Diversify Your Portfolios

interview by Jess McCuan
photo by Matt Rose

Name: Stephanie Hickling Beckman

Age: 48

Occupation: Artistic Managing Director, Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective

When did you start Different Strokes? I started it in December 2010, and our first show was in May 2011—called Love! Valour! Compassion! I had seven gorgeous men to work with on that show.

Don’t we all need seven gorgeous men on our projects? Yes. Six of the seven worked with me again, and I have two on our current show. They pretty much follow me everywhere.

What’s the current show? It’s called A Lesson Before Dying, and it’s part of the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism. It opens May 4.

What did you think was lacking in the Asheville theater scene when you started your company? Diversity. The scene is fairly diverse as far as the types of people they cast. But a lot of people felt it was lacking ethnic diversity, and it was just time to do something about it.

I’ve seen a few shows recently that address age diversity, but not ethnic. There really aren’t that many ethnic actors here. And directors are afraid to cast people for the parts that come up. What we need to realize is that it’s not about doing a black show. A show is a show.

And how does that play out? When Asheville Community Theatre was auditioning for To Kill A Mockingbird, they had no black actors for the audition… It’s not that companies have decided not to cast black actors. It’s just that people get comfortable where they are.  

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Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 02:05AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

First Glance: Ready to Rumba 

interview by Jess McCuan
photo by Zaire Kacz

Name: Marta Bodenhorst

Age: 47

Occupation: Owner of The Venue, and co-owner of The Bier Garden in downtown Asheville

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you? I do ballroom dancing.

What kind? The Latin dances. My favorites are the Bolero, the Pasodoble.

Do most people know you are Latin? Actually, they can tell something by my accent. But they think I’m from Western Europe—they think Spain or France or Greece. I’m from Colombia.

And what else do you think people would be surprised to learn? I don’t go out without making sure my whole outfit is put together. I work out every day, and if I have to make three trips back and forth after I leave the gym, to get a purse or shoes or whatever, I do it. I am very meticulous.

Any particular items you have a weakness for? Shoes. I probably have over 100 pairs. I am afraid to count them.

What else is a guilty pleasure? Believe it or not, eggs. And chicken. I can go through a dozen eggs a day… And if I’m in a bad mood, people are like, ‘Give her some chicken.’

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Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 02:01AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Color Therapy

A psychotherapist paints the stories of the women she counsels.

by Mick Kelly 
photo by Stacy Selverne


Some big life changes happen gradually, others abruptly. Cheri Brackett could feel an abrupt change brewing at age 32 while working in a large Atlanta travel firm.

She was just a few weeks away from a year-end review. Other executives would fly in for it, and afterwards, she anticipated getting a sizable bonus. All looked fine from the outside—“I was movin’ and shakin’,” she says. But she was also having odd experiences. “I was watching myself sit with the people who reported to me,” she explains, noting that she was much more interested in hearing about their lives than in talking million-dollar travel accounts. “At a certain point, I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” Brackett says. Two weeks before her review, she quit and took a job working with foster children.

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Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 01:16AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References3 References

She Woke Up With Van Gogh

Anna Jensen joins 70 Asheville artists in a Hickory Museum show this month, Waking Up With Van Gogh. Curator Moni Hill says the massive group show has turned into a movement.

by Ursula Gullow   .  portrait by Anthony Bellemare

“Painting is something to save me from going off the deep end,” says Anna Jensen, who spent four months fretting over her contribution to the group show Waking Up With Van Gogh.

Anna Jensen’s life is her art. Literally. The 32-year-old artist’s studio also serves as her living quarters, a 400-square-foot room in the lower level of a home in Kenilworth. Here, Jensen’s easel stands in close proximity to her bed, which is surrounded by piles of art magazines. She stores stacks of canvases along her walls, and the fireplace and bed for her American bulldog, Beulah, sit strategically out of the way of her cart of paints, paintbrushes and glitters.

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Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 01:11AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

How to Raise Happy Kids?

An Asheville therapist draws on her global travels and experiences with inner-city kids to inform a new book about good parenting.

by Jess McCuan

Ironically, she’s never raised children herself. But she has spent much of her career studying them. This month, Maureen Healy, an Asheville therapist who blogs regularly for PBS and Psychology Today, is publishing a book of collected wisdom about raising happy children.

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Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 01:09AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Seeds of Change

Seed growers may have lost a suit against Monsanto in January, but they didn’t fail to make their point.

by Janet Hurley
photos by Jordan Crossingham

Simona Mortensen of the Carolina chapter of Millions Against Monsanto says no matter what course they choose, Sow True Seed’s participation in the January lawsuit “really lit a fire” locally.

The mood was somber in a federal courtroom in New York in January.

The courtroom was eight stories above the Manhattan street where activists “Occupied Big Food” that month, protesting against the agriculture and chemical company Monsanto. There were some 50 people in the room, many farmers respectfully dressed but still looking out of place, and also Carol Koury, founder and president of Asheville’s Sow True Seed.

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Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 01:08AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

A Quiet Chorus of Commenters

Ashley English finds community at home  in the silent world of blogging.

by Ashley English
photo by Naomi Johnson

Not too terribly long ago, my weekday mornings were characterized by a stealth hustle. After tending to a chorus of meowing cats, thirsty dogs and peckish chickens, I’d make a swift breakfast and ready myself for a full day of work at the south Asheville doctor’s office where I was employed. When I left that world to settle into a new life as a stay-at-home writer in 2008, I knew I’d be leaving behind a very socially active lifestyle. I loved my co-workers and the patients. I found much enjoyment in our daily conversations, silly banter and after-work dalliances.

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Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 01:05AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments2 Comments

Her Natural Habitat

A Habitat staffer spices things up for spring.

by Mick Kelly
photo by Matt Rose

Laura Ivey wanted to add some zing for spring. We put her in an Aryeh dress from Frock boutique, with sassy heels and a woven bag from Clothes Encounters. 

No doubt about it: Laura Ivey is a bit of a do-gooder. She’s currently the volunteer services manager for the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, coordinating shifts at Habitat’s ReStore, just south of downtown, for some 1,800 volunteers each year. She also assists volunteers who construct, and deconstruct, around a dozen homes each year for needy families.

Before Habitat, Ivey spent a total of five years living in Malawi, in southern Africa, helping to educate residents there about AIDS and HIV. While she was a student at both University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and University of Massachusetts-Amherst, she co-founded a program, World Camp, which is now based in Asheville and has educated more than 40,000 students in Malawi. One of her favorite parts? She helped scores of young women and teachers in the program, who were looking to empower themselves through classwork and learning critical life skills.

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Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 01:03AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

Mother Was Right

You should eat your veggies. This month, Mother Earth Produce launches to help deliver the fruits of local farmers’ labors.

by Jess McCuan
photos by Matt Rose

ndrea DuVall and her husband Graham are starting a business that delivers fruits and veggies. Baskets start at $26.

When Andrea DuVall moved here from Atlanta with her husband Graham last year, she knew a few things for certain: she had to get back in touch with people, the land and a cause she believed in. “My soul was dying in corporate America,” she says.

And she wasn’t even in the most seemingly soul-crushing of corporate gigs. But as regional manager for Walch Education, a Maine-based publisher of textbooks for high school and middle school students, she found herself running certain corporate drills—traveling often and sitting through boring conference calls.

Until recently, her husband, Graham, worked as a horticulturist for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. When the couple moved to Asheville, both were essentially looking for a new project.

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Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 01:02AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments2 Comments | References6 References

Blue Period

Anna Toth puts an Asheville spin on the American classic.

by Lila Zimmerman
photos by Zaire Kacz

Two views of Anna Toth’s custom jeans, which are made with American-grown cotton and cost around $170 a pair. That’s more than The Gap, but less than, say, 7 For All Mankind. “Most clothes that end up on our racks go around the world twice,” she says. “It just doesn’t seem like a sustainable model to me.”

What’s sexier than a great pair of jeans that hugs you in all the right places? Asheville has a new designer who’s building a business around just that. Anna Toth, 31, rolled out her line of custom-made denim products, Bow and Arrow Apparel, early last year. Now, with a new River District studio and leads on selling her jeans at local shops, the fashionista intends to puts her own stamp on denim, the ubiquitous standard. “There’s a lot of appeal to me, in that it represents that blue-collar, hard-working, classic American aesthetic,” says Toth, standing outside of West Asheville’s Battle Cat coffee shop in a pair of her own jeans (turns out she’s her own best advertisement). The Kentucky-born designer moved into a studio space in the Phil Mechanic building in Asheville’s River Arts District last month, and she’s started fitting clients there, in addition to selling her wares on the Bow and Arrow Apparel Etsy shop online.

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Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 01:00AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments3 Comments | References39 References
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