Anatomy of an Art School

Sheri Kahn is leading a shake-up at the Fine Arts League of the Carolinas, and she and the school are likely to get significant new cash. Now, the question is: In a digital age, who has the time or money to study classical art?

by Jess McCuan . portrait by Rimas Zailskas

“You don’t necessarily want artists running an art school,” says Sheri Kahn, an outspoken 49-year-old native New Yorker who took over as executive director of the Fine Arts League of the Carolinas in January.

But for years, her school was run by artists—and one artist in particular, Ben Long. In 2002, Long, a fresco painter from Statesville, North Carolina, founded an art school in Asheville based on traditions of the Old Masters. He and his artist friends conducted classical drawing and painting classes in his College Street studio downtown, then on Rankin Avenue, before moving the school to its current location, in half of a 6,400-square-foot building on Depot Street in the now-bustling River Arts District. Long, who apprenticed with Italian fresco master Pietro Annigoni, has painted the walls of famous churches around the world. He splits time between the U.S. and Europe, and his repertoire includes a gigantic three-panel painting in the lobby of the Bank of America headquarters in Charlotte, the largest secular fresco in the U.S.

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Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:57PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References6 References

Felter Skelter

Ashevillean Lisa Klakulak travels the world. When she comes home, she pushes the limits of what can be done with felt.

by Melanie McGee Bianchi . photos by Zaire Kacz

On her next trip, maybe Lisa Klakulak can help out Princess Beatrice. If you recall, Beatrice was the beleaguered Brit sporting the much-mocked, wacky-but-tacky hats and fascinators at various royal events this spring. If she could just get her hands on Lisa Klakulak’s felted headgear, she might regain some semblance of aristocratic dignity.

But while Klakulak’s work may be fit for a future queen, it is far from staid. In fact, the 36-year-old Asheville-based artisan has stretched the outer limits of what can be done with felt—making jewelry, wall sculpture, handbags, scarves and coverings for vessels and mirrors. Every piece is intricate and textural, sometimes futuristic-looking and colored with naturally derived dyes (cochineal, madder root, indigo). Her inventive, brilliantly hued pieces have unexpected embellishments, such as the aster-blue topper that ends in a flurry of geometric tails.

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Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:56PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

A Schoolhouse That Rocks

The founder of Evergreen Charter School talks about its early days.

by Janet Hurley . portrait by Matt Rose

In spring of 1998, Maureen Motley awoke from a dream about golden puzzle pieces and heard a voice: Start the charter school. “I’m a psychotherapist,” says Motley, now 52. “I work with people who hear voices all the time.” Still, however crazy it seemed, she knew she had to start what is now Evergreen Community Charter School, a tuition-free public school that meets North Carolina Core Curriculum requirements through alternative teaching methods.

Today, that decision is anything but crazy to the almost 400 students, grades K-8, who enjoy “expeditionary” (project-based) learning on the bucolic campus, tucked away in Haw Creek in east Asheville. Recently, VERVE talked with Motley—now the outpatient manager of RHA, a longstanding regional nonprofit that serves people with intellectual and development disabilities. We asked her about the education she received as Evergreen came together, and for her thoughts on recent legislative battles over charter schools.

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Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:55PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References4 References

Hope for Those With Eating Disorders

A panel this month sheds light on a growing problem.

by Katy Nelson . photos by Beth Ellen

In the mid-‘90s, when Dianna Goodman’s eldest daughter, Sarah Vance, developed an eating disorder in the ninth grade, it was difficult to find help. Goodman, an Asheville native and retired teacher, looked around for books on the subject, or for health providers specifically trained to treat eating disorders. “It was all new—people just didn’t know,” Goodman says. Out of this isolating experience, she knew one thing: “We don’t want that to happen to other families.”

So, in 2004, Goodman founded T.H.E. Center for Disordered Eating (the T.H.E. stands for Treatment, Healing and Education). Ever since, she has been a quiet force behind T.H.E. Center’s weekly support group for women and men in recovery from eating disorders. Weekly meetings are still the cornerstone of T.H.E. Center, which has an office in the Central United Methodist Church’s Haywood Street campus in downtown Asheville. T.H.E. Center, led by director April Pryor, survives on grants and private donations and has a lending library of more than 90 books on disordered eating. Pryor, a licensed professional counselor, advises families about local healthcare providers and national treatment centers.

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Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:54PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References10 References

Sunny Side Up

Her fast-growing solar installation company just made the Inc. 500 list. In her secret double life, she’s a flute-playing Lady Gaga.

by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

Comparing Joanna Baker to Lady Gaga may be a bit of a stretch. After all, Baker, who’s 30, leads a relatively normal life, going to work and band practice, whereas the pop singer is known for outrageous stunts like ziplining into TV interviews and wearing dresses made of red meat. But Lady Gaga songs are certainly in Baker’s range. And to be sure, Baker’s co-workers and acquaintances are frequently shocked to find that the sweet, smiling marketing manager of First Light Solar Energy in West Asheville leads a secret double life in rock and roll.

By day, Baker helps get the word out about FLS, which installs solar panels and hot water heating systems at institutions and companies around the country. Since its founding in 2006, the company has seen explosive growth. The three founders—Dale Freudenberger, Hardy LeGwin and Michael Shore—and their team of 80 employees are set to ring up around $30 million in revenues this year, which just put them at #46 on Inc. Magazine’s annual list of the fastest-growing private companies in the country.

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Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:52PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Mixed Messages

Last month, we heard about the trouble with “sexting.” Now, funny tales of what happens when the milder ones end up in the wrong inbox.

by Susan Reinhardt . photo by Rimas Zailskas

Last month we talked about sexting, sending racy texts that end up being viewed by folks they aren’t intended for. Nothing more embarrassing, right? Well, milder mis-texting can create its own drama.

My friend Porter was awakened a few weeks ago by the ring tone his phone delivers when a text arrives. “I sleepily grabbed the phone, pushed the message inbox button and read: ‘Tonite was awesome Baby. I love you.’ “Sounds great, right?” he says. “Unfortunately, I remembered that I had spent the evening watching the Red Sox, eating Cheetos, drinking Blue Moon beer and falling asleep on the couch. All by myself.”

When he checked his phone again and saw that it was from his 17-year-old son, he realized the text was obviously meant for his son’s beautiful girlfriend. When he asked his son about it the next day, he got only a look that said: “Eat your heart out, Dad.”

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Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:51PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Sink or Swim

A longtime swim instructor turns 50 in style.

by Mick Kelly . portrait by Matt Rose

One thing Donna Cannone loves about teaching swimming is helping people overcome their fears. Whether it’s easing them into the water or nudging them to take a first dive into the pool, she likes watching students—young and old—battle past their anxieties and take the plunge. “I love watching their confidence soar,” she says.

But confident as she may be in her athletic abilities, she was far from confident about her looks as she approached her 50th birthday (it’s on September 5). Cannone, Pool Director at the Asheville Racquet Club in South Asheville for 11 years and a swim instructor for 14, says she’s always felt quite plain. Not to mention the fact that, on a daily basis, her hair and skin soak up a lot of chlorine. The mother of four now lives in Arden with her husband Joe. But when they lived on Long Island in New York, she says she once bowed out of an event completely because she didn’t feel comfortable in a tight peach dress. “I was too self-conscious,” she says.

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Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:51PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments14 Comments | References7 References

Purple Reign

interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

Name: Jami Daniels

Age: 34

Lives in: North Asheville

Works at: Daniels Graphics, a South Asheville printing & marketing firm

So what’s your title at Daniels Graphics? I don’t know, heir apparent? Really, I change it to whatever fits me at the moment. We’re third generation printers. It is actually my dream job.

Okay, fill in the blanks of this sentence: Asheville could use more…. Industry.

And less… Patchouli.

Ha. What do you like about living here? I like being part of the solution, instead of just whining. I feel like I’m part of a group of 30-year-old women who are just getting things done. 

Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:49PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment

Soul Sister

interview by Olivia Springer . photo by Beth Ellen

Name: Wendy Nethersole

Age: 53

Lives in: Gerton, North Carolina

How long have you lived here? Since 2007. We moved from Florida. My husband and I came here on our honeymoon in 1998.

What do you do? We have a foundation called Anam Cara. It’s all about helping people live from a heart-centered place, about living a joyful life. We actually just decided to create an office space downtown in a beautiful old renovated house in Montford.

Did you always know you wanted to do that? We always knew when we met each other that we wanted to serve and help others.

You say you live in Gerton. Where exactly is that, and do you live on a mountain? It’s about 25 minutes from Asheville and 3,200 feet up. We wanted to be out in the woods because we do a number of workshops, and we know how important it is to creating inner peace.

Where do you find your inner peace? Being in nature and with other people I love. I believe we all have soul family, it’s all about intentions and relationships, which is where the joy comes from.

Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:48PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Easing Epilepsy

A mother’s fund focuses on quality of life.

by Melanie McGee Bianchi . photo by Matt Rose

In 2008, their cherished son Josh died from a head blow sustained during a seizure, and Sandi and Bruce Chapnick still attend grief counseling. But rather than simply grieve, the couple took action. Since last July, the part-time Asheville residents have managed to accrue more than $60,000 to support other young adults with epilepsy. This meaningful feat has been equally healing for them. “It’s been so therapeutic,” says Sandi Chapnick. While national nonprofits search for a cure, the Chapnicks’ fund provides money exclusively for transportation and medications. (Daughter Nicole will one day head The Joshua David Chapnick Epilepsy and Seizure Disorder Fund, after both parents retire.)

Epileptics aren’t allowed to drive for six months following a seizure, and medicine can cost up to $900 per month. Nationwide, about 200,000 new cases are recorded each year, a diagnosis rate that rivals breast cancer. Josh’s first grand mal seizure occurred in 1996, in front of his high school soccer team. A devastating isolation ensued. Even his closest friends dropped him, spooked by what they’d seen. Once “safe” at the University of Pittsburgh—a school he chose mainly for its distance from his hometown of Sarasota, Florida—Sandi says Josh wondered whom he should tell. “There’s still a terrible stigma,” she says.

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Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:47PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References104 References

Economy's a Mess?

A local staffing executive says: Don’t fret. In her world, things are looking up.

by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

Deborah Pressley started her 28-year career in the staffing biz with a phone call. But not in the way you might expect.

The Asheville native was 20 years old, working three jobs, and walked into a branch of the national staffing firm Uniforce. Two phones were ringing off the hook, and while she was waiting to be interviewed, Pressley picked up a phone and said, “Good Morning, Uniforce.” The owner, Betty Zeluff, hired her on the spot, and she stayed for five years.

She spent the next 23 years moving up the ranks at a locally-owned firm, Friday Staffing, which recruits for technical, clerical, professional and industrial jobs, including five of the area’s largest manufacturers. Ashevillean David Modaff and his family own the company, which was founded by David’s father, John Modaff, in 1987. The company now has three regional offices and around 700 temporary employees. It generates annual revenues of some $20 million.

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Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:46PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References4 References

Spokes Woman

A singer-songwriter gathers her best material on wheels.

by Olivia Springer

If Jenna Lindbo could play guitar while riding her bicycle, she would. Riding nearly every day, the 26-year old Asheville singer songwriter gets most of her material from nature and her surroundings. Lindbo, who has been compared to Norah Jones, Brandi Carlile and even Dolly Parton (which makes her giggle) released her first album, Strings and Spokes, last summer. She plays shows at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro and Purple Onion Café in Saluda this month.

Growing up in the central Oregon town of Bend, Lindbo inherited her grandpa’s old upright piano and found a teacher, Becky French, to plant the seed for her love of music. She played sax in junior high and keys in jazz band, then picked up guitar and singing in high school. It was in a songwriting class at Oregon State University that she knew she was hooked on music as a career.

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Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:45PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Love: It's Never Too Late

Playwright Lucia Del Vecchio’s latest show is about romance between seniors. In trailer parks.

by Beth Ellen . photo by Matt Rose

Don’t be alarmed when you find that Asheville playwright Lucia Del Vecchio has been surfing

When she started writing Shangri-la, a quirky comedy about the love lives of retired adults in a Florida trailer park, she wanted a realistic close-up view of senior dating. And then it turned out that she found love after 60 positively fascinating. “There was this one elderly gentleman whose profile stated he liked to go on walks at the mall or K-mart every day, play board games, and sex was not a priority,” says Del Vecchio, who is happily married to the producer and director Chall Gray. “There’s also the one that said, ‘I want to make sweet, delicious love to you.’ It was really graphic.”

Del Vecchio, a 35-year-old Connecticut native with an MFA in playwriting from University of Texas at Austin, says Shangri-la is one of the lightest and most accessible plays she’s penned so far. It runs later this month at The Magnetic Field, a bar/restaurant and performance space that opened late last year in the River Arts District. The Field is owned by Gray, and in its theatre program, Gray and artistic director Steven Samuels are dedicated to debuting original works. So far, that includes three plays that Del Vecchio has either written, directed or performed in.

In Shangri-la, audiences will catch glimpses of one of Del Vecchio’s aunts, who re-entered the dating game after losing her husband to Parkinson’s. “There’s a rivalry between two women, and one thinks the other woman’s clothing is too revealing,” she says. “The woman with the revealing clothing was my aunt. I got her permission to use it.” In probing the world of elderly romance, Del Vecchio hopes to get people chuckling and prove a few points—namely, that young love and aging love are not so different. “They’re just like us, only they’ve been around a lot longer,” she says. “This play will give a perspective on what we have to look forward to.”

Tickets $12/$14. 828-668-2154 or

Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:44PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Editor's Note

If summer was the season for getting together, fall is for turning over new leaves.

I’ve had the privilege of talking recently with savvy colleagues who will be helping VERVE do great things. In the coming months, we’ll roll out a new website. We’re also planning a handful of ambitious events and community projects that we’ve long had in the works. Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page (VERVE Asheville) for details. First up in October: a VERVE Night at the CarePartners Design House in Biltmore Forest that includes wine, food and design.

When you have ideas about how we can improve, please send them my way. It’s been a year since we started publishing the magazine in our larger format and on a monthly schedule. Time to kick things up a notch.

Personally, I’m turning over a few new leaves as well. I put an old pickup, a 1979 Ford that I loved. up for sale. She simply didn’t fit in my life anymore. And while I’m sad to see her go, I’ve been relieved to have one less old machine to maintain. Besides, now I’ll be freer to go out and look for new (to me, anyway) vintage stuff.

These past few weeks, I’ve helped some friends through difficult times and, in one case, with a bit of a makeover. This fall, when you get a chance, encourage someone to go after a new project or try a new look. I’m finding it’s just as fulfilling to see another person’s transformation as it is to tackle my own.

Happy reading,

Jess McCuan

Posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:43PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment