Making Over the Mayor

She’s running for Congress. VERVE’s team of fab photogs, makeup artists and stylists helped her step up her style for the new year.

by Mick Kelly . portrait by Matt Rose

Give the mayor a makeover? VERVE was thrilled to take on the project, and we put some of our best stylists to work. For the new year, we wanted to feature a Western North Carolina woman in the middle of an ambitious transition. And for that, we looked no further than Asheville’s mayor, Terry Bellamy, who announced last November that she will run for Congress in the newly re-drawn 10th District. Most of that district covers territory east of Asheville in Gaston, Rutherfordton and Catawba counties. For Bellamy, that means branching out into rural territory far outside the city, potentially facing off against Patrick McHenry, a long-established Republican incumbent. State representative Patsy Keever, a former Buncombe County Commissioner, says she will also run in the 10th District. Keever and two other candidates would potentially face Bellamy in a May primary.

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:16PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments2 Comments

Behind the Music

After two smash-hit Moogfests and two decades of Christmas Jams, what will it take to make Asheville an A-list music destination? We polled a few local experts.

by Jess McCuan . photos by Zaire Kacz

In the music biz, half the battle is getting people to show up.

But at concerts in Asheville, that’s not the whole story. And sometimes, just filling an Asheville room is a trickier proposition than you might think.

To be sure, Asheville has a thriving music scene. Our fair city is home to Rolling Stone’s #5 music club in the country (The Orange Peel), and we’re frequently compared to the live-music mecca Austin. Rock icon and native son Warren Haynes invites high-profile collaborators like Phil Lesh and the Allman Brothers to town every winter for his Christmas Jam. Band of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey lives here; the Avett Brothers record here. The roots-music scene is bubbling, with MerleFest just a short drive away and award-winning roots-musician residents including David Holt (four Grammys), David Wilcox and the newcomers Dehlia Low.

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:16PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References6 References

Portrait of Passlof

The long-overlooked abstract painter Pat Passlof died two months ago. A comprehensive January show at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center assesses her legacy.

by Ursula Gullow

What to do when your summer school instructor turns out to be one of the world’s best abstract painters? If you’re Pat Passlof, you soak up everything he knows and use it to kick off your own painting career.

In the summer of 1948, Passlof was a 20-year-old student at Black Mountain College. Her instructor was the then-unknown painter Willem de Kooning. She had recently seen an exhibit by de Kooning at the small, but important, Charles Egan Gallery in New York. (This month, 200 of de Kooning’s paintings are being shown in a large-scale retrospective at MoMA). While she might not have been able to articulate it at the time, his work had a profound impact on her. That summer, when she had an inkling that de Kooning would be teaching, she signed up, and then ended up studying with him privately for two years in New York City. Once, she even took the train with him between North Carolina and New York. Though the two were never romantically involved, de Kooning would later introduce Passlof to her husband, abstract painter Milton Resnick. And while he may have thought he was simply taking Passlof, a Brunswick, Georgia, native, on a train ride, Willem de Kooning was in fact putting her on a path that marked the beginning of her lifelong journey as an artist.

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:14PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References7 References

Blood, Sweat and Years: My Return to Meat

In this new column, English Lessons, former urbanite Ashley English writes about life on her Candler farm as a homesteader, blogger, author and mom.

by Ashley English . photo by Naomi Johnson

I live one mile down a dirt road, in a mountainside cove on eleven forested acres, surrounded by hundreds more. The property is teeming with wildlife. Rabbits, deer and seemingly every other forest creature imaginable, both under foot and overhead, share this space with my husband, our toddler and a menagerie of dogs, cats, chickens and bees. Not long ago, for a variety of reasons, I decided that (our personal pets aside) I wanted to eat some of those other creatures. And I even wanted to learn to track, kill and butcher them myself.

A creature of habit, I love routine, the safety and security of it. My childhood was chaotic and transient, characterized by moves from town to town and house to house. My adult life has allowed me to introduce a bit of soul-satisfying tethering to places, people and practices. Mostly, that’s a good thing. On occasion, though, it can trip me up, holding fast to a job, relationship or habit far past the point of mutual benefit.

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:14PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments6 Comments | References21 References

Cuts to the Bone

Advice on healthy eating from an imperfect vegan.

story and photos by Naomi Johnson

Think the four food groups are key to a healthy diet? Think milk builds strong bones? With these and other bits of common nutritional wisdom, Amy Lanou, Ph.D., would beg to differ. Lanou, who has taught nutrition in the health and wellness department at UNC-Asheville since 2005, has devoted much of her career to parsing reams of data on such topics, and from her point of view, the answer is clear: most are myths.

The ideal diet for promoting health? Well, Lanou hesitates to use the word “vegan.” “People are calling it a lot of things these days. A whole-foods, plant-based diet,” she says. “‘Vegan’ has this connotation that there’s also some ideology with it, and for some people there is, but for some people, there isn’t.”

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:13PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment

Jewel of India?

A business-minded jeweler travels to South Asia this month to study up.

by Melanie McGee Bianchi . photo by Matt Rose

Joanna Gollberg’s jewelry-making is just as much a business as it is a calling. “I don’t like being referred to as an artist,” she says.

Not that there’s anything wrong with artists. But. “I’m not sitting around making whatever appeals to me,” she says. “This is how I make my living. I have three lines that I sell in stores all across the country.”

One of those lines is her “Textured” collection. The medieval-looking rings, necklaces and drop earrings have thick, irregular borders and stippled surfaces. By contrast, the gems that shine within these chunky pieces (peridot, amethyst, blue topaz) are dramatically but delicately staged, pronged like imperial jewels in a crown.

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:13PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References6 References

Hi Ho, Silver

interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

Name: Nicole Silver

Age: 23

Occupation: fashion designer and performing artist

Lives in: West Asheville

You look like you’ve done modeling before. I’ve done modeling since I was little. I grew up doing it, and I work at the design house Royal Peasantry. We do photo shoots all the time.

Do you do that full time? I work there on a project basis and for shoots, and I’m a circus performer. I do aerial arts and hula hooping and compact acrobatics.

Wow. Is hanging from the ceiling scary? No. I’m not really scared about it. I do get nervous every time, but it’s not like scared. There’s this rush of excitement. I’m hoping that I hit all of my tricks.

What do you do during winter when the fashion stuff slows down? I like to be creative in my home, and I make all kinds of things, from dresses to yoga pants to aprons and costumes and pillows. Whatever I think of, I want to make it myself. I needed a laundry basket over the summer, so I made one out of bamboo and cloth. My neighbor’s yard has bamboo in it.

What else are you working on? I’m building a bike-powered blender. It’s a stationary bike with a platform off of the seat post that holds the blender. You pedal up a smoothie. 

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:12PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Philosopher Queen

interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose . makeup by Zack Russell

Name: Bonnie Currie

Age: 30

Occupation(s): jewelry designer at Arcane Memory design; staff at Vintage Moon clothing boutique and French Broad Chocolate Lounge

You have such a great vintage look. Do you always dress like this? I think that’s just how I look typically. It’s almost always a combination of vintage and vintage remake.

Really, you look like a retro Hollywood screen star. Where do you get your inspiration? My mom ran a vintage clothing shop and antique store in Gulfport, Mississippi, Through the Looking Glass.

So what brought you to Asheville? I went to UNCA to get a philosophy degree, and I also felt called to be here.

How do you think a philosophy degree helps you? It helps me think more creatively about how to solve problems in society. And, it teaches me to question things. It also taught me about the way a mind works and how it’s shaped by the environment a person is brought up in.

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:11PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment

Cutting Loose

After 30 years styling hair, Maggie Ewing tries her hand at kitchen therapy.

by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

For a while, with new clients, Maggie Ewing talks hair. She’s happy to. The bubbly 56-year-old has cut and styled people’s hair in two states for nearly three decades. But eventually, these days, Ewing steers the talk towards her new love: food. “It’s only hair ‘til we get to know each other,” she jokes.

Truth be told, Ewing was a perfectly satisfied stylist, running a shop in her home state of Massachusetts, and then, when she moved to Asheville, renting a small, chic downtown salon, Aubergine, where she has clipped and snipped Ashevilleans’ locks for the past 14 years. Perhaps, she admits, there was a time in her 20s when she might have gone to law school. But she had a son at a young age and dropped out of Rhode Island College. No matter, Ewing says. The notion of a career change never even crossed her mind until a couple years back. Suddenly, it dawned on her: “I didn’t want to be 60 years old and doing hair,” she says.

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:10PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References8 References

A Choir Goes to Carnegie

Ginger Haselden leads a new children’s choir that’s heading to New York City.

by Mick Kelly . photo by BJ Bowen

This spring, after 30 years of singing in and leading choirs, Ginger Haselden will realize a longtime dream: watching her young students sing in a production at Carnegie Hall in New York City. “It’s a thrill,” says Haselden, who has performed in the hallowed hall ten times herself with various choirs. “They’re never going to forget that view from the stage.”

The classically-trained soprano lived in New York for ten years, first working for the United Methodist Church there, and then leading choirs and teaching music in New Jersey. When she moved to Asheville eight years ago, she kept up the choir direction and vocal coaching, and now, she’s teaming up with the Asheville Choral Society to send her students to a Carnegie Hall production of John Rutter’s Mass for the Children in April.

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:10PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References18 References

Breakin’ Up

It isn’t hard to do. Especially in January, the number one breakup month of the year.

by Susan Reinhardt

With the holidays over, January looms cold and bleak for some. Why? Because January is the number one breakup month of the year. Asheville life coach Randy Siegel, author of Break Up, Wake Up, Move On, says there are several reasons why. “Many couples wait to get through the holidays,” says Siegel, who runs the website People often wait because of children, or the fact that few like going through the holidays alone, he says. Another reason is the holidays themselves. “They are stressful, and they can be the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak,” he says.

Lisa Daily, author of Stop Getting Dumped, concurs, and says many couples don’t want to dampen the season’s collective and festive mood by cutting ties during the “feel-good” periods of November and December. “For some, (January) feels like the first chance to make a clean break after the holiday,” she says. “For others, the breakup is part of the New Year’s resolution package that includes getting a better job, losing the love handles and embarking on a mission to find true love.”

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:09PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

Turning Gray?

If so, Lael Gray, the Montford mom who lost a City Council seat by a hair, has a new blog for you.

by Jess McCuan . photo by Laurie Johnson

You might argue that Lael Gray, now 46, has been a feminist since age four. In a Halloween parade in Yonkers, New York, in 1970, the four-year-old Gray dressed up in her brother’s baseball uniform and carried a sign that said “Women’s Lib.” Young as she was, Gray says her mother (who made the sign) explained to her what it meant to the crowd of pointing onlookers. “I really got it, even at four years old,” says Gray. “I really got the message.” Now, her message to women—in particular, to those born in the 1960s—is: speak out. Tell your stories. Join the national and local political conversation, and don’t let a few gray strands scare you.

Gray, who’s lived in Asheville ten years, lost a particularly close race last November. In her first bid for political office, the mother of two came in behind Asheville City Council incumbent Jan Davis by just 35 votes. “It was deeply disappointing on the one hand, and really amazing on the other hand,” she says. “I did kind of come out of nowhere.”

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:08PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References1 Reference

Editor's Note

To kick off the new year, I got out of town again.

This time, I got way out of town, to a tropical spot where I soaked up a little sunshine (and kissed a stingray, and ate a turtle). I’m thankful to be able to escape around the new year, mainly because it gives me a chance to reflect and, in some small way, reinvent myself.

Reinvention is a theme we love at VERVE, and politicians seem to do it all the time. In this issue, we profile two Asheville women in politics who have either reinvented themselves or are trying to. Lael Gray ran for Asheville City Council a couple months back and narrowly lost the race to incumbent Jan Davis, who owns a downtown tire store. With just 35 more votes, the Montford mom would have unseated Davis, a council member since 2003. “It was deeply disappointing,” she told me recently. But rather than sulk, she launched a blog, Turning Gray, to continue the important conversations she’d started with local women during her campaign (see page 22, and check out

Another reinvention tale will unfold in the coming year as Asheville’s mayor, Terry Bellamy, runs for Congress in Western North Carolina’s 10th district. She’s been mayor since 2005, and has proven to be a moderate Democrat, weighing in in favor of affordable housing programs but hedging her bets against some gay rights initiatives. Still, reinventing herself as an appealing candidate in a heavily-Republican district against an entrenched Republican incumbent, Patrick McHenry, will take some doing. We spruced up and modernized her overall look in this month’s makeover (see page 30). We’ll stay tuned for the rest, including her squaring off with another prominent Asheville Democrat, Patsy Keever, in a May primary.

Whatever else you read, write, conjure up or conquer this month, I hope you’ll take some time for yourself. I recommend doing so in a space that you find both serene and challenging. Getting away is renewing, and likely good for everyone. Except maybe turtles.

Happy reading,
Jess McCuan

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 09:07PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment