Arti-Sun Gallery

New. Fresh. Local!

ArtiSun Gallery

Jen Trinque


Undoubtedly, Western North Carolina is a region that elicits inspiration from its local folk and the passersby alike.  ArtiSun Gallery and Marketplace is a celebration of just that. This gallery is tucked in the historic Iron Horse Station building in Hot Springs, North Carolina, and recently opened in May of this year.  Owned and operated by Sunny Riggs, ArtiSun is home to more than fifty local artists’ work, and is making its name among Western North Carolina’s precious gems.  The gallery is like a charmed maze graced with local, quality, affordable art in every nook and cranny.  With the large café countertop adorned with local-baked goodies, it is a haven of sorts and feels like a wonderland where the walls speak to you through the stories and images on every canvas and loom.

Sunny, whose name is clearly fitting to her bright personality, became acquainted with Hot Springs during a 2,178 mile thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail in 2002.  Over the next six years she returned to Hot Springs forty times seeking a way to work and live in the community.  In 2009, she made Hot Springs her home and became Manager of Iron Horse Gallery.  After two years as manager, Sunny took up ownership in January of this year.   Since then, she has given the Gallery a new look, and its new name.  She offers each patron a warm and personal greeting as soon as they walk through the door.  Some of the guests have come to explore the art, others to purchase the handmade soaps or jewelry, and still others sit at a table in the café to catch up with friends over a cup of cappuccino or a glass of wine.

Along with Sunny’s hospitality, this space offers an exciting viewing experience with its brilliant collage of artwork elicited by the beauty of this region.  Digital photography, oil paintings, fabric art, pottery, wooden “tree people,” gnome homes, handmade jewelry, baskets, lotion and cleaning products (and much more) cover the walls and hardwood floors of this enchanting space.  Upon entering ArtiSun, you will find that this is not a stuffy fine art gallery. The heavy air of pretension that pervades some galleries does not exist here.  Everything in this delightful atmosphere attests to the magic and wonder of our majestic homeland in the Appalachian Mountains.  It’s also worth mentioning that the majority of the one-of-a-kind handmade crafts on display are very affordable.  There is something for everyone at ArtiSun.


Ruth Gallagher is a local self-taught artist, whose handmade felted tapestries and sculptures can be viewed among the various creatures and creations in the gallery.  A ball of wool and a needle is all she utilizes to create her art.  The wool she uses for her projects she gets from the annual Southeast Fiber Festival in Asheville.  As a nature lover, and Van Gogh enthusiast, a sampling of Ruth’s work includes a felted “Starry Night,” elf and “mama and baby” sculptures, and custom tapestries and sculptures which she makes upon request.  Ruth’s work radiates her sincere joy in nature and the charm of the fairy-tale-like cottages and characters from her travels—particularly in Ireland, where she was born.

Beyond the felted art is the Gratitude Garden, a space inspired by story-collage artist, Mary Morgaine, and designed by Sunny.   The Garden is home to a “gratitude urn.”  Here, you have the option to write down on a small piece of paper what you are specifically thankful for, and to place this paper in the urn.   It’s Mary’s vision to place gratitude urns all over the country. ArtiSun is a forerunner in this process.  The purpose of the space is to “raise the vibration,” as you are invited to a sabbatical from the hectic day; to meditate and bring awareness to that for which you are grateful.  Like any other garden, this space is alive and ever-changing, and it thrives on the give-and-take of others. The beautiful mural reflecting the nearby mountains was painted by local artist Rachael Clearfield.  It is a display not to be missed while visiting the gallery.

Past the Gratitude Garden is a spacious room dedicated to fine art.  Unlike the rest of the gallery, most of the art in this room is two-dimensional, and feels more like the polished galleries of Downtown Asheville.  Local artists like David Seal, whose collection includes colorful cut and dry paintings, and Rachael Clearfield’s impressive classical oil paintings can be viewed in this section of the gallery, which was added a month after the grand opening in June.

Open seven days a week, ArtiSun also hosts a weekly “Farm Fresh Thursday,” offering an array of fresh organic vegetables, sustainable ocean-caught fish, shitake mushrooms, and fresh goat milk yogurt among other local tasty treats, such as the homemade granola.  The café, also open seven days a week, offers delicious baked goods, and Appalachian Fair Trade Coffee is the choice of brew here.  A portion of the coffee’s proceeds is donated to the Appalachian Trail—which actually passes by the gallery’s door!  In addition, ArtiSun carries a large assortment of wines, many of which are local and organic.  And don’t forget to grab a locally made Shakti Raw Chocolate bar or a bottle of Buchi Mama kombucha on your way out the door.

You will also want to stay tuned for Sunny Riggs’ next project titled, “The Fabric of Our Lives.”  This is a community project for Hot Springs, with the purpose “to provide a symbolic craftwork that brings the people of Hot Springs together as a community in a practical and useful way that everyone can be a part of.”  The plan is to collect pieces of fabric from various households and businesses in Hot Springs to be woven together into one giant rug. Each piece of fabric should have a story behind it (granddaddy’s overalls, or mom’s wedding dress, etc.).  These stories will be recorded and compiled into a book to accompany the finished rug—which will be displayed in ArtiSun.  The large loom to be used in the construction of the rug was donated by Amy and David Pitts of Mineral Essence Day Spa in nearby Newport.  This project is currently in the beginning phase of the process and everyone in the community is invited to become involved.

For more information about the project and about ArtiSun Gallery & Marketplace, contact Sunny Riggs at 828.622.3573 or at  You may also visit the website at

Katie Baker is a freelance writer, actress, and massage therapist. She can be reached at

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker