News & Events

Rural Heritage Museum Opens Qualla Arts and Crafts Exhibition

Rivercane Baskets
Double weave and single weave baskets made of native rivercane display the legendary artistry of Cherokee basket makers such as Roberta Bradley and Lucille Lossiah. Photo courtesy of the Mountain Heritage Center, WCU.

A new exhibition, “Qualla Arts and Crafts: Tradition and Innovation” organized by Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center, begins at the Rural Heritage Museum of Mars Hill University on March 13, 2015. This is the first venue of this travelling exhibition. It will subsequently tour throughout Georgia and the Carolinas over the next two years.

In 2011, with funding from the Blue Ridge Heritage Area, the Mountain Heritage Center partnered with Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc., to create a video on Cherokee craft traditions. Founded in 1946 in Cherokee, North Carolina, Qualla Arts & Crafts is the oldest Native American artists cooperative in the U.S. The video, which featured Qualla artist-members demonstrating and discussing the importance of crafts in Cherokee culture, was so well received that the Mountain Heritage Center opened an exhibition incorporating the video and celebrating Qualla’s 65th anniversary.

The exhibition, produced in partnership with Qualla Arts & Crafts and WCU’s Hunter Library Digital Initiatives, was co-curated by Mountain Heritage Center curator Pam Meister, Qualla outreach coordinator Tonya Carroll, and with the WCU Digital Initiatives project leader, Anna Fariello.

In the original exhibition, many of the objects were loaned from private collections. Because of the popularity of the exhibit, the Mountain Heritage Center applied for funding from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation to purchase additional Qualla items for an expanded traveling exhibit celebrating the history and living legacy of Qualla Arts and Crafts.

Arch Davy
Cherokee artist and educator Davy Arch poses with his “Seven Clans” carving, featured in the exhibit “Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual: Tradition and Innovation.” Arch was awarded the 2014 Mountain Heritage Award by WCU for his work in preserving traditional Appalachian culture. Photo courtesy of WCU Office of Public Information.

The art of past and present Cherokee artists is rooted in culture and place. This exhibit showcases the work of several Cherokee artists, including Joel Queen, Karen George, Fred Wilnoty, Geraldine Walkingstick and Davy Arch. All of these artists are featured in the video, which is part of the traveling exhibition, and is on view in the Museum.

Visitors to this exhibit will experience the innovation of Cherokee artisans, with sixty-six objects on display ranging from archeological artifacts to contemporary crafts. A video accompaniment allows visitors to see and hear the artists.

The Rural Heritage Museum is open daily (except Mondays) from 11-5 p.m. and by appointment. It is located on Rt. 213, in Montague Hall, on the campus of Mars Hill University, a 20 minute drive from downtown Asheville (map and directions). Admission is free.
Mailing address:
Rural Heritage Museum
Box 6705
Mars Hill University
Mars Hill, North Carolina, 28754.

For more information or for group tours, please call (828) 689-1400, or visit the museum's webpage or Facebook page.