Florence Thomas Art School finds continued success in downtown location

Christina Day Staff Writer

January 13, 2014

The Florence Thomas Art School and Gallery has flourished since moving to downtown West Jefferson last year, and its calendar for 2014 is evidence that the school is successfully growing in its mission to provide art resources to Ashe County.

Opened in 2007 with an endowment left by local artist Florence Thomas, the non-profit arts school was based in Glendale Springs and held three workshops during its first year; in 2014 it will hold 56, taught by instructors from around the country.

“Moving to downtown helped immensely,” Meghan Minton, executive director of the Florence Thomas Art School said, “Glendale Springs is a beautiful area, but we were running into a lack of amenities.”

The move to West Jefferson also allowed the school to honor Thomas’ legacy by expanding the gallery of her work and making it accessible to more people.

Thomas, born in Ashe County in 1909, traveled along the East Coast for art instruction, settling locally where she taught classes out of her home. Many of her paintings depict scenes from around the county that are recognizable to visitors of the gallery.

“Countless people will walk through the doors of the gallery, go up to one of Florence’s paintings and say something like ‘That’s my grandmother’s house’,” Minton said, “Her work truly reflects this area; so many people here knew Florence and took lessons from her, or knew someone who did.”

Minton said the school and its extensive offering of workshops and gallery events has also brought in people from around the state who are visiting Ashe County for the first time.

The next workshop, taking place Feb. 7, will feature artist Cher Shaffer offering step-by-step instructions for creating a folk art landscape.

The school’s “Flo Kids” program offers workshops to budding artists from first to sixth grade. On Jan. 18 Shaffer will show kids how to create artwork inspired by folk artist Grandma Moses.

The Flo Kids workshops cost $10-15, which covers the cost of both the instruction and the supplies. The cost of the adult workshops vary according to the class.

Minton said scholarships, for both the Flo Kids and adult workshops, are available to those who cannot afford the cost.

“People having the opportunity to access art, and artists from across the country, was Florence’s goal, and so that’s our goal,” Minton said.

The school hosts “First Friday” classes on the first Friday of every month during which an artist instructs on their specialty, and all attendees leave with a finished piece of art which they have created. A series of “beginners classes” will resume in the Spring.

The gallery is open to visitors at no cost, as is the library of art books owned by Thomas which is now housed in the school.

For more information on the Florence Thomas Art School and Gallery visit or call (336) 846-3827.