated, the animals needed a stop as well because they had limits too. Hogs, for instance, can only travel up to a distance of eight miles.
George Vanderbilt gave thirty-two thousand dollars for an African-American institution. This paved the way for the existence of the first child care center for African-American children and the first library amongst others. To show a celebration of this beloved community of people, Richard Sharp Smith created this bronze sculpture. The sculpture served as a memorial to their contribution to the city of Asheville. As this stands to this day, it is an ode not only to the people in the past but the present as well.
If you were the first female American doctor, you’d undoubtedly get recognition. Elizabeth started her medical studies in Asheville, and the town wanted to honor that. She was responsible for the establishment of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in the year 1857. To share this part of Asheville’s history, two sculptors by the name of James Barnhill, and Joe Miller created a bench with a bower of herbs. These herbs were native to North Carolina and served a medicinal purpose.
The Urban Trail is not only sought-after because it is unique. It is sought after because it is not every day that you allow the inclinations of the human heart to be given a stage as big as a city! We believe the purity and the realness of what inspired the art. And how it has allowed the community to build it together is an experience all in itself. Locals will have stories of the past. These stories that have been weaved into the present lives of the citizens of Asheville, NC as they share their story with the world.