A&E roundup: Pickens commissioned to create Wortham Center courtyard mural

NATIVE DESIGN: Asheville-based artist Jenny Pickens is hard at work on a mural for the courtyard of the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts. Her sketches, left, for the final product synthesize over 20 years of performances at the theater. Photos by Hedy Fischer

A few weeks after completing her role as one of the three lead artists on the Asheville Area Arts Council’s downtown Black Lives Matter mural, Jenny Pickens is hard at work on her next endeavor. The Asheville native is the first artist-in-residence for Randy Shull’s and Hedy Fischer’s 22 London studio and exhibition space, and has been commissioned to design and paint a 4-by-24-foot mural for the courtyard of the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts. In designing the mural, Pickens researched thousands of performances at the Wortham Center and filtered her findings down to images that synthesize over 20 years of programming. She recently began working on the three-panel mural at 22 London and aims to have it completed by the end of August or early September. Shortly thereafter, it will be installed in the courtyard. avl.mx/7y5

Writing range

Among the books by local authors published in August are a pair of decidedly different offerings. Available since Aug. 11, Bee Locke’s Creative Woodburning (avl.mx/7y7) is a visual guide for pyrographers of all levels, featuring 20 step-by-step projects that teach readers the basics, plus advanced techniques like shading, creating realistic fur and adding color. Joining it is Sebastian Matthews’ Beyond Repair: Living in a Fractured State (avl.mx/7y8), a memoir in essays that finds the author struggling to reconnect with society after three years of recovering at home following injuries from a major car accident. The book, which attempts to capture the polarized condition of the nation 2014-19, will be published on Tuesday, Aug. 25.


Local singer-songwriter Chris Wilhelm is back with This Too Shall Pass, his first full-length album in five years. The self-described “record for survivors, outsiders and dreamers” finds the guitarist/vocalist revealing previously unexpressed layers of vulnerability and will be performed in full on Thursday, Aug. 20, at 6:30 p.m., on the Isis Music Hall lawn. Wilhelm will be joined by his backing band from the album, composed of Josh Maddox (drums), Chris Rosser (keyboard, guitars), Zack Page (stand-up bass) and Asher Leigh (backing vocals). The program will also include favorite earlier tracks from Wilhelm’s catalog and a few cover songs. Tickets are $15. isisasheville.com

It might get loud

Once the site of the participatory “Before I Die” chalkboard, the wall on Biltmore Avenue between the Bender Gallery and Shanghai Dumpling House has been transformed into an outdoor gallery by local photographer John Gellman. In June and July, his snapshots of local buskers attracted the attention of numerous pedestrians, and since Aug. 9, the wall has played host to 50 Years of Music Photography or How to Go Deaf Without Really Trying. The latest show features images of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, CSNY, Duane Allman, Ronnie Van Zant, Charlie Daniels and other icons from Gellman’s decades-long tenure as a rock photographer. “How long the new show will remain depends upon how many prints are removed by passersby, or if the owners of the wall make me stop,” Gellman says. jgphoto.com

Back to school

The 2020 Wortham Center for the Performing Arts’ Youth Education Scholarship Emerging Artists Fund winners have been announced, aiding high school graduates who plan to pursue a career in the performing arts. The gifted local students are: T.C. Roberson High School vocalist/actor Anaiya Adwaters, who plans to pursue musical theater at UNC Greensboro; Enka High School guitarist Linda Diaz (music, UNC Asheville); A.C. Reynolds High School tubist Chayse Howard (music education, Appalachian State University); T.C. Roberson vocalist/actor Katherine Stevens (dramatic art and music/vocal performance, UNC Chapel Hill); Nesbitt Discovery Academy saxophonist and actor Julien Swoap (theater, creative writing and physics, Hamilton College); Enka clarinetist Shelby Taylor (music performance and graphic design, Western Carolina University); and T.C. Roberson trumpeter Aaron White (trumpet performance, Arizona State University). worthamarts.org

Clay unity

In April, when her Village Potters Clay Center was unable to operate as usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarah Wells Rolland persevered by remaining hopeful — and decided to make and sell 500 vessels for the fundraiser Vessels of Hope to keep the River Arts District studio going. “I could not have foreseen the glorious experience that was about to unfold,” she says. “I have received an outpouring of love and encouragement from all of you, and it has sustained me through the momentous project.”

Though in-person classes with limited capacity have returned in the interim, the current critical nature of sales has inspired Rolland and the six other artists who call the space home to embark upon Vessels of Hope: Chapter Two. Lori Theriault is making 100 bowls with sgraffito trees carved into the surfaces; Christine Henry, 50 vases with impressions from objects found in nature; Judi Harwood, 100 small saggar vessels; Tori Motyl, 50 baskets with cane handles; Julia Mann, 100 candle lanterns; new addition Katie Messersmith, 100 vessels; and Rolland will make a limited series of 25 large vessels. “We are believing that the Vessels of Hope: Chapter Two project will carry us through November and hopefully well into 2021,” Roland says. thevillagepotters.com


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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