The Boylan Heights neighborhood of Raleigh is one of my favorite areas in the entire city. It’s historic, classic yet funky, with that authentic vintage feel that many enduring areas in cities convey. It is also a developing hub for the arts. Located on the west edge of the downtown warehouse district, Boylan Heights is home to many local artists as well as a growing number of galleries and studios, including Rebus Works and my new favorite place to get Raleigh city map tees, CityFabric. Boylan Heights is gorgeously woodsy, with massive, old shade trees and gently sloping hills lined with Colonial revival and bungalow-style wood-frame homes, many dating back to the early 1900s. The Boylan Heights neighborhood was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district in1985.
This past Sunday, the wide avenues of Boylan Heights provided the perfect setting for an afternoon arts stroll, accompanied by quite possibly the most gorgeous weather December has ever seen. The day marked the 20th annual Boylan Heights Art Walk, and turnout was booming, as the vicinity was absolutely crawling with happy wanderers searching for a find or simply perusing the creative overflow. Beginning near Boylan Bridge Brewpub and stretching down Boylan Ave, as well as up and down side streets and throughout the entire neighborhood, more than 100 local artists and craftspeople set up shop in the yards, porches and sidewalks of the neighborhood’s historic homes.
Much of the art I recognized, having seen it before in small co-op galleries in downtown Raleigh or at other local arts festivals. The amount of talent this city holds within its boundaries is quite incredible. Every kind of craft was represented, from hand-dyed silk scarves in vivid hues, to handcrafted wood furniture, stained glass panels, painting, prints, photography, sculpture, original jewelry designs, pottery and blown glass.
I picked up a few unique bookmarks from The Paper Plant’s booth, which had been rigged in the yard of Montford Hall, one of the few mansions in Raleigh that survived the Civil War Era. The Paper Plant’s owner, John Dancy-Jones, sat relaxed in front of the iconic home selling his hand-laid paper, discussing private papermaking classes with an inquirer. I grabbed a few yuletide gifts in the form of tongue-in-cheek linocut prints by The Matt Butler, and it is safe to say I sufficiently lusted after Autumn Cobeland’s vivid paintings of the Raleigh Greenway.
People of all ages filtered to the area and stayed a while. Local food trucks were on the scene to provide nourishment, a bicycle-pulled curbside coffee vender had customers lined up all afternoon, and someone had set up a pig cooker in a side yard hawking fresh BBQ straight off the grill.
It was a glorious atmosphere in which to launch the holiday season. Neighbors, friends and families strolled through the sunny streets enjoying art, conversing with the artists and plotting to bring home their own little piece of creativity, whether it be for themselves or as a gift for others.