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2019 In The Arts: Re-Openings, Cultural Spotlights, Social Issues, Personal Explorations

Matt Peiken | BPR News

This isn’t another top-10 list. But in the spirit of looking back on 2019, we’ve cobbled together this sampler platter from among more than 60 stories Blue Ridge Public Radio produced in 2019 about regional artists and arts happenings.

Read and listen to the complete stories referenced below by clicking the hyperlinks.

Arguably the biggest story were the reopenings, two days apart in November, of the Asheville Art Museum and the Center for Craft in downtown Asheville. We went to the first public days of each.


Far more artists had impacts below the line of wide public attention. At the Arthur Edington Center this past June, teens of color worked with adult mentors to use audio, video, photography and collage to document “Southside Stories.”

In Cherokee Central Schools, the Cherokee Chamber Singers have re-engaged young people to their heritage. BPR produced a story about the choir in November as it prepared to perform in Asheville.


In April, we told listeners about a group of local pastors who took a year of classes through the Asheville Improv Collective.

Amid the scores of books, albums, paintings and plays created by locals, several came from artists working off the beaten path.

At Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, the theater department annually produces new work diving into real social issues. In March, the department staged “Battered,” a play about domestic violence by Katie Winkler, head of the school’s English department.

Edwin Salas is a Mexican migrant, now living in Asheville, whose mother was murdered when he was a child and who says he was raped as a teenager. Those traumas shaped the artist who has earned a fast reputation here for twisted, unhinged puppetry, theater and clowning.

Kira Bursky is a rising filmmaker who turned her apartment into an immersive multimedia installation about suffering and overcoming depression. 

Hip-hop artist Musashi Xero wrote his new music through the anger over the death of a close friend from a fentanyl overdose.

These and every other arts story produced by Blue Ridge Public Radio are archived and searchable

Matt Peiken, BPR’s first full-time arts journalist, has spent his entire career covering arts and culture.