So You Want to be a Real Artist?Appalachian State University Builds Creative Careers in the High Country

Appalachian State University's Art and Applied Design Programs are gems hidden in the North Carolina High Country.

So You Want to be a Real Artist?Appalachian State University Builds Creative Careers in the High Country

Appalachian State: Where Arts and Crafts Meets Design

App State’s art department is a bustling hub of creativity, offering an impressive array of ten different degree options. The applied design department offers majors in interior design, industrial design (with concentrations in both furniture and product design), and apparel design and merchandising.

Appalachian State University in Boone, NC

Richard Prisco brings a wealth of experience to the industrial design program. After founding a furniture design program at a competing college in Georgia with 29 years of experience, he's helped to build a thriving program in furniture design.  He expertly combines design fundamentals and hands-on craftsmanship to equip his students for both contract and residential furniture design.

Elaine Mansure, Furniture Capstone Studio. Seating and Tables. 2023
“When you ask students why they decide to pick furniture design, 90% will say that it’s because it is hands-on.” - Richard Prisco
Elaine Mansure, Furniture Capstone Studio. Seating and Tables. 2023

The school is proud to say that App is the only university in the state and surrounding areas to offer a bachelor's of science degree in this field. The program is small and immersive, with classes being capped to ensure students have full access to professors and equipment.  Additionally, they emphasize a design-and-build philosophy that prepares graduates for success in the industry.

Asher Vasa, Working in the machine room. 2022

Extra Curricular Equals Extra Opportunity

App State’s furniture concentration commitment to education goes beyond the classroom. Prisco mentors the student International Society of Furniture Design club at the school and says it helps to fill in gaps in the curriculum. A two-year concentration can't cover everything, so offering students extra opportunities helps to round out their experience.

Pinnacle Awards High Point NC. From left to right. App Furniture students Ashley Turner, Landon Lane III, Dan Moran, Lin Elkin, Justin Angel, Joe Gilbert, Emily Miller( Pinnacle Award Student winner), Richard Prisco (Professor), Sam Sumerville, Olson Van Der Vorst, Sam Fonseca, Ethan Binns, John Barton, Samantha Holtman. 2019

For example, participating in WithIt, students engage in round table discussions, showroom tours, and meet industry innovators.  Going further, students get fantastic opportunities for field trips.  These include visits to High Point for the furniture market, Hickory, Penland, and various private studios to round out their exposure and experience.

Seth Lawrence, "Judy" Studio III, Seating 2022

App Art Department: Frankie Flood

Professor Frankie Flood shares the vision of expanding horizons beyond the classroom. Flood emphasizes the importance of skill development, conceptual thinking, diverse disciplines, and resourcefulness in our curricula. He points to how being located in the scenic Blue Ridge mountains, App is close to practicing artists and craftspeople who can mentor students. The faculty members are well-respected in their fields, opening doors to connections in WNC and beyond.

Elizabeth Walton in Metalsmithing Studio at Appalachian State. 2019. Photo: Kara Haselton

A Student’s Perspective: Elizabeth Walton

Former student, Elizabeth Walton, chose App because professors come from larger programs with deep experience, but chose to settle in Boone for a better work-life balance. Her time here transformed her view of art from a "side hustle" into a full-time pursuit. Flood's teachings on the applicability of art skills in various work environments, along with the concept of "out-of-the-box" opportunities, have served her well both in school and in her post-graduation endeavors.

Elizabeth Walton BFA Thesis, Untitled (Necklace). 2022 Photo: Kara Haselton

Cultivating Art and Community Post-Graduation

Elizabeth has been exhibiting her work in various galleries and at shows throughout the area.  She is now one of the jewelers featured at Mora Jewelry in downtown Asheville. Walton has been moving amongst the artist community in WNC for many years and understands the value of making connections and staying involved.

During COVID, she interviewed jeweler Laura Wood, for whom she now works part-time.  Walton asked Wood, “To what do you attribute your success?”  Wood’s answer taught her the value of, “community involvement, small and large,” as a way of growing herself and her body of work.

Artsville is excited to feature Walton in our first class of Virtual Gallery Artists debuting in October of this year.

Elizabeth Walton BFA Thesis, Untitled (Neck Piece). 2022. Photo: Kara Haselton

One of Flood’s final comments spoke to the need for partnership, “The role that creative practitioners can have in collaborative teams and understanding the potential that craft has in the real world applications is something that I would like for our program to continue to develop in meaningful ways for our students.” These mutually beneficial relationships are key both throughout the educational experience and post-graduation.

That's where Artsville comes in. Our mission is to help artists overcome obstacles by fostering a supportive community and creating connections within the art world. We aim to continue the legacy of professors, like Prisco and Flood, by working with artists to cultivate a thriving future.

If you’d like to learn more about programs at App State or how Artsville may provide continuiung education opportunities, please check us out on Facebook, Instagram or email us at  You can also subscribe to our mailing list at