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World-renowned dulcimer player, Betty Smith

History of Toe River Arts

Toe River Arts, first organized as the Toe River Arts Council in 1976, was founded to promote and encourage the existing cultural and educational organizations of Mitchell and Yancey Counties, North Carolina. The arts council’s strong focus on arts education preceded arts in the regular school curriculum. Over the course of 38 years, Toe River Arts has continued to work with Mitchell, Yancey, and Avery County school systems to provide access to arts experiences.

In 1992, a local group of artists organized a December studio tour. The following year, the arts council partnered with the group of artists to help facilitate the tour. The Toe River Arts Council’s first year of the tour was in 1993. Due to the popularity of the event, a spring tour was started in 1997. The tour has now grown to feature over one hundred local artists and galleries. Tourists and residents alike now enjoy a three-day tour experience twice a year.

In 1999 Toe River Arts purchased a storefront in downtown Spruce Pine, NC (Mitchell County). In 2001, with renovations complete, the first floor was opened with a gallery, gift shop, and small office. In 2012, the arts council received $347,500 in grants that helped to renovate the second story. The Arts Resource Center (ARC) includes the Owen Gallery, two all gender bathrooms, and a wheelchair-accessible back entrance.

Toe River Arts moved its offices from the Yancey County Burnsville Library in 2005 and leased a building steps away from the town square. This offered increased visibility for the arts council in Yancey County. The ground floor houses a gift shop and small exhibition area. In 2012, the arts council, along with the North Carolina Arts Council began work on a Public Art Vision Plan with the town of Burnsville, NC. The town was chosen as one of the North Carolina Arts Council’s pilot communities for its SmART Communities project.