Around Town: Museum exhibition highlights use of written Cherokee language

WRITTEN WORD: A new exhibit at the Asheville Art Museum, organized in conjunction with the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, features works by Cherokee artists who use the tribe's written language in their works. Photo courtesy of the Asheville Art Museum

In the early 1800s, a Cherokee innovator named Sequoyah developed the tribe’s first written language in the form of a syllabary. The set of symbols, each of which signifies a different syllable, inspired rapid growth in literacy among the Cherokee and is still used as a form of cultural expression and pride.

A new exhibit at the Asheville Art Museum, organized in conjunction with the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, examines how today’s Cherokee artists use the syllabary in their works. A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art, now open, runs through Monday, March 14.

The show features more than 50 works by over 30 Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Cherokee Nation artists. The media represented includes animation, wood-fired ceramics, book arts, photography and painting.

“I have spoken to several of [the artists] about how their use of the syllabary is in part activism to preserve the Cherokee language and to uplift its importance,” says Hilary Schroeder, assistant curator at the museum. (For more, see “Cherokee Fight to Save Language From Extinction,”  Sept. 29, Xpress.)

Many skillful artists who are members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians live and work in Western North Carolina, including on the Qualla Boundary, Schroeder says. “We want to ensure that folks living here in the area and visitors coming from out of town know about these artists.”

Along with visiting the latest exhibit at the Asheville Art Museum, Schroeder encourages community members to head to the the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, 589 Tsali Blvd. in Cherokee, to learn more.

The Asheville Art Museum, 2 S. Pack Square, is open Wednesday-Monday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. with extended hours on Thursday. For more information, visit

Saints in the city

In his debut novel, British American artist Julyan Davis turned to his adopted home for inspiration. “I wanted a playful and gentle depiction of the Asheville that drew me here: full of quirky ‘refugees’ from the broader South,” Davis says.

The novel, A History of Saints, was recently published by Kentucky-based Shadelandhouse Modern Press. Set in fall 2008, the story is a satirical retelling of the Great Recession and one man’s reluctant decision to rent rooms in his home to a cast of eccentrics to keep from losing his property.

Davis will do a meet-and-greet followed by a reading on Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 5 p.m., at Blue Spiral 1 gallery, 38 Biltmore Ave. An exhibition of his paintings, Rooted in the South, is on view in the gallery until Wednesday, Dec. 29.

Blue Spiral 1 is at 38 Biltmore Ave. Hours are Sunday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Wednesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information or to buy the book, go to

Deck the (music) hall

In Henderson County, it’s beginning to look a lot like … well, you know the rest.

A year after going virtual, A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas returns with a new in-person show Friday, Nov. 26-Sunday, Dec. 19.

“The energy to return to live theater, especially with this show, is electric,” says Matthew Glover, artistic associate with the theater. “Virtual was fun, but it is thrilling to be back on the stage.”

The song-and-dance revue will feature classic carols, contemporary holiday tunes and plenty of tap dancing, Glover says. The cast, which is smaller than past years due to COVID-19 concerns, includes the Flat Rock Playhouse chorus as well as students from Hendersonville’s Pat’s School of Dance.

“I was honored in 2017 when I was asked to conceive this show,” Glover continues. “I never dreamed that I would be writing a fifth production. I am lucky that it has now become such a tradition in our community.”

The Flat Rock Playhouse is at 2661 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock. For more information or to buy tickets, visit

Visions of sugar plum fairies

Four regional dance companies will present productions of the classic holiday ballet The Nutcracker at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts this holiday season.

The Academy at Terpsicorps, an Asheville-based ballet school, gets things started Friday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 27, at 5 p.m. This family-friendly version tells the story of a girl named Clara who receives a special Christmas present that inspires a series of magical adventures.

Things will take a bit of a turn when the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre presents The Nutcracker and the Mouse King on Friday, Dec. 3, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The ACDT’s performance, now in its 10th year, is based on the original 1816 story by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann and is darker than better-known versions.

The Asheville Ballet, North Carolina’s oldest nonprofit dance company, will perform the show on Friday, Dec. 10, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 11, at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 12, at 2:30 p.m.

And finally, the Ballet Conservatory of Asheville puts on performances Thursday, Dec. 16, at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 17, at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 18, at 10 a.m.

The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts is at 18 Biltmore Ave. For more information or to get tickets, go to

Play time

ArtPlay, a new collaborative arts studio and gallery, recently opened in the River Arts District. The studio allows visitors to view new works as well as interact with creative materials.

“The emphasis is on ‘play,’” studio owner Kristen Edge says in a press release. “My goal with ArtPlay is to provide an atmosphere where people feel free to make, create, make mistakes and start over without having that little judge on their shoulder.”

Among ArtPlay’s offerings are Playdates with an Artist, a Friday night workshop guided by local artists, and Saturday Stay + Play, which allows people to work with various art materials for 45 minutes.

Art created by local and regional artists will be featured on a rotating basis throughout the year.

ArtPlay is at 372 Depot St., Suite 44. The studio is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and noon-5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, go to

Light ’em up

Haywood County’s first drive-thru Christmas light show opens at the Smoky Mountain Event Center, formerly Haywood County Fairgrounds, on Wednesday, Dec. 1,  and runs through Saturday, Jan.1.

The Strand of Lights: Drive-Thru Christmas & Beyond Light Show was created in partnership with a professional light-installation company that specializes in large-scale, outdoor shows. The event winds around the event center campus for nearly a mile and includes numerous 2D displays and lighted buildings.

The Smoky Mountain Event Center is at 758 Crabtree Road in Waynesville. Tickets are $20 per vehicle with a limit of 100 cars per one-hour time slot. To purchase tickets, visit

In the mix

Asheville-based Spoon + Hook was recently named a runner-up in the crafts category of Garden & Gun magazine’s 12th annual Made in the South Awards.

Spoon + Hook, a business started by Anneliesse Gormley, works with a network of Western North Carolina lumber and salvage yards to find cherry, walnut and maple, which Gormley carves into mixing spoons, serving sets and coffee scoops.

“It has become my life’s joy to work with materials that may otherwise be thrown away,” Gormley told Garden & Gun.

For more information, 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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