Around town: Cherokee potter will share knowledge with UNCA students

ART LESSONS: Tara McCoy demonstrates shaping pottery using Cherokee tools and techniques with a class of UNC Asheville students. Photo courtesy of Kilyne Oocumma/The Center for Native Health

Potter Tara McCoy, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, will work with UNC Asheville students as the first artist funded by the Celebrating Cherokee Heritage Through Art and Making grant. The grant is a collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts and UNCA.

In the role, McCoy will create educational experiences for UNCA students and “set the stage for empowering Cherokee artists by expanding the knowledge of pottery practices thousands of years old,” according to a UNCA media release. University officials hope the partnership marks the beginning of an ongoing Cherokee artist residency.

“Cherokee pottery is one of the oldest art forms in North America,” McCoy said in the press release. “Colonization and forced assimilation are devastating to our cultural preservation. We have lost a lot, and a lot of it was taken from us purposefully, but we are also trying to revitalize a lot of culture and pottery is one way we are doing that.”

McCoy has previously hosted UNCA students on the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, where they engaged with local artists about the history of Cherokee pottery and art and visited the Qualla Arts and Crafts and the Museum of the Cherokee People. She also has demonstrated hand-building techniques to students, offered lessons on incorporating story into art and hosted a pit firing with Matt West, lecturer of art at UNCA.

“Cherokee people who are not involved in academia still have a lot of education or cultural knowledge that is overlooked because they do not have degrees,” McCoy said in the release. “Projects like this one allow for that knowledge to be utilized and passed on. I hope the students realize that Cherokee people are alive and thriving [and] learn about our culture from us and hear us tell our stories and history.”

An exhibit featuring some of McCoy’s work, as well as student work done as part of the collaboration, will be Thursday, Feb. 8-Thursday, Feb. 22 at Highsmith Gallery, 1 University Heights on UNCA’s campus. For more information, go to

JAM Kids benefit

Grammy Award winner Jim Lauderdale will headline an annual fundraising concert for the Junior Appalachian Music Kids of Henderson County program at Trailside Brewing Co. on Wednesday, Dec. 27. The JAM Kids will play from 7-7:45 p.m. before Lauderdale takes the stage at 8:15 p.m.

Sponsored by the French Broad Valley Music Association, JAM Kids is a program of twice weekly after-school classes in fiddle, clawhammer banjo, guitar, singing, dance and band for students ages 8-17. About 30 students participate in the program, which is held at the Henderson County Parks and Recreation Center and taught by regional musicians.

“Students learn songs and dance tunes, participate in group ‘all-play’ and string band classes, developing listening skills, learning to work together and making new friends,” says Carol Rifkin, lead instructor. “Performance is a big part of the program, first learning songs, arranging them, working together to present them. It brings a lot of skills into play. Folk music is simple but is the root of more complex music, and JAM sets the stage for kids to move forward into many styles of music.”

Participants have played at the Cradle of Forestry, the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock and more.

Founded four years ago, Henderson County JAM is an affiliate of the parent organization Junior Appalachian Music but is locally operated and funded. This is the second straight year Lauderdale has headlined the group’s fundraising event.

A native of Iredell County, Lauderdale is a country, bluegrass and Americana singer-songwriter who has released 31 studio albums since 1986. He won a Grammy for Lost in the Lonesome Pines, a 2002 collaboration with the legendary Ralph Stanley. His songs have been recorded by George Strait, Elvis Costello, Blake Shelton, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless and others.

Trailside Brewing Co. is at 873 Lennox Park Drive in Hendersonville. To purchase tickets, go to For more information about JAM Kids of Henderson County, go to

Night at the museum

The Museum of the Cherokee People will close out its 75th year with Party Like It’s 1998: A New Year for the Museum of the Cherokee People on Friday, Dec. 29, 6-10 p.m. The event will include artist talks, food and drink, entertainment and prizes for best 1990s costumes.

“It’s an opportunity to reflect on the museum’s 75-year legacy, what we’ve learned and our big plans to share the Cherokee story from a Cherokee perspective in a new, updated exhibit,” says Anna Chandler, the museum’s manager of external affairs and communications.

Party Like it’s 1998 will be the last chance for patrons to take in the museum’s current main exhibition, which opened in 1998. The exhibit takes a mainstream museum approach to exhibit design, following an archaeological timeline from the Paleolithic period to the early 20th century, according to a museum press release. It was designed in collaboration with Disney Imagineers.

The museum is developing a new exhibition it says will tell the Cherokee story from a Cherokee perspective. “The research process for the new main exhibition starts with tribal citizens: Throughout 2023, leadership has held listening sessions at Cherokee’s community clubs and legion halls and distributed a community feedback survey for tribal members to share their thoughts on the history, culture, stories and approach that will authentically reflect the Cherokee people,” according to the press release.

Founded in 1948, the Museum of the Cherokee People, formerly known as the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, is the nonprofit organization and tribal museum of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Admission to the event is free for tribal members and museum members, and $25 for others. The museum is at 589 Tsali Boulevard in Cherokee. For more information, go to

Locals receive arts grants

ArtsAVL announced that 14 Buncombe County residents received 2023-24 Artist Support grants from the N.C. Arts Council. Buncombe County grantees received $31,769 for projects in disciplines including ceramic arts, music, filmmaking, fiber arts, acting, metalpoint and dance.

The grants may go to completion and presentation of new work, career promotion, training or travel.

The recipients are glass artist Kathryn Adams; potter Candice Hensley; musician Chris LaRue Horton; folk/Americana artist Hannah Kaminer; painter and fiber artist Genie MaplesSummer Merritt, co-founder of Pride & Archive Jewelry Design; silverpoint and digital media artist Carol G. Prusa; filmmaker Mitch Rumfelt; ceramic artist Kat Reeves; voice teacher Willie Repoley; potter Cara SteinbuchelKirsten Stolle, a visual artist working in collage, text-based images; dancer, choreographer and dance educator Melissa Wilhoit; and sculptor Leo Woods.

ArtsAVL also announced 43 Buncombe County recipients of the N.C. Arts Council’s Grassroots Arts Program grant. Recipients include organizations working in such fields as dance, puppetry, choral and symphonic music, children’s theater, mask making, arts for healing and community radio. Grants ranged from $1,500 to $7,500 depending on the size of the organization.

Funds can be used for program expenses, including professional artists’ fees, marketing and publicity, music and equipment rental, or operating expenses, including salaries, office supplies, rent, utilities and small capital projects.

For a list of recipients or more information about the grants, go to


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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