Passing the Rock

The Gallery at Flat Rock changes ownership
The Wilmots of Art on 7th are expanding their curatorial reach.
Photo by Suzanne Camarata

In 2015, photographer Suzanne Camarata locked eyes with a commercial space for rent in Flat Rock Square. Though she had no need for a storefront, she signed the lease anyway. 

“I fell in love with the 2,550-square-foot open room enough that I rented it — and then scrambled to figure out what might work to pay the rent,” Camarata laughs. 

In an effort to foot the cost, Camarata opened The Gallery at Flat Rock, a venue for contemporary art and craft, that same year. 

“On paper, the idea for a gallery felt bound to be a disaster,” Camarata admits. “In my heart, however, I saw the starry promise of an incubator for creativity.” 

In the time since, The Gallery at Flat Rock has blossomed into a fixture of Henderson County, representing 60-some regionally and nationally acclaimed artists making everything from fused-glass bowties to scrap-wood birdhouses. The venture has been more successful than Camarata could ever imagine. But earlier this summer, she had to make the heartbreaking decision to part ways with the gallery to be closer to her aging parents in Dallas, Texas. 

With hopes of keeping the exhibition space alive, Camarata approached Julie and Phil Wilmot, owners of Art on 7th Fine Contemporary Art Gallery in the Historic Seventh Avenue District, about purchasing the gallery. Much to her delight, they agreed, and officially took the reins on June 1.

“Phil and I had not conceived any plans for purchasing a second gallery,” Julie tells Asheville Made. “But understanding the significant impact The Gallery at Flat Rock has had on the local community, we had to save it from possible closure.”

Camarata is sure that the Wilmots will continue her vision. 

“They are soulful, dedicated advocates for the arts,” she says. “I feel confident that their commitment to the gallery will be steadfast, and that they’ll be skilled leaders for the business.”

According to Julie, she and Phil have no plans of changing the gallery’s name, direction, or signature events, such as late summer’s Art in Bloom. Described as “art with an expiration date,” Art in Bloom pairs professionally designed flower bouquets with sculptures and canvases for a brief but beautiful display. Now in its ninth iteration, this year’s festivities are slated for Labor Day weekend. 

“Our objective is to foster community connections by bringing artists and collectors together through enhanced art experiences,” says Julie. “… Phil and I hope to firmly establish Henderson County and Western North Carolina as a true fine-art destination.”

The Gallery at Flat Rock (2702-A Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock,, 828-698-7000). The venue is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-4pm; Sunday, 12-4pm; and by appointment. The 9th Annual Art in Bloom kicks off on Friday, August 30, with a reception from 5-8pm. Cost is $75 per person. The event is open to the public August 31-September 1, 9am-5pm each day. $5 admission at the door. 

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