Arts & Performance

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Julyan Davis is a British native who moved to the American southeast 30 years ago on a hunch, that he would find the paintings he wanted to make in the people of these hills and hollers.

“Where I grew up, it’s very manicured. I was always sort of drawn to a more gritty landscape, and the South particularly interested me,” Davis said. “The south has a great tradition of photography, but in painting, there wasn’t really that, so I felt my work filled a niche. It was sort of discovering the beauty and melancholy of places that were generally falling down. It was the vanishing South, really.”

Sandra Stambaugh

Until now, renting the 500-seat Diana Wortham Theater was impractical and unaffordable for smaller-budgeted arts organizations. But a renovation and rebranding has opened two smaller, black box spaces at the renamed Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, and the Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective is the center’s first formally recognized resident company.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


From his warehouse in West Asheville, Brian Boggs designs and builds wooden chairs with tools and machines you just can’t find at a Home Depot.

Every carving tool that fits in your hand and every machine to cut and shape boards, Boggs built them himself.

“The way it saws makes a huge difference in how you work the material,” Boggs said. “It gives us an edge that most woodworkers just don’t have.”

Up close, the contraptions look like high school shop class projects. But they’re at the center of an operation employing seven people, plus Boggs’ wife, and preparing for the Dubai Hotel Show, in the United Arab Emirates.

courtesy of the artist


The members of the Asheville band Secret Shame never really address the roots of their name. But when guitarist Nikki Gish talks about the music on the band’s new album, “Dark Synthetics,” Gish reveals a personal secret that could have broken up the band.

“I have a major mental illness and I think that played a part in a lot of what shaped that album,” Gish said, citing a bipolar disorder that causes simultaneous mania and depression.

 

“During that time being untreated and then having this mental illness play out in the practice space, (the band) were very much a part of my paranoia and psychosis and delusion I was experiencing at the time,” Gish said. “I think that shapes the music—that’s literally what they were feeling—and chicken wire and duct tape were the only things that held it together.”

Secret Shame’s album-release show for “Dark Synthetics” is Sept. 16 at the Mothlight in West Asheville.

David Huff Creative / davidhuffcreative.com


The Asheville Art Museum's long-awaited reopening is awaiting longer than anyone hoped or anticipated.

Just a few months ago, museum officials gave area media a first look from inside the renovated galleries and announced an opening sometime in the summer. Now that summer has passed, leaders now are saying the museum won’t welcome visitors again at least until October -- three years after the museum closed for its $24 million renovation.

Liz Williams


Al Murray and Liz Williams met less than a year ago, but their pairing as artists in a new exhibition is two lifetimes in the making.

The exhibition “Up/Rooted” is at Revolve Gallery, in Asheville’s RAMP Studios building, through Sept. 3. The Campaign for Southern Equality supported the creation of this work and is presenting the exhibition.

“I’ve always been drawn to metalwork as an expression of a working-class masculinity that I’ve never known how to embody,” Murray said.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


It’s difficult to tell which is more unsettling, the memory Edwin Salas carries of his rape 30 years ago inside a Costa Rican museum or that the rape shaped him as an artist.

“The man closed the door in a little room with a collection of insect and began to hit me,” Salas recalled. “From there come from my first performance, in Italy, about a pedophilic relationship.”

Even more disturbing: That might not be the most traumatic episode in Salas’ life. Born in Mexico, Salas said he was just 3 years old when, as he later learned, his mother was kidnapped, tortured and murdered.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Every day, more than 17,000 cars pass through the intersection of Broadway and Woodfin, on the northern edge of downtown Asheville. There’s a new effort to steer them south and to steer motorists’ to think of this as a cultural corridor.

“The gateway entrance to the north end of downtown seemed to lack definition,” said Chris Joyell, director of the Asheville Design Center and on the core committee behind what’s called the Broadway Cultural Gateway planning project.

courtesy of the artist


Three decades ago, as the principal cellist of the Asheville Symphony, Judith Glixon performed pieces from Bach, Benjamin Britten and other composers for the sheer love of the music.

But over the years, long after moving away from the southeast, Glixon’s commitment to social activism has grown and rivaled her devotion to music.

“I call myself a Type A personality with a Type B constitution,” she said. “I was wearing myself out with various kinds of activism, working as a freelance cellist, raising my daughter and doing my part-time psychotherapy practice.”

There are elements of each—activism, music, therapy and motherly care—wrapped into what Glixon is calling “One Cello, One Planet.” It’s a program of solo cello music Glixon has themed around climate change awareness.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Author Megan Shepherd and her family live on an old farm on six acres in the town of Etowah, near her native Brevard. They keep bees. Chickens roam the backyard. There’s a wooden shack that once stored corn, and there’s a small, rustic guesthouse where Shepherd—accompanied by her 6-year-old Terrier mix, Bascom—does much of her writing. 

“As a writer, I spend so much time in my head and I struggle with actually physically connecting to the world,” Shepherd said. “So to get out there and have to breathe fresh air, work in the soil, be in nature, it’s really a healthy lifestyle. I quickly discovered I’m a terrible gardener, but I love it. For me, it’s a perfect balance.”

Photos courtesy of Ryan Anderson


At the time, five years ago, it seemed like another forgettable gig. Todd Weakley’s band shared a bill at the The Odditorium in West Asheville with a duo -- Ryan Anderson and his brother. Weakley remembers Anderson approaching and introducing himself.

“And my initial impression was like ‘Oh no, it’s gonna one of those shows,’” Weakley recalled. “But when he played, I was absolutely transfixed and I felt compelled to know more about this person.”

Sandra Stambaugh


If you want to stage a dance or theater production in downtown Asheville, your options are limited. You could rent the 40-seat BeBe Theatre or the 35-Below space, operated by Asheville Community Theater, which can hold about 75 people. But if you want marquee appeal, something that can draw foot traffic, you have to rent the Diana Wortham Theatre.

“The ability to fill a 500-seat space, for a local company, is sometimes overwhelming,” said Rae Geoffrey, the Wortham’s executive director. “The size and scope of Diana Wortham Theatre over the years has gotten too large for a lot of people and it has become used so often we frequently don’t have space in there.”

In the past few years, Geoffrey and the Wortham’s board grew concerned. They believed the theater’s programming didn’t reflect Asheville’s racial and ethnic diversity and ticket prices were out of reach for many. So they committed to expanding both the capacity and accessibility of the theater.

In September, the rebranded Wortham Center for the Performing Arts will hold three separate spaces -- the 500-seat main stage, a flexible black box space that can hold up to 100 and a multipurpose studio that can seat up to 60.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Randy Shull is giving a personal tour of his recent artworks. They’re displayed around an expansive Biltmore Village warehouse gallery most artists would covet.

What’s remarkable, at least for an artist in an increasingly gentrified Asheville, is this gallery belongs to Shull. He’s preparing these pieces for an exhibition at a much smaller space—the Tracey Morgan Gallery in South Slope. Opening reception is July 19 and the show runs through August 24.

“There’s this need to continue to work because I do have it so good,” Shull said.

Open Air Brevard 2019

Jul 12, 2019

Listen Wednesday mornings at 10 for Open Air Brevard - highlights from the Brevard Music Center and Summer Festival. Learn more about the festival and concerts at brevardmusic.org

Wednesday , July 24th  

Opening Night 2019 -  All Tchaikovsky

The Brevard Music Center Orchestra conducted by Joanne Falletta , featuring violinist  Chee-Yun

Tchaikovsky  Violin Concerto

Tchaikovsky  Symphony No. 5

Wednesday, July 31st 

Matt Peiken | BPR News


It’s a Tuesday night at the Battery Park Book Exchange, and three authors have shown up to this meeting of the Western North Carolina Mysterians.

It’s a critique group for local mystery writers and Michael Havelin, the group’s founder, is in the hot seat.

“So I think your prologue is too long. It’s sort of like an infodump,” one Mysterian tells Havelin. “And then a lot of the stuff in chapter --”

“Well, you know, you say that to me every time,” Havelin says. “Wait til we get to your stuff.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Pick your favorite artworks -- music, dance, painting -- and you think they’re created from a place of impassioned inspiration. Then you meet James Suttles, a native of Brevard coming from a different motivation for his low-budget horror films.

“Every decision that we make, whether it’s creative, whether it’s casting, is all about ‘How do we position this to make money?’” he said.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

If you go back far enough in Asheville to remember Biltmore Lanes and the Skateland Rollerdome and local R&B bands such as Bite Chew Spit and the Innersouls, then walking into the front gallery of the Orange Peel will feel like a nostalgia trip.

A new permanent exhibition of photos, newspaper clippings and other artifacts traces the history of the building, from its groundbreaking in 1946 and its varied incarnations over the subsequent decades until its branding in 1974 as the Orange Peel, primarily a home for R&B and soul club and a bridge to its renovation in 2002 into the club people know today.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Just before noon on Wednesday, Bill Thompson sat behind his desk inside an otherwise empty Satellite Gallery. He had just scrolled through the hundreds of comments and likes on his Facebook post from the day before, announcing he’s about to close his gallery after 13 years on Broadway, in downtown Asheville.

“The outpouring of love and support comes through when you close the doors, and you’re almost like, ‘Where was everybody when we were open?’” he said. “If you’re going to be supportive of the arts and the local community, it doesn’t mean liking their stuff in social media. It means being supportive financially towards those artists who you say you love their work and to that gallery who you say you love what they’re doing.”

Sandin Gaither


Amanda Anne Platt and her band produced their first two albums on their own and were preparing a third without drawing interest from a record label.

“It was hard. I think every time you experience any kind of rejection in the arts, it makes you question your validity as an artist, which doesn’t make sense,” Platt said. “The music business is not music. If you’re not having monetary success, it doesn’t make you any less of an artist. I still have to remind myself of that. Every day it’s hard.”

Lauren Van Epps


A couple Saturday afternoons ago, Melissa Hyman lugged two Hefty bags down Asheville’s Lexington Avenue to the trunk of her car. They were filled with blankets.

“I don’t know if we’re gonna put anyone to sleep, but I kinda want to,” Hyman said. “I want to have a set up in front of the stage of just lots of pillows and blankets and see if anyone falls asleep there.”

courtesy of the artist


“American Idol” introduced Caleb Johnson to the nation as a powerhouse rock n roll vocalist. He proved he could pull off Steven Tyler, Steve Perry, Robert Plant. Even if you graduated Asheville’s Irwin High School alongside Caleb Johnson, you probably remember him more for winning Season 13 than for anything Johnson has done in his home city.

Now, five years later, like many whose fame has come from “American Idol” and other singing competitions, Johnson is motivated to prove he’s worthy of attention for his own music.

His new album is called “Born From Southern Ground,” and it’s born to showcase Johnson’s range and power.

Courtesy of the Resonant Rogues


You can imagine the first conversation between the musicians Keith Smith and the singularly named Sparrow:

“Oh, you were 18 when you started hitchhiking around the country? I was 18 when I started hitchhiking.”

“I hopped freight trains for three years.” “Well, I joined the circus.”

“And you’re a songwriter? Well, So am I.”

About 50 people have gathered at a gallery inside the Refinery Building in Asheville’s South Slope. It’s a whos-who among people in local dance, theater, music, the visual arts.

They’re here as a nascent arts alliance, putting new effort behind a familiar message—that city and county officials should prioritize the arts in their annual budgets.

Artists in Asheville aren’t unique in this sense—artists everywhere apply and compete for funding from their state and regional arts councils. They’re the custodians of the portion of your tax dollars that fund arts and culture in our communities.

Morin Photography


At a rehearsal in the Woodfin dance studio of the Asheville Ballet, Rebecca O’Quinn is watching two middle-aged women rehearse a duet O’Quinn created around the prop of an overstuffed loveseat.

 

“They kind of take turns running around the couch and flipping over the couch, and are in relationship with each other, and it’s not clear what the relationship is,” she said of this dance work, part of an Asheville Ballet program May 17-18 at Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville.

 

That unclear relationship could be a metaphor for O’Quinn’s own artistic path.

The Magnetic Theatre

With new works, playwrights often work closely with the director to shape what happens on stage. But once Peter Lundblad finishes writing a play, his involvement with it ends.

“I really like giving it to a director and seeing what they do with it, so I try not to interfere,” he said. “I’m not a details a guy, so somebody else who knows that better. That’s one example of really learning to trust a director.”

Lundblad is perfectly content to leave his new play, “Buncombe Tower,” in the hands of the Magnetic Theatre. And he has left much for the director and cast to interpret. The play is a fantastical, futuristic vision of Asheville and an allegorical commentary on the fallout of gentrification.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Here’s a little perspective: This year’s high school graduates haven’t been able to set foot inside the Asheville Art Museum since early in their freshman year. That’s how long the current, $24 million renovation and expansion is taking.

 

But this past Friday, museum director Pam Myers and some of her staff walked BPR and other local media through three floors and a rooftop of new galleries and other features that, up to now, have never been part of the museum’s 71-year history.

courtesy of Day and Dream


Peter Frizzante and Abby Amaya met seven years ago in New York City on the dating website OK Cupid. They were a musical match from the start.

“We’ve always been jamming and writing things together, but it wasn’t until 2018 when we really got serious,” Amaya said.

“It’s 2018. We said ‘This is it, we’re on the hunt for musicians and we’re gonna get this done,” Frizzante said.

Courtesy of Asheville Creative Arts


Abby Felder wanted to pursue experimental theater after college, so the North Carolina native moved to Asheville seven years ago and co-founded Asheville Creative Arts. It’s the only company devoted solely to producing children's theater in Western North Carolina.

“Working with younger audiences in particular, they are not as hung up on traditional dramatic structures. They’re kind of along for the ride,” she said. “So if you’re giving them a piece that’s more experiment or subverts narrative, they’re just there for that, and they’re more interested in pure storytelling.”

courtesy of the artist

When people describe a musician as a throwback artist, they’re usually hearing sounds and influences from two to four decades ago. To trace where Whitney Moore is coming from with her new music, you have to wind the calendar back nearly a century.

“You get to the ’50s and late ’40s and ’60s, and jazz becomes a thing for the elites,” Moore said. “But the ’20s through ’40s, it was still the music of the people and it served a really sweet purpose, to transmute their suffering or cheer them up.”

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