Around Town: Burlesque festival returns to Asheville

LET’S GET FUNKY: Samson Night is one of the headliners at the upcoming Land of the Sky Burlesque Festival. Night is a Burlesque Hall of Fame member and will teach a class on how to perform with funk. Photo courtesy of Land Of the Sky Burlesque

“Burlesque is an expressive art form that at its very basic level encourages us to love ourselves,” says Queen April, performer and co-producer of Land of the Sky Burlesque Festival.

The three-day gathering reconvenes for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic at The Grey Eagle from Friday, Aug. 19-Sunday, Aug. 21.

“We use our bodies to tell stories, express our feelings and hopefully excite, inspire and entertain our audience,” continues Queen April. “It’s powerful and vulnerable at the same time.”

Along with local talent, the gathering will feature 60 performers from 14 states.

Rebel Vitale, a fellow performer and co-producer, stresses the festival’s emphasis of diversity and inclusion. “When you come to our burlesque show as an audience member, I guarantee you will find someone like you,” she says.

The party kicks off Friday at 8 p.m. with Geektastic Nerdlesque Revue, a performance celebrating pop culture and fandoms. Saturday night continues with Just a Peak: An Elevated Burlesque Show, a nonthemed, multiact performance.  The festival concludes on Sunday with Burlesque Brunch at noon.

Along with these shows, the festival’s headliners and sponsors will offer classes at Empyrean Arts on Saturday, Aug. 20, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“The festival is stacked with brilliant performers — most of them from other states,” says Rebel Vitale. “This is a chance to see them all in one place. Burlesque shows are also fun, uplifting, and every act brings something different to the table. You’ll never be bored.”

The Grey Eagle is at 185 Clingman Ave. Empyrean Arts is at 32 Banks Ave., No. 108. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Burning bright

When poet William Blake felt frustrated with the Church of England’s abuse of power in the 18th century, he wrote a dark romantic poem, “The Tyger.” As a societal outsider, vigorous abolitionist and advocate for human expression, he was maligned and dismissed during his life.

Inspired by Blake’s work, Asheville locals have opened a new venue in the River Arts District, Tyger Tyger Gallery.

Founding director Mira Gerard, associate director Melissa Crouch and gallery manager Nora Hartlaub will host an inaugural reception at Tyger Tyger Gallery on Friday, Aug. 19, 5-8 p.m.

“Tyger Tyger Gallery seeks to … [emphasize] those who have been historically marginalized and underrepresented in the art world,” says Gerard in a press release. “We believe that what is put into the world can shape the world; therefore running an art gallery is a form of power that should be handled with great care and intention.”

With this in mind, the opening exhibition, What Strange Water, What Strange Air, features paintings and drawings by three queer artists. Christian Rieben paints storylike, dense landscapes; Caleb Yono uses figurative pastels to show a world where high femme protagonists maintain the universe; and Gerard embraces landscapes as a location for shifting emotional states.
Tyger Tyger Gallery is in Riverview Station, 191 Lyman St. The gallery will be open Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, visit

We built this city

James Vester Miller built the Mount Zion Baptist Church in 1919, contracted the Asheville Municipal Building, which was completed in 1926, and helped build many of Asheville’s historic buildings that remain standing. However, he and other Black builders have not historically received the public recognition their white counterparts have enjoyed.

Aiming to shift this narrative, the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, in partnership with Buncombe County Special Collections, present We Built This: Profiles of Black Architects and Builders in North Carolina. On display at Pack Memorial Public Library, the exhibit runs through Monday, Oct. 10. 

“Black builders, craftspeople and architects have made significant contributions to the built environment,” says Erica LeClaire, PSABC’s preservation director. “I hope that people walk away with a better understanding of how different our world would look without the contribution by the Black community.”

We Built This, a traveling exhibit designed by Preservation North Carolina, features more than two dozen profiles, in addition to historical context on slavery, Reconstruction, the founding of historically Black colleges and universities and Black churches, segregation and the rise of Black civic leaders and professionals.

The free exhibit is open every Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

For more information, visit  

Summer nights

Foundy Street Flashback Film series presents a screening of ’80s musical fantasy film Xanadu, starring the late Olivia Newton-John.  The fun starts with a pre-film party at 7 p.m., followed by a performance by Drag Queen Ganymede at 8 p.m. The movie will screen at sundown. The event happens at the Wedge at Foundation, Thursday, Aug. 18.

Grail Moviehouse will provide the screening, and festivities include a DJ set by Jaze Uries and a Gospel Ice Cream pop-up, with limited seating from Sunnyside Trading Co. The event benefits Cat Fly Film Festival.

The Wedge at Foundation is at 5 Foundy St., Suite 10. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit

Local poetry finalist

Diamond Forde, UNC Asheville English department fellow of faculty diversity, was nominated as one of 12 finalists for the 2022 national Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships. Five fellowship recipients will be announced in September to receive $25,800 each. The seven other finalists will receive $4,430.

Forde is a poet, editor, scholar and instructor whose debut collection, Mother Body, won the 2019 Saturnalia Poetry Prize. She has won numerous additional awards, including the Pink Poetry Prize, the Furious Flower Poetry Prize and the College Language Association’s Margaret Walker Memorial Prize.

For more information, visit 

(Sleep)walk through time

There’s still time to catch Sleepwalking: 2004-2022, a photo exhibition by artist Ygnacio Rivero of Mérida, Mexico. The free exhibition concludes Saturday, Aug. 20, at the Pink Dog Gallery inside Pink Dog Creative.

Rivero’s exhibit looks at architectural deterioration as a reflection on the imprint of time. He photographs areas of ruin or neglect, primarily in Mexico, to show the strength in flaws.

“Each city is a collective text,” says Rivero in a press release. “I enter those passages of the city that … fall into deterioration … but at the same time, the graphic strength of their open fissures and discolored textures are revealed. Each crack, each hole, each landslide is a demonstrative gesture that [mirrors] my own cries and impulses.”

Pink Dog Creative is at 342-348 Depot St. For more information, visit

Two cultures

In preparation for the November election, Asheville Area Arts Council recently announced it will host three Wednesday night town hall candidate forums Sept.7, Sept. 28 and Oct. 12, 5-7 p.m. Each forum will feature a chance to mingle in the lobby and courtyard of the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, followed by a moderated Q&A session with the candidates in the Tina McGuire Theatre.

The Asheville Area Arts Council will also host a State of the Arts Brunch at The Orange Peel, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 10:30 a.m.-noon. During the event, arts advocates will learn about the state of the creative sector in Buncombe County and hear from city and county candidates about local arts support. Tickets cost $45.

Post-election, the arts council will host a free Town Hall Meet & Greet at the Asheville Art Museum. The event’s February date has yet to be announced. But the event will give the arts community an opportunity to become better acquainted with newly elected officials. At the event, the AAAC will also share the 2022-23 arts policy agenda.

Registration is required for all events.

Wortham Center for the Performing Arts is at 18 Biltmore Ave. For more information and to register for any of the events, visit


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