Welcome to the Toe River Arts Council

Promoting The Arts In Mitchell And Yancey Counties Since 1976


2016 GIFT SHOP JURY : FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26 : Once a year, TRAC juries in new artists into our two gift shops. You must be a current TRAC member and live in either Avery, Mitchell or Yancey Counties. Evaluations are done by a rotating jury viewing the actual pieces. TRAC is looking for work that exemplifies the talent, professionalism, and originality of the artists in our region.

And here it comes again. The deadline for the June 2016 Studio Tour. Must be a current TRAC member and either show in a studio of an artist living in Mitchell/Yancey counties or have your own studio within its borders.

It’s not to early to start thinking about exhibition proposals for 2017. You do not have to be a TRAC member nor live in Mitchell, Avery, or Yancey counties. The Burnsville Gallery hosts four outside exhibits from June through the end of the year; the Spruce Pine Gallery has two openings during the summer/fall. We’re looking for new and creative ways of connecting art and the community and exploring the art in our entire region.

APRIL 1 : ARTS SCHOLARSHIP : Open to any graduating high school senior or adult continuing their education who are from Yancey or Mitchell County and pursuing a higher education degree majoring in any of the arts or arts education. Each scholarship will be in an amount between $250 and $1,000 and is paid directly to the degree-based institution of the applicant’s attendance.

For both the gift shop, exhibitions, and studio tour, additional information and applications may be found on the Artist Opportunities and Application page.

And it’s not too early to start thinking about the Blacksmith exhibition in April. Information will be posted online at the beginning of the year. Please call Kathryn at the Spruce Pine Gallery, 828.765.0520 for more information. Stay tuned for a new twist!


gabions_homepageDesigner and national known public artist/planner Jack Mackie, who has worked closely with the Toe River Arts Council, the NC Arts Council, NC Department of Transportation (DOT) and the community, will be working with local artists to begin fabrication of glass elements during the next few months. Final implementation of the project on US Highway 19E will take place 2016-2017. The Gateway project is a key part of the NC Arts Council’s SmART Initiative for Burnsville that focuses on arts-driven economic development strategies to build stronger economies and communities.

The proposed artwork will showcase the work of local resident, regional, and national artists that will tell the story of Burnsville and reveal its treasured inventiveness, artistic heritage, rural mountain setting, and vision. The artwork will highlight our community’s unique characteristics: its artists, the Dark Sky designation, its minerals and stone, the seven of the mountain peaks east of the Mississippi that are over 6,000 feet, and Burnsville’s and Yancey County’s history, culture, and people.

The art will be both beautiful and practical. We envision artist designed benches, beautiful walkways and lighting, and other streetscape elements as well as dramatic artwork that will draw visitors and residents to our Town. Also, art and aesthetics will positively impact the economy and the community. We forsee a stronger and more vibrant downtown with more restaurants, galleries, increased entertainment options, and more downtown residents. Working with Healthy Yancey, the artistic vision will encourage walkability and more physical activity. We will build a strong arts market that will increase income for both Yancey and Mitchell County artists.

Toe River Arts Council, in collaboration with the Town of Burnsville and the NC Arts Council SmART Initiative, has partnered with Yancey County, NCDOT, Yancey County Economic Development Commission (EDC), and many community partners, businesses, and residents.

Glass Blowers at Penland

Glass Orbs - 1st Batch

Glass Orbs - 1st Batch

Glass Orbs - 1st Batch

Glass Orbs - 1st Batch

Glass Orbs - 1st Batch

Gabion prototype

Prototype gabions pictured above are approximately 1/10 the actual completed size

Phase I of the Burnsville SmART Public Art Plan has begun with glass artists working with Jack Mackie, a Seattle designer and public artist/planner, at Penland’s glass studio. Phase II will follow at the end of the year with final installation scheduled in 2017.

Can you help support our community in creating and celebrating its unique identity and place? Don’t forget to include your name, address, phone, and email. We’ll keep you informed.

yjt_300x420COMING JULY 9


Silent Auction Begins June 18
8 x 8 Exhibition Begins June 18




< “Red Tulip” by Yaffa & Jeff Todd
Photograph by Mary Vogel




In the winter of 1975, posters went up around Spruce Pine inviting people to attend a meeting about organizing an arts council. Bill Wilson, the visiting artist at Mayland Community College had posted the notices and a handful of people showed up that first time. This led to a few more meetings but nothing concrete. That same year the North Carolina Arts Council, as part of their effort to establish arts councils in all 100 counties in the state, sent a consultant to help the fledging group form an organization. It made sense at the time (and still does) to have Mitchell and Yancey under the umbrella of one arts council. Throughout 1975, the organizing group met in different locations, people were suggested and added, a name was chosen, a board of directors formed, bylaws and the articles of incorporation written, and in January of 1976, the new board met officially and signed the papers.susan2

At that meeting Susan Larson was elected president and Penland potter Ron Propst vice-president. The group functioned as a volunteer entity for three years, with the state arts council providing assistance through artists assigned to work in the area—Bill Wilson, the dramatist at Mayland, and Ann Hawthorne, a photographer who documented the classes and performances and events that the group sponsored for two years. The first public event was in 1976, a touring production called “Appalachian Sounding,” by Romulus Linney, presented in the Harris Middle School Auditorium in Spruce Pine. Many other performances followed—dance (NC Dance Theatre and the Danish Gymnastics Team), traditional mountain music (David Holt and John McCutcheon), and theatre (The Road Company and the North Carolina School of the Arts). Most groups did residencies in the schools as well as a public performance.

From it inception, TRAC emphasized educating schoolchildren in the visual, performing, and literary arts. Early on, artists from the Penland School of Crafts volunteered their time to demonstrate their craft in the schools. Others taught summer classes for children at locations throughout the two counties, primarily funded by small grants from the NC Arts Council. Also, there were classes for adults in such diverse subjects as calligraphy and batik.

denise1Three years into the life of the arts council, Yancey County offered the organization a modest space in a recreation building a couple of blocks off the square in Burnsville, and the board offered Susan Larson a modest part-time position as Executive Director. In 1985, Larson handed the reins to Denise Cook who has held them since. The office moved into the Burnsville library building—forty steps up to their tiny office on the third floor. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a “step” closer to town.denise2

That was just the beginning. One of TRAC’s goals was to have facilities in both of the counties they serve, and in 1999, they got the opportunity. With grant funding and generous donations, they bought and began renovation on the first floor of the old Howell Furniture Store Building in downtown Spruce Pine; a little over a year later, they moved in. Then, the Burnsville facility relocated to their current location in a 100-year old former pharmacy on West Main.

And now in 2016, 40 years into the dream of a handful of enthusiastic arts lovers, the Toe River Arts Council continues to develop an environment in which artists work, thrive and feel supported in their choices. They promote the importance of a creative economy to the area’s growth, and the make the arts a centerpiece for the changing economic atmosphere.


As of December 17, 2015, 292 study regions across the United States have already signed up for Arts & Economic Prosperity 5, the fifth national economic impact study of America’s nonprofit arts and culture industry by the non-profit organization, Americans for the Arts. In North Carolina, the Toe River Arts Council is among 30 other arts organizations who will be surveying their communities in the next 12 months to determine just how the arts do impact the economic climate in their area.

Arts organizations around the area will be asking a few questions so please take a moment of your time and help us quantify the benefit of the arts for a thriving community.


Two new workshops so far this spring. Mark your calendars!


At the Arts Resource Center, Pat Benard will hold an Easter Egg Decorating Workshop on March 19


And on April 9 at the Arts Resource Center, Sharon Sandal will explore alcohol inks with an older group.



May 14, 2016
“rain or shine”



The work of the Toe River Arts Council is made possible through support from:

NCAC_Logosm    NEA_Logo    cfwnc_logo    edaMCC Logo NoCat big Golden Leaf    unitedway    waanc     PrintBRNHAshield_72 YanceyFundweb
And from John & Robyn Horn Foundation, Samuel L. Phillips Foundation, Blumenthal Foundation, Mountain Air Residents Community Fund, The Foundation for Bluegrass Music, Young & McQueen, A.J. Fletcher Foundation, and the Towns of Burnsville and Spruce Pine.

Also, we thank those patron/members and their businesses that continue to be major supporters of the arts council.

Michael and Serey Andree
Don and Doris Baucom
Carol Benjamin
George and Patti Bennett
H. Allen Benowitz
JJ Brown and Simona Rosasco
Paul and Frances Burton
Jerry and Marilyn Cade
Bill and Judy Carson
Bruce and Judy Carter
Clyde and Dot Collins
Joann W.Collins
Denise Cook
David Cort
Judy Crouch
Paul and Susan Crutchfield
Warren and Diane Edwards
David and Yvonne Evans
Catherine Faller
Mike and Betsy Fleenor
Ken and Lori Gilcrist
Howell and Beverly Hammond
Glen and Florence Hardymon
Gwendolyn Ann Harris
Karen Head
Victoria Hicks
Morgen and Tamara Houchard
David and Alice Houser
Carl and Jean Johnson
Peter and Karen Kennedy
Charles and Becky Kind
Walter and Thanna Kulash
Delphia Lamberson
David and Susan Larson
Jerry Leaders
Russell Lee and Renate Schuchardt
Hal and Holly Levinson
John Littleton and Kate Vogel
Susan MacLean
Peter Maneck and deJarnette Wood
Dennis and Tina Matelski
Jeffrey and Starli McDowell
Barbara Middleton
Eugene Morgan
Cynthia Nash
Joseph and Susan Norris
James and Linda Oubre
Gina Phillips
Louis and Genevieve Pugh
John D. Richards and Claudia Dunaway
Richard Ritter and Jan Williams
Stuart Rosenfeld and Mary Eldridge
Ron and Kay Goins Royer
Michael and Ruth Rutkowsky
Col. Walter Savage
Scarritt Law Group
Kenneth and Connie Sedberry
Corrine Shilling
David and Fran Strawn
Taylor and Stephanie Townsend
Kathleen Turczyn
Jennifer Turner
Ted and Teresa Van Duyn
Don and Karen Walker
Jason and Rebecca Warner
Jim Waters and Robin Warden Dorothy Watson
Virginia Wearn
Oscar and Amy Weinmeister
Elizabeth Westveer
Yardy and Barbara Williams
Alston Osgood Wolf
Arch and Carol Woodard
Kimberly Young
Chuck Young and Deana Blanchard

We want to stay in touch.

Please join our mailing list to receive our monthly e-newsletter with the latest news about TRAC and the community.


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