A Quest to go Beyond the Fest

Everyone knows about LEAF. Now, Jennifer Pickering’s job is to push it even further.

by Mick Kelly . photos by Matt Rose

A-list musicians swing through Asheville every day. They step down from their airplanes or busses, play a festival or The Orange Peel, and then climb back onto the bus. Asheville native Jennifer Pickering booked many of those A-listers way back in 1995 when she first started the Lake Eden Arts Festival. They’d wheel a band bus out to Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain, play a show and then leave. But a few years in, it dawned on her: “We had such amazing people coming for a day or a weekend,” she says. “I thought—we have to get them out in the community more.”

You’d think Pickering, who’s 44, would have her hands full simply running the festival. LEAF, a four-day affair each spring and fall in Black Mountain, is one of the premier music events in Western North Carolina. Past performers include everyone from Doc Watson to Nanci Griffith to Arrested Development and the Indigo Girls. There are multi-cultural and New Age activities aplenty at LEAF, from belly dance demos to shamanic bodywork. The complete music lineup has a distinctly global feel. Venezuelan acid jazz artists play alongside cloggers and Senegalese guitarists. “It feels a bit European,” says folk rocker Sarah Lee Guthrie, who’s played LEAF three times (once with her dad, Arlo Guthrie). She’ll perform there again with her husband Johnny Irion later this month. “It’s refreshing to see people dive into different cultures...It’s one of the best fests in the country.”

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:31PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Spooked Over Nukes

In the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster, a crew of Asheville-area activists pick up momentum for their anti-nuke cause.

by Jess McCuan . photos by Matt Rose

If you drove by the Grey Eagle in West Asheville a few weeks back, you might have seen the usual suspects out front—folk singers, drummers and various pickers—headed into the music hall with their instruments. But if it was one particular Wednesday evening, you might have also spotted some activists out front, surrounded by samba dancers and carrying signs that read: “Nuke-Free WNC?” and “No Drive-By Nukes!”

That’s because the Mountain Protectors, a group formed in January, has been trying to get the word out lately about a particular nuclear issue. Namely, they’re concerned about nuclear waste being transported by truck along I-26 and I-40. It could be headed, some of them speculate, towards Sandy Mush, an area that begins in northwest Buncombe County and was singled out as a potential nuclear waste dump in the 1980s.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:29PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References1 Reference

Don’t Mothball Your Wedding Dress

Recycle it.

by Mick Kelly . photos by Matt Rose

What to do with that beautiful gown once the wedding’s over? You could stick it in a closet. You could sell it on eBay or to a consignment shop. There’s apparently a new post-wedding trend called “trashing the dress,” where bride and groom put on full wedding regalia and go roll in the sand or run through the forest for photos. Yes, you’ll tear up your dress, but you’ll look amazing while you do it.

Rosanne Capone thinks there are plenty of other options—both before a wedding and after. The 45-year-old seamstress, caterer and English teacher says she’s always nourished her “inner princess.” Since she was a girl, growing up in suburban New Jersey, she’s wanted to make beautiful ball gowns and romantic wedding dresses. Her teaching career took her away from fashion, and for years she taught English at private high schools around State College, Pennsylvania.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:27PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References46 References

Wall Flower?

Yes, and wall hexagons. With dancers in front. An Asheville mural artist has an ambitious collaborative show in the River District this month.

by Ursula Gullow . photo by Matt Rose

Molly Rose Freeman has a thing for patterns. “There’s just something about committing yourself to creating a pattern,” says the 24-year-old, gesturing to the illustrations peppering her studio. She’s committed, all right. Her breezy space, located in the Roots Building of the River Arts District, is full of pattern-covered paintings, illustrations and other objects, including a mirage of pink plaid “crystals” painted directly onto her wall. That project looks quite modern, but it was inspired by a mosaic-tiled floor she saw in an Italian Cathedral.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:27PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Seeing Red

Singer-songwriter Molly Kummerle (aka Ruby Slippers) kicks off an over-the-rainbow career in Asheville.

by Joanne O’Sullivan . photos by Anthony Bellemare

There are singers, and then there are performers. Molly Kummerle is the latter. The voice, the moves, the clothes, the makeup and that certain je ne sais quoi that makes it all look easy—Kummerle has the total package, including the fabulous alter-ego and stage name Ruby Slippers. Working in a musical range that spans sultry electronic to smoky cabaret, she’s frequently on stage locally in clubs and festivals, and when she’s not, she’s probably in the recording studio. (Or, she’s coordinating coverage for major music festivals at her music-biz day job, festival marketing coordinator for Music Allies in Asheville.) And while she may someday entertain the idea of moving to a big city to be a rock star, at the moment she’s committed to kicking things off right here in Asheville.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:25PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References19 References

Hold Onto Your Hat

interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

Name: Molly McQuillan

Age: 24

What could Asheville use more of? Jobs. I have an MBA and a minimum wage job.

You’re totally right. It just makes sense to have a bigger pool of jobs for the highly educated people who collect here.

And what could it use less of? People who want Adele tickets. [The British pop star plays Thomas Wolfe on June 18.] I completely missed the first sale, and now I think I’m out of luck.

And what would you do if you were queen for a day? I would make everyone take a trip to Europe. We would all come back more well-rounded. 

Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:24PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References5 References

New Kid on the Block

interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

Name: Chelsi Ann Ichrist

Age: 21

You’re new in town? Yes. I just moved here from Baltimore a few weeks ago. Actually, I ran away from Baltimore kicking and screaming.

What are you reading now? A Piece of Cake, by Cupcake Brown. It’s a messed-up memoir about a girl who got into prostitution at a young age. I think she’s a lawyer now. Anyway, it’s very inspiring.

Are you looking for inspiration? Always. I’m an artist and a musician, and I have a couple of big things in the works.

This is the right town for that. What kind of artwork? One is a mixed-media piece—it’s paint and recycled trash. There are some used cigarette packs and old letters from five years ago. I like to find beauty in things people have forgotten. 

Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:23PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment

Branching Out

interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Rimas Zailskas

Name: Carolina McCready

Age: 35

How often do you climb trees? Not as often as I think is good for my heart. The last time I was in a tree might have been in middle school. I climbed a big willow tree in front of my house.

So were you a tomboy? I guess I was a tomboy. I never really thought about it. I played whiffle ball and rode my dirt bike.

Do you like working in Hendersonville? I live in Asheville, and some days I would love to live in my idealistic bubble of Asheville. But the work that I do is most necessary in Hendersonville.

What’s that? I work with the Latino community [at El Centro Communitario, the Latino Advocacy Coalition]. I work for them, I should say. At this time, it feels like a very important issue, as everyone is dealing with the challenges of globalization and immigration. I feel very good about being able to work at a center that promotes inclusion for all people… My mother is from Colombia. This work connects me to my roots. 

Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:22PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References1 Reference

Simply Ballroom

The owner of a new downtown theatre has a secret life on the dance floor.

by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

Latin dance is all in the hips. Tiffany Hampton, a longtime musical theater actress, must have known that going in. But though she’d been on stage many times, she hadn’t danced since she was in her 20s. When she walked into Asheville Ballroom’s studio two years ago, she was far from certain that she’d be ready for fast-paced dance. “After my second baby, I was wondering if my hips would ever move again,” she says. But move they did, and this spring, she and her dance partner, Zeki Maviyildiz, placed second and third in Latin dances like rhumba and samba at the Heritage Classic, an annual spring ballroom dance competition at the Grove Park Inn.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:21PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References6 References

Suited Up for a Power Lunch

We spiffed up a Community Foundation staffer before this month’s fundraising luncheon, Power of the Purse.

by Mick Kelly . photo by Matt Rose

Beth Maczka wears three colors: black, white and brown. Occasionally, she steps out in lime green, but that’s rare. Even more rare is an occasion that calls for her fanciest black dress. Take the inauguration of a president, for example. Maczka, a 47-year-old mother of two, remembers she pulled out the black dress for Bill Clinton’s second inauguration, and again for a Biltmore Estate fundraiser. “I always wear slacks,” she says. “I wear a ball gown once every four years.”

Maczka is a program officer at the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, which holds one of its biggest and buzziest fundraising events this month, the Power of the Purse. Past speakers at the luncheon, which draws more than 1,000 women, have included writer Anna Quindlen and, last year, longtime NPR journalist Cokie Roberts. This year, it’s Jennifer Buffett, a powerful women-focused philanthropist who’s the daughter of Warren Buffett. Money raised at the luncheon goes to the Community Foundation’s Women for Women fund, which helps organizations like Asheville’s YWCA and Planned Parenthood. The crowd is a who’s who of Asheville-area female leaders, and in some ways, it’s a culmination of Maczka’s work, since she works with Women for Women volunteers and philanthropists all year.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:20PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Woman on a Mission

Jenny McConnachie has brought health and hope to South Africa’s poorest for 30 years.

by Joanne O’Sullivan

If you lived in Hendersonville in the 1970s, you might have known the McConnachie house: a big, white turn-of-the-century house downtown with lots of kids running in the yard, occasional barn dances and the sound of bagpipe music wafting through the air on St. Andrew’s Day, the traditional Scottish holiday. The woman of the house, Jenny McConnachie (originally from England), was taking a break from nursing while raising her five children and fostering many others. Her husband Chris, a Scot, was an orthopedic surgeon.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:19PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Relationship Triage

by Susan Reinhardt . photo by Rimas Zailskas

This month, we answer a question that has baffled men for generations. And, a savvy nurse gives us a crash course in relationship “triage.” 

Q My question is: Why do women always go to the restroom in groups? It never seems to fail. If I’m in a restaurant with another couple and one gal leaves, they both go. Another mystery for the minds of mere mortal men.

- Perplexed About Potties in Weaverville

A For one thing, women’s restrooms are typically nicer, and some even display lotions, hairspray and high-dollar perfumes. Many have sofas and chairs. Even with all those amenities, the real reason women hit the john in mass numbers is we are social creatures and enjoy ducking in and dishing about our dates, adjusting our clothes and make-up or just gabbing.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:18PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Crusaders, Un-caped

The females of Fanaticon sketch a new path.

by Melanie McGee Bianchi . photo by Matt Rose

In an industry that’s “totally dominated by dudes,” as local hairdresser and comic writer Tiziana Severse says, girls who create comics are making ever-deeper impressions.

Asheville-raised cartoonist Hope Larson became an A-list graphic novelist. And the headliner of this year’s Fanaticon2—an expo encompassing all things comic and the rest of the fantasy genre—is Gail Simone, current illustrator of Wonder Woman.

Still, it’s taken most of a century for women cartoonists to rise. The superhero canon, Severse notes, relegated female characters to roles of “devices to be killed or rescued.” (At best, they were love interests.) She reckons the shift began in the ’80s, when cartoonist Cathy Guisewite created her eponymous strip about a harried working girl.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:17PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Waxing Charitable

A Hendersonville artist donates to Mainstay at the Flat Rock Playhouse production of Chicago.

by Ursula Gullow . photo by Matt Rose

Stacy Vanden Heuvel decided the best way to celebrate her first solo art show would be to help out her community. Vanden Heuvel’s encaustic paintings, giclee prints, note cards and journals will be on display at the Flat Rock Playhouse during the theater’s run of Chicago, from May 18 to June 12. Twenty five percent of all sales of her work will go to Mainstay, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence in Henderson County.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:16PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments3 Comments | References1 Reference

Book 'Em, Danno

Suzanne Spaziani is on the case to find just the right voice.

by Janet Hurley . photo by Matt Rose

Who would narrate the movie of your life? C’mon, secretly you probably have a voice in mind. A sexy gal with a Brazilian accent? Someone Southern and genteel? No worries. Suzanne Spaziani is on the case. She’s the Asheville- based CEO of Danno Management, a bi-coastal voice-over talent agency. Though she specializes in L.A.-based, union voice talent, she’ll scour the earth for the right voice for your movie. And then, like Detective Steve Garrett from Hawaii 5-O, she’ll book ‘em, Danno.

All humorous nods to classic television aside, Spaziani is serious about connecting clients with voice-over talent, whether for documentaries, commercials, animated films or (let’s just say) a talking vacuum cleaner.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:14PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments2 Comments | References1 Reference

Editor's Note

Sometimes, all it takes is a spark to help you see things in a new way.

Last month, I had several. First, I had the opportunity to work with amazing young journalists at Hatch, a four-day creative festival in downtown Asheville. Not only did they write, film, Tweet and take pictures, but they also interviewed panelists and bigshots—sometimes in the drink line. Props to Davin Eldridge, a 24-year-old journalism groundbreaker and reporter for the Macon County News, who pulled out a notepad and interviewed Hatch’s founder, Yarrow Kraner, while they waited for drinks at a networking party.

Then, the sparks flew at Hatch itself, where I was delighted to talk with fellow journalists from Asheville and around the country—including Tim Windsor of the AOL news project Patch.com; Jeff Chu, an editor at Fast Company; Jody Evans, the new Executive Director of WCQS; and Kim Ruehl, a staffer at the website of one of my favorite magazines, No Depression.

I got involved with Hatch a few years ago when a friend pulled me in, and, though it can be a lot of work (Hatch is run almost exclusively by volunteers), it’s been a highlight of my Asheville experience. I’m always struck by what it brings to Asheville, which is nothing short of electricity—a rare excitement and new energy for all sorts of creative endeavors. (In such a creative town, that’s something.) I’ve made many friends through Hatch and connected others on Hatch projects. Read more at hatchexperience.com and see journalism groundbreaker Timothy Meinch’s photographs on page 14.

Finally, the sparks fly every time I work on an issue of VERVE, and this issue marks our third anniversary. When we published our first issue, in May 2008, I never could have imagined how much work and time such a magazine would call for. Nor did I know then how much I would enjoy putting out every single issue. Creating VERVE is a defining aspect of my Asheville life, and I’m grateful to everyone who contributes and offers their help and support.

Happy reading,

Jess McCuan



Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 02:13PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment