Around Town: Asheville Arts Council preserves George Floyd protest art with exhibition, auction

PROTEST ART: These murals, which were put up on North Lexington Avenue in the summer of 2020, are now part of the Asheville Area Arts Council's latest virtual gallery and fundraiser. Photo by David Huff

Protest art is an effective tool for bringing awareness to injustices, says Katie Cornell, executive director of the Asheville Area Arts Council.

That’s why the arts council decided to assist in the preservation of street murals that sprung up all around downtown Asheville following the May 25, 2020, murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The art is now part of the 2020 AVL Protest Murals exhibition, which features a virtual gallery, an online auction of 27 original works and a speaker series.

When the murals first started to come down, Cornell says, the arts council worked with Aisha Adams from Equity Over Everything to determine how to best preserve them. Cornell also worked with Evar Hecht, who represented the artists responsible for creating the murals. Eventually, funding from Dogwood Health Trust allowed the arts council to secure a climate-controlled storage facility.

“This collection captures an important moment in both our national and local history that should not be forgotten,” Cornell says. “We have a lot of work still to do, and this exhibit provides an important reminder of that fact.”

Proceeds from the auction, which runs through Monday, Feb. 28, will be split among the Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County’s Community Outreach Providing Empowerment program and the arts council’s Arts Build Community grant program.

The speaker series starts on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at noon, with 2020 AVL Protest Arts Reflections, a virtual panel moderated by Adams. On Wednesday, Feb.16, Stephanie Hickling Beckman, executive director of Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective, will discuss what it’s like to be a person of color working as an artist in Asheville. And on Wednesday, Feb. 23, Sekou Coleman, executive director of Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community, will speak about engaging communities of color in local public art initiatives.

To bid on the murals, visit To register for the Feb. 9 virtual panel, go to

Look beyond Homeward

Thomas Wolfe published “Death the Proud Brother” in 1933, only four years after his controversial debut novel Look Homeward, Angel. The experimental short story demonstrates just how much the Asheville native had evolved as a writer in a brief time, says Terry Roberts, a local novelist and director of the National Paideia Center.

“It is original in form — a story that doesn’t tell a story — and suggests the influence of James Joyce and other important European modernists,” Roberts says. “It describes four seemingly unrelated deaths, all of which occur in New York, and then attempts to tie the four together through the deep and profound questions we all have about death.”

Roberts will lead a Zoom discussion of  “Death the Proud Brother” on Thursday, Feb. 10, 7-8 p.m. The event is part of the seventh annual Thomas Wolfe Short Story Discussion, held on the second Thursday of each month, January through April.

The club is a partnership between the Wilma Dykeman Legacy and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial state historic site. All story selections come from The Complete Short Stories of Thomas Wolfe, edited by Francis E. Skipp.

“[Wolfe] often gets dismissed by those who only know him for Look Homeward, Angel and criticize him for writing thinly disguised autobiography,” Roberts says. “In fact, Wolfe wrote extraordinarily accomplished novellas and short stories. The further you look into Wolfe’s life and career, you realize just how limited are many of the current views.”

For more information, visit To register for the Zoom discussion, email

Outside observer

When Asheville’s Bill Slawter decided to write a memoir about his early life, he knew he had to address the reality of his experiences as a white person growing up in the segregated South.

“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I did come into the world with a golden passport in my pocket that has opened doors for me throughout my life,” says Slawter, a retired attorney. “I don’t know whether I felt the need to apologize for that or simply to acknowledge it as the cold, hard truth.”

Slawter’s book, Sit-Ins, Drive-Ins and Uncle Sam: Coming of Age in the Era of Civil Rights and the Vietnam Draft, was recently published by Atmosphere Press. In the memoir, he looks back at growing up in Greensboro in the 1960s.

Slawter admits the Greensboro sit-ins, a series of nonviolent protests that began in February 1960 and gained international attention, had little impact on him at the time. Back then, he was just an observer sitting on the sidelines. But he thinks it is crucial for Americans, including schoolchildren, to learn about the sit-ins and the civil rights movement generally.

“Those who don’t want our children to learn about the past may not want to think about — and certainly not have our children think about — how their lives may have been made better at the expense of children with darker skin,” he says.

For more information or to purchase the book, visit

HART presents Nocturne

HART Theatre in Waynesville will present Nocturne, a one-man show examining a life of exceptional loss, Fridays-Sundays, Feb. 4-13.

According to a press release, audiences will “step into the psyche of ‘Son’ as he explores the effects of the incident that caused him to accidentally kill his sister at a very young age and how his family was subsequently torn apart.”

Written by Adam Rapp, the play stars Jered Shults and is directed by Doug Savitt.

HART Theatre is at 250 Pigeon St. in Waynesville. For tickets, visit

ACT auditions

Asheville Community Theatre will hold auditions for The Giver on Monday, Feb. 7, and Tuesday, Feb. 8, 5:30-7:30 p.m. The show will run on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, April 29-May 22.

The Giver is Eric Coble’s stage adaption of Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning book about a world in which there is no pain, but no joy, either.

Director Michael Jorizzo is looking for nine or more child and adult actors.

Asheville Community Theatre is at 35 Walnut St. For more information, visit

Pink Dog show

A collection of works by Pink Dog 348 Group artists are on display in the hallway gallery at Pink Dog Creative through April 3.

Mediums include glass art, oils, acrylics, cold wax, encaustic, mixed media, textile art, portraiture, landscape and abstracts.

Participating artists are Lynn Bregman BlassKaren Keil BrownJulieta  FumbergLeene Hermann, Gayle Paul, Joseph Pearson, Sarah St Laurent, Larry Turner and Cindy Walton.

The gallery will host an opening reception on Thursday, Feb. 10, 5-7 p.m.

Pink Dog Creative is at 348 Depot St. in the Asheville River Arts District. For more information, go to

Play time

Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville has named Marci Bernstein interim executive director. Bernstein has more than two decades of theater experience, including co-founding and managing Attic Salt Theatre Company.

“Marci has spent her entire adult life working in the arts as an actor, musician, writer, director and producer in New York City and in Western North Carolina,” the playhouse says in a press release. “She’s spent many years in the classroom developing programs that balance education basics with the arts.”

The playhouse is embarking on its 75th season with a lineup of shows that will include Working: A Musical, The Savannah Sipping Society and  Sherwood: The Legend of Robin Hood.

It is offering two audition options for the 2022 Mainstage Season. One audition will be specifically for experienced actors, the other for inexperienced actors.

The experienced actors auditions will be held Saturday, Feb. 12, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 13, 3-5 p.m. The less experienced actors auditions will take place Saturday, Feb. 12, 2-4 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 13, 1-3 p.m.

The Parkway Playhouse is at 202 Green Mountain Drive in Burnsville. For more information, go to



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