Around Town: Local musician plans 3,000-mile hike to help those in recovery

TRAIL BOSS: Asheville musician Ben Phan will hike 3,000 miles in support of PIVOTPoint WNC. Photo courtesy of Ben Phantom

Ben Phan was in a rough place when he first discovered long-distance backpacking in 2008.

“It turned my mental health around,” says Phan, an Asheville musician and videographer who goes by the stage name Ben Phantom. “Spending extended time in the wilderness puts things in perspective for me, and I find it deeply healing.”

Now Phan wants to help others in need.

To that end, he will embark on a 3,000-mile wilderness hike on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail starting Friday, April 15. Phan detailed his plans during a March 27 performance at The Grey Eagle.

The hike will raise donations to support PIVOTPoint WNC, a nonprofit therapeutic adventure group that helps people in recovery or at risk of substance abuse through programs in hiking, rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing and paddleboarding.

“I hope to convey a message of hope and resilience,” says Phan, who is in recovery. “There is a strength within that we can only find when we are pushed to our limits. I’m really looking forward to time away from modern society, time to reflect and learn more about myself and the wilderness.”

Phan will update people on his journey, which he expects to take to five or six months, with videos filmed on the trail. He also will be carrying a mini guitar and hopes to write songs during this time.

The Continental Divide Trail runs between the U.S. border with Chihuahua, Mexico, and the border with Alberta, Canada. Phan will start from the southern end, making his way through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho, before ending in Glacier National Park in Montana.

If Phan completes the trek, he’ll have earned the Triple Crown of Hiking. He hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2008 and completed the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014.

“The Continental Divide Trail is a huge challenge, possibly the hardest hike in the country, and has been a dream of mine since I first started backpacking,” he says.

To follow Phan’s journey or make a donation, visit All donations will benefit PIVOTPoint participants. 

Artistic endeavor

Robert “Bob” Arleigh White will serve as the new artistic director of the Asheville Community Theatre. In the role, he will work with ACT’s managing director to co-lead the organization.

White has more than 30 years’ experience overseeing and advising nonprofit arts organizations in northern Florida, where he has also been active in promoting a variety of arts-related, community and civil rights initiatives. He served in leadership positions with Theatre Jacksonville for 16 years.

“This is my dream job in my dream city,” White says in a press release. “A move to Asheville has been in my mind for more than 20 years. The opportunity to work with ACT was an irresistible lure.”

ACT has restructured the organization to create a collaborative leadership model between the artistic director and managing director. Tamara Sparacino, currently serving as interim executive director, had served as managing director for many years and will return to that position.

White began working with ACT remotely on March 15, and his official first day in the role will be Monday, May 2.

For more information about Asheville Community Theatre, visit

Working life

The Magnetic Theatre will present No More Waiting, an original performance looking at the role of workers in a capitalist society, on Sunday, April 3, at 4 p.m., in the sanctuary at The Cathedral of All Souls.

The performance will be part of the cathedral’s third annual Lenten Arts Series.

“In recent months, the U.S. has seen tens of millions of workers voluntarily leave their jobs in search of independent or remote work, better pay, greater work/life balance and a host of other goals,” the theater says in a press release. “No More Waiting is inspired by the struggles currently affecting our country’s workers.”

Directed by Dakota Mann, the show will feature original vignettes written and performed by Bill Chameides, Will Commerford, Christine Hellman, Mann, Daniel Sandoval, Kai Strange, Laura Walton and Hannah Williams.

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged, with all proceeds given to the artists.

The Cathedral of All Souls is at 9 Swan St. The performance will also be livestreamed through the cathedral’s social media pages and website. For more information, go to

Bright lights

The Blue Ridge Orchestra will present Northern Lights, a Norwegian-inspired program designed and conducted by John Gordon Ross, on Sunday, April 3, 3-4:30 p.m., at Lipinsky Auditorium on the UNC Asheville campus.

The concert will feature music of composers predominantly from Nordic countries, including Finland (Jean Sibelius), Denmark (Carl Nielsen) and Norway (Edvard Grieg).

Flutist Bradford Malbon will be showcased in Nielsen’s “Concerto for Flute and Orchestra.”

Guest conductor Ross led the orchestra as interim director in 2020-21 but was unable to conduct any live concerts during that time due to COVID-19 restrictions. He is a faculty member at Lenoir-Rhyne University and performs regularly with the university’s wind symphony.

Lipinsky Hall is at 300 Library Lane on the UNCA campus. Admission is $5 for students, $10 for members and $15 for the general public. For more information or to buy tickets, go to

For the birds

Avian Skies, an exhibit of acrylic-on-wood paintings by local artist Kate Coleman, will be on display at Asheville Gallery of Art Friday, April 1, through Saturday, April 30. The gallery will host a meet-the-artist event with Coleman April 1, 5-8 p.m.

“The colors of paint that I choose are warm and bright, echoing the spring colors that are emerging in nature,” Coleman says. “In creating this body of work, I focused on birds and the amazing skies of spring.”

Among the works on display will be “The Peacock,” “The Tanagers” and “Sunset in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”

“This is a common scene from my home — the red-tailed hawk with mobbing crows,” says Coleman, who lives in Swannanoa. “Sunsets here are striking, and each one is unique.”

Asheville Gallery of Art is at 82 Patton Ave. and open daily, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, go to

Apprentice applications

Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville is accepting applications for its apprentice program, open to young people ages 13-18, through Friday, April 1.

Each apprentice will be required to complete 60 hours of nonrehearsal/performance time at the playhouse. The 2022 apprentices will have the opportunity to assist with junior summer camps, work on set painting and construction, learn about lighting and sound board operation, help with props and costume construction, assistant stage manage and join backstage crew work.

For more information, email or call (828)682-4285.  To apply, 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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