Around Town: Asheville artists find inspiration from Italy

LA DOLCE VITA: Asheville artists, from left, Mark Bettis, Philip DeAngelo and Michael Hofman have a new exhibit inspired by a recent trip to Italy. Photo courtesy of DeAngelo

When three River Arts District artists recently visited Rome, Florence and Venice, they viewed the experience as more than a simple vacation.

“We all knew that this was going to be first and foremost a trip that was meant to inspire and grow us as artists,” says Philip DeAngelo. “There were magical elements of each city that we visited that will forever become fuel for our art. We all returned with new ideas to try in our studios.”

DeAngelo, fellow painter Mark Bettis and ceramicist Michael Hofman will strive to re-create their trip with a new exhibit, I Sensi dell’Italia (The Senses of Italy), at the Philip DeAngelo Studio, Saturday, May 14-Saturday, May 21.

Bettis, who has five paintings in the exhibit, says he was inspired by the textures and colors he saw on the trip. “The pinks, terra cotta, Veronese greens, sienna and, of course, Naples yellow are all in my palette of colors for the show,” he says. “To me, that was Italy.”

DeAngelo says Hofman did an amazing  job of capturing the dichotomy of ancient and modern Rome in the sculptures he will display in the exhibit.

“And in my work, I hope to convey the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany,” DeAngelo says. “It seemed that time slowed down for me while I was in that countryside, and I hope the viewer can get a sense of that in my paintings.”

An opening reception for I Sensi dell’Italia (The Senses of Italy) will be Saturday, May 14, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Philip DeAngelo Studio, 115 Roberts St., is open Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, go to

Partners no more

Maria “Ria” Young has dissolved her Artistic Partner fellowship with Asheville Community Theatre four months early.

“My cast, crew and myself were consistently met with apathy, disregard, disrespect and an overall ill-mannered feeling while preparing to share a vulnerable piece of Black art,” she shared in a Facebook post. “After the premiere of Transition [a play Young adopted from her memoir Lost in a Game], I filed a five-page grievance letter with ACT and their board of directors detailing every single issue, misuse, challenge, barrier and harm we encountered, as well as things that were not carried out by them.”

The Asheville writer, director and filmmaker became ACT’s inaugural Artistic Partner in September. As part of the planned yearlong partnership, Young directed a staged production of Transition, performed on the ACT main stage April 1-3.

At Young’s request, ACT agreed to end the partnership, paid her in full and released all rights to her plays.

“We are deeply sorry that her experiences were so negative,” ACT says in statement. “It’s painful to hear that she experienced our actions as barriers. We appreciate the feedback — it helps us to understand her experience from her perspective so that we can make changes and continue our work with a better understanding.”

Additionally, ACT says it has committed to expanding its internal diversity, equity and inclusion training, and examining and making improvements to its culture.

“Only time will tell if tangible changes are made and willing to be sustained within that organization,” Young stated in her Facebook post. “I would not recommend any Black artist be subjected to even half of what my cast and I experienced in that space.”

Young is in talks to find a new home for Through Troubled Waters, a play she wrote during the fellowship that was going to get a staged reading this summer.

For a song

The LEAF Festival Singer-Songwriter Competition and Showcase has the word “competition” right there in the title, but don’t expect a cutthroat reality show approach by the contestants.

“The mission is to build a supportive community of performers and songwriters across all genres of music and levels of skill and to identify the truly exceptional artists within this community,” says Alli Marshall, director of artist communication for NewSong Music. “This is a chance for artists to network with each other and other LEAF artists, to meet potential collaborators and supporters, and to be inspired.”

The event is a partnership between LEAF Global Arts and Asheville-based NewSong, which recently announced this year’s eight finalists. They are invited to network and compete at the Spring LEAF Retreat, Saturday, May 14, at the Lounging Barn at Lake Eden in Black Mountain.

The finalists are: Grace Morrison, a country-pop artist based in Massachusetts; American Idol alum Stephen Sylvester; rapper Rachard Dennis; indie-folk artist Kristian Phillip Valentino; indie-rocker Kelly Hoppenjans; guitarist Sadie Gustafson-Zook; roots musician Philip Bowen; and Justin Poindexter and Sasha Papernik, who make up the award-winning Americana duo Our Band.

The winner  will be chosen by a panel of music industry judges and will earn a spot as one of eight finalists at the annual International NewSong Competition, held in Asheville in the fall. The winner will also be a featured, paid performer at the Fall LEAF Festival, Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 20-23.

For more information, vist

Mistaken identity

Local author Kristin Dwyer finds teenagers to be a tough audience, but she loves writing for them.

“I like that teen readers don’t ask you to justify messy complicated feelings with rational explanations,” she says. “Feelings can exist just simply because they do. I like that teen readers love firsts. First loves, first heartbreak, first experiences that shape you.”

Dwyer’s debut young adult novel, Some Mistakes Were Made, was released May 10 by HarperTeen. It tells the story of a romance between two teens, Ellis and Easton, whose inseparable bond is tested by calamitous events.

“The idea of family and what makes you feel connected to others has always been important to me,” Dwyer says. “I wanted to talk about how the loss of one person can actually change your whole life and affect all of your relationships, and what it means to forgive someone even when someone doesn’t think they were wrong.”

The novel has been praised by School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews, which called it “a powerful tale of found family and first love.”

Dwyer will discuss the book with author Adrienne Young on Wednesday, May 18, at 6 p.m., at a hybrid in-person/online event sponsored by Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, 55 Haywood St.

For more information or to register for the May 18 event, visit

Honoring Black women

Crystal Cauley, a Hendersonville creative writer, spoken-word poet and community leader, will present No Crystal Stair, Evolutionary Struggle of the Black Woman at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hendersonville on Sunday, May 15, 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Inspired by the Langston Hughes poem “Mother to Son,” the show will pay tribute to Black women in America through spoken-word poetry, singing and interpretive dance.

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hendersonville is at 2021 Kanuga Road, Hendersonville. For more information, go to

Magic in the air

The Vanishing Wheelchair, a nonprofit public charity for people with disabilities, will celebrate its reopening with a performance by magician Michael Lair on Saturday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m., at its new location, 175 Weaverville Highway, Suite H. The event also will celebrate the reopening of Magic Central Magic Shop.

The Vanishing Wheelchair was founded in 2010 by magicians Ricky D. Boone and T.J. Shimeld. It has used  proceeds from its events to launch All Things Possible workshops, which teach skills in performing, painting, photography, music, crafts, writing and woodworking to people with disabilities.

Boone’s magic shop, Magic Central, has moved into the same space as the nonprofit.

Ticket sales of $20 for adults and $5 for children will help raise money for The Vanishing Wheelchair. For more information or to buy tickets, go to


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One thought on “Around Town: Asheville artists find inspiration from Italy

  1. Curious

    Is Maria “Ria” Young taking her plays to Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective? Wouldn’t that be a natural fit?

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