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The Bascom in Highlands, North Carolina, perfectly represents the essence of this quaint mountain town’s artistic soul. The innovative art center and gallery invites guests to explore and create art. And it’s literally located steps from downtown Highlands. The Bascom is a must see for audiences of all ages.

The Bascom Center in Highlands History

Highlands has always been known as an artist’s destination and sanctuary. It welcomed the newly constructed Bascom Center in 2009. But, its origins began much earlier. Originally established in 1983 as The Bascom-Louise Gallery inside the Hudson Library, the concept was to showcase a wide collection of fine art including painting, pottery, photographs and modern baskets. The intent was to bring contemporary and cosmopolitan art collections and installations to Highlands.

Henry M. Bascom moved to Highlands in 1881 after falling ill with lung disease. At that time, the small mountain town was rumored to have holistic properties due to its clean air and natural setting. It didn’t take long for Bascom to become integrated into town business happenings. In fact, he was named the town’s second mayor and served five terms in two decades. Additionally, Mr. Bascom had several business interests including a tin shop, general store, gasoline and a hotel. He was among the first police assembly and was the first public notary. His daughter, Louise Bascom Barratt, shared her father’s interest in business and acquired the hotel her father built in 1889. Louise was an accomplished writer and lived in New York for most of her life with her Broadway producer husband, Watson Barratt. Following the deaths of Henry, his daughter Louise and then later, Watson, the Bascom Estate was bequest to the Hudson Library with the intent to create an art gallery in the family’s name.

The Bascom-Louise Gallery was opened in 1983 inside the Hudson Library. For two decades, the art gallery thrived showcasing exhibits from regional artists. By the turn of the century, the gallery was ready to expand. The community of Highlands formed an official non-profit board of directors and put in place a capital campaign to create and build a new, sophisticated visual arts center. The new Bascom in Highlands opened the doors to a state-of-the-art facility in 2009.

The Bascom in Highlands Redefines Itself</h2

The vision behind a new Bascom art center was progressive, accommodating and encouraging. Showcasing art exhibits would always be a focus, but leadership also sought to encourage art experiences and creation. Local Highlands, NC artists would be encouraged to partner with the new complex. Spanning six acres and utilizing several structures, including the rebuilding of a historic barn, The Bascom in Highlands now stands at over 27,500 square feet of creative space.

The Will Henry Stevens Covered Bridge

As you pull into the entrance of The Bascom in Highlands, you will drive through the Will Henry Stevens Covered Bridge. Designated a historic landmark, this covered bridge is one of only approximately 800 such structures that are still intact. Relocated from New Hampshire and reconstructed by Arnold M. Graton Associates, a covered bridge consulting firm, the bridge dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Now considered a national treasure due to its unique craftsmanship, this restored covered bridge begins visitors’ artistic experience at The Bascom in Highlands.

The Main Building

The main building at The Bascom in Highlands encompasses three floors and over 27,500 square feet. Here you’ll find two levels of gallery space, multiple classrooms, The Bascom gift shop, cafe and event space. Attached on the main level is a terraced event deck overlooking a mountain vista view. Over the years, The Bascom gallery in Highlands has hosted world-renowned artist exhibits including Francisco Goya, Frank Stella, Edgar Degas, Hattie Saussy and Pablo Picasso.

Art fosters community. This is true anywhere there is a place to appreciate the arts, and especially in a small town like Highlands. The Bascom, of course, is a place where people can come to appreciate the art of others, but arguably more importantly, it’s a place where members of the community can come and improve and share their own art with like-minded people.
The Bascom prides itself on being a place that’s very open to the public and anyone who considers themselves an artist, no matter what medium they use. Because of this, The Bascom in Highlands is a meeting place for a wide variety of established clubs and classes. The clubs are as follows:

Book Club- Every 4th Thursday, May-October. If you are a bookworm, this will be your next group of best friends. They even keep a list of recommended reads for the year on their website, so if you can’t make a meeting, you can still keep up to date on what the club is doing.

Photography Club- Select Wednesdays, 5:30-7 p.m. All skill levels of photographers are welcome and embraced here! Members of this club typically gather on a monthly basis to listen to guest speakers talk about their favorite photography tips and tricks. Call The Bascom to find out which Wednesday the next meeting will be on, as it is subject to change.

Western North Carolina Woodturners- second Saturdays of the month, March-November, 10 a.m.-noon. Craftsmen and craftswomen from all over Western North Carolina are invited to come and share their work with others who share a passion for woodworking. Members get to come and work in the woodturning studio at The Bascom. A small annual dues fee is required upon joining this club.

Writer’s Group- Tuesdays, 3-5 p.m. Not all artists use paint or clay. Some use words and The Bascom recognizes that! That’s why there is a designated group just for writers of the plateau. This group can be a resource to exchange ideas and offer feedback on writing.

Ceramics Open Studio Program- Monday –Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, Noon-5 p.m. If you love ceramics, you’ll be amazed at Dave Drake’s Studio. The 2,500-square-foot studio barn has all the supplies you’ll need to make something beautiful. Anyone wishing to enroll in this program must have taken at least one cycle of the Resident Artist Series or completed two Art by Appointments before they can officially be approved for the Open Studio Program.

Community Knitters- Saturdays, 10 a.m.-noon. We know what you’re thinking at this point, The Bascom really does cater to all artistic interests! And it’s true. Community Knitters is a great club for those who love needlework. Share patterns and laughs with fellow knitters as you make new friends.

Studio Alive- Select Mondays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. This class is for artists who love using live models as their muse. It doesn’t cost anything to take the class, but each artist chips in for hiring the model, which is usually $5-$10 per artist.

Let Landmark Vacation Rentals Help Guide Your Trip Through Highlands

As a whole, The Bascom beacons art, culture and creative community to Highlands and the surrounding communities. The Bascom serves as an example for why it’s important to take care of the arts and keep them alive. Without art, no matter what the medium is, a community isn’t as vibrant, and life seems a little duller. We think we can speak for everyone on the plateau when we say that we cherish The Bascom and how it brings us all together.

At Landmark Vacation Rentals, we know these local treasures by heart. We understand how each little slice of Highlands, Cashiers and Sapphire Valley work together to leave a positive impact on everyone who lives and visits here. If you want to learn more about the different community events and things to do, get in touch with us today so we can help you plan a meaningful, fun trip to the mountains.