YMI Cultural Center

YMI Cultural Center

The YMI Cultural Center in Asheville features exhibits on local African-American history and African culture and is the most celebrated African-American cultural institution in the region.

Commissioned by George Vanderbilt in 1892, the 18,000 square foot Tudor-style structure was built by and for the several hundred African-American craftsmen who helped construct and furnish the Biltmore House.

The Young Man’s Institute (YMI) quickly became the center of cultural, commercial, and religious life for local African-Americans. Over the course of the next century it housed a kindergarten, gymnasium, public library, corner drugstore, funeral parlor, and a doctor’s office.

The YMI Cultural Center even offered a place of worship for congregations without a church. The YMI Cultural Center building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Permanent exhibits include African masks and sculpture, drawings by the renowned African-American artist Charles W. White, and a collection of photographs that highlight the history of the YMI and its ties to the Biltmore Estate.