Around Town: Exhibit to feature Asheville artist’s sky paintings

NOTHING BUT BLUE SKIES: Asheville artist Jenny Kiehn describes her paintings as "colorful, striking, and emotional and sometimes very serene." Photo courtesy of Kiehn

Growing up in Asheville, Jenny Kiehn felt hemmed in and restless.

“I needed to experience the world,” she says. “I wanted to know what my options were, how other people in the world thought about things and experience different points of view.”

At 17, Kiehn (then Jenny Hamil) left Asheville to study at the UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. She went on to graduate from Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York and eventually ended up in London, where she created and exhibited paintings for more than 10 years.

Now, after 15 years, she’s a mother of four and once again living in Asheville. “I felt satisfied and ready to settle down, almost like I had gone out and gotten enough material to work with, and now I’m ready to dig and really create,” she explains.

Covenant Community Church will host Emerging Light, an exhibit of Kiehn’s paintings Friday-Sunday, April 28-30.

An opening reception will be 5:30-8 p.m. Friday, with Kiehn giving a talk at 7 p.m. The paintings also will be on display 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, the church’s 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. services will feature sermons focused on the themes of the paintings, which will remain on display until 2 p.m.

Kiehn creates large, realistic paintings of skies of all varieties, including peaceful blue skies, dramatic cloudscapes, rushing storms and light bursting from behind clouds. “I paint skies because they symbolize inner peace and freedom,” she says. “I grew up hiking, being outside and absolutely loving nature. Once you get used to nature and start appreciating it, you feel the deep sense of peace that comes with it. I knew that peace as a young child and have been addicted to it my whole life.”

Emerging Light will feature about 15 of Kiehn’s paintings, as well as eight-10 paintings by A.C. Reynolds High School art students, whom she will instruct during a two-hour workshop. In addition, the church’s newly installed multimedia projection system will project videos of Kiehn’s paintings.

“I hope the people who attend will find a sense of peace and expansion through the paintings,” she says. “I want them to feel immersed in abundance and beauty.”

Covenant Community Church is at 11 Rocket Drive. For more information, visit

Story time

Story Parlor, a cooperative arts space in West Asheville, will celebrate its first anniversary this month with special events, new initiatives and expanded opportunities for artists.

But the anniversary almost didn’t happen.

One night in January, someone smashed a window in Story Parlor’s century-old Haywood Road building and stole the cash register. “The incident came at an already shaky time, as we were trying to navigate the age-old question of how to operate a sustainable arts business,” says owner Erin Hallagan Clare. “It could have easily been something to slip the rug out beneath our feet.”

Instead, she says, the Asheville arts community rallied around the arts space, leaving it with a more solid foundation than before. “It was a beautiful reminder of just how much a community can lift you up,” she says.

Story Parlor will mark its anniversary with a Story Mixer at 7 p.m. Friday, April 21. The revue will feature music by singer-songwriter Kathryn O’Shea, a short film by indie director Missy Bell, storytelling by actor Jeff Benninghofen, poetry by Meta Commerse and a performance by improvisational dance troupe The Accidentals.

Including the monthly Story Mixer series, the arts space hosted more than 100 events and classes in its first year, working with such partners as Asheville Creative Arts, Asheville Fringe Arts Festival, Asheville School of Film, Bilingual Birdies, Listen to This, Liar’s Club, Lonesome Station, Speakeasy Improv and Zoe’s Treehouse.

Over the next year, it will partner with radio show “Jazz Hybrid,” the Asheville Classical Guitar Society and more on new event series.

In addition, the arts space has several initiatives coming up, including the Story Bound Bookshop, which will offer books exclusively on creativity and storytelling, a summer Creative Facilitator Training program and the continuation of the recently launched “Story Parlor Hour” radio show hosted by WPVM 103.7.

Clare and her husband, Matthew Clare, founded an organization called Story Bar in 2015 in Austin, Texas. Story Bar closed after five years, and the couple ended up in Asheville, where they decided to open Story Parlor after stumbling upon a vacant Haywood Road building they thought would be perfect for what they had in mind.

“I had essentially put the dream away in a drawer after trying again and again to find a space while in Austin,” she says. “All things considered, finding the space and building the community here have felt effortless in comparison. In retrospect, it just feels like it was always meant to be in Asheville.”

Story Parlor is at 227 Haywood Road. Tickets for the April 21 event are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. To get tickets, visit

Downtown After 5 returns

The 35th season of Asheville’s Downtown After 5 will kick off Friday, April 21, with a performance by Nashville-based soul singer-songwriter Devon Gilfillian. The husband-and-wife country duo of Joe Lasher and Kaitlyn Baker also will play at the free concert.

The full schedule for the monthly event, which runs through September, is:

  • May 19: Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band with Coconut Cake.
  • June 16: Victoria Victoria featuring Charlie Hunter with Josh Phillips.
  • July 21: The Rumble featuring Chief Joseph Boudreaux Jr. with Funk’N Around.
  • Aug. 18: Asheville All-Stars with Asheville Rock Academy
  • Sept. 15: The Sensational Barnes Brothers with Alex Krug Combo

Downton After 5, presented by the Asheville Downtown Association, takes place on North Lexington Avenue near the I-240 overpass. For more information, visit

Drops of juniper

Juniper Bends, a free quarterly reading series featuring prose and poetry from established and emerging writers, is back for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions hit in 2020. The relaunch will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, at Citizen Vinyl.

The event will feature readings from poets Katherine Soniat, Molly Rice and Kevin Evans and author Melanie McGee Bianchi, plus music from classical guitarist Yes the Raven (Alan Mearns).

“Juniper nurtures the voices of new writers while providing a space for local established writers to showcase their work,” organizers said in a press release. “The event will be an opportunity to share words with an audience who may not otherwise be exposed to their work.”

Juniper Bends began in 2009.

Citizen Vinyl is at 14 O. Henry Ave. For more information, go to

One for the books

Black Mountain Public Library will mark its 100th anniversary with a party 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 25.

The free event will feature speakers, refreshments and music from local string band Briar Branch, made up of the Black Mountain mother-daughter duo of Julia Weatherford and Pearl Shirley.

The library was founded in a classroom in First Presbyterian Church in 1922, but the anniversary celebration was delayed due to renovations to the building last year.

The library is at 105 N. Dougherty St., Black Mountain. For more information, go to

Car talk

Car historian Heath Towson will give a one-hour presentation on the automotive history of Asheville at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at Central United Methodist Church. The talk is sponsored by the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County.

Towson will discuss some of Asheville’s early automotive pioneers, the first motor mile on Coxe Avenue, George Vanderbilt and the cars he kept in Asheville, and racing and hot-rodding history. Additionally, he will take an in-depth look at the filming of the 1958 Robert Mitchum movie Thunder Road, much of which was shot in and around Asheville.

A Model T and a Model A from Towson’s collection will be on display outside the church.

A suggested $10 donation is the only charge.

Central United Methodist Church is at 7 Church St. For more information, go to


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

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

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.