Around town: New mural encourages residents to ‘take a deep breath’

THIS IS A POSITIVE SIGN: Elle Erickson, also known as The Booth Fairy, sponsored the painting of a new mural in West Asheville. Photo by Andy Hall

West Asheville got a new inspirational mural last month, courtesy of The Booth Fairy Project’s mission to spread positivity.

Painted on the exterior back wall of Universal Joint, the mural features a mountain range painted in deep colors against a night sky. The message, which reads “take a deep breath” in white, lowercase letters, seems to be floating among celestial lights.

Elle Erickson, also known as The Booth Fairy, partnered with local artist Peter Parpan, who also painted the first mural she sponsored in downtown’s Chicken Alley. Erickson says she thinks the new mural will encourage people to literally take a deep breath. “We all could use a reset, and this mural will help people’s nervous system and also reduce road rage. My goal is to have every major city get one of their own.”

Erickson created The Booth Fairy Project around 10 years ago, inspired by the annual Burning Man festival. She calls her project “a social enterprise that is dedicated to spreading good vibes, connection and inspiration to the world.” The nonprofit organization began with a traveling advice booth, like Lucy’s booth in the “Peanuts” cartoon series. “People approach and are delighted to engage and tap into their inner child — and also often find themselves surprised to be sharing and getting deep connection that they didn’t realize they even needed,” she says.

The advice booth can be found at The Booth Fairy’s local vintage clothing pop-ups, which occur monthly when Erickson isn’t traveling.

Erickson also organizes Bliss Mobs. “This is basically like a protest but with all positive and uplifting signs,” she says. “I gather groups of people, and we post up in cities and spread smiles and silliness.” Other events include community trash cleanups and nursing home visits, where participants are encouraged to wear tutus and other costumery while playing music. She spreads signs around Asheville with messages such as “this is a positive sign” and “you’re on the right track.”

Erickson says she has always been outgoing, as well as passionate about volunteer work. “My mom was a clown when I was growing up, and I was encouraged to be creative and expressive. I love to perform and entertain, and with my work in the world I can do that — plus inspire people.”

Universal Joint is at 784 Haywood Road. For more information on The Booth Fairy Project, visit

Hot House Holler debut

A new band composed of well-known local bluegrass and jazz musicians will debut at Citizen Vinyl on Saturday, March 16, 7 p.m. Hot House Holler will deliver jazz standards, obscure swing tunes and originals from local songwriters, says Jenny Bradley, vocalist.

Bradley says the band members met and became friends at the weekly bluegrass jam hosted by guitarist Drew Matulich at Jack of the Wood pub. Matulich, who has toured with Grass is Dead and Billy Strings, joins Bradley along with fiddle player James Schlender of Songs from the Road Band and bassist Norbert McGettigan of the Larry Stephenson Band.

Bradley returned to the area in 2021 after many years in New York City and formed the duo Moon Water with daughter Blu Belle. She says she is looking forward to introducing the Asheville community to Hot House Holler’s sound — “swing with a tinge of bluegrass virtuosity.”

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

Fringe Festival turns 22

The Asheville Fringe Arts Festival returns for its 22nd year, with over 60 performances of “experimental, unusual and out-of-the-box art” at various venues around town, Sunday, March 17-Sunday, March 24.

The festival will feature acts including dance, theater, puppetry, music, film and “things that defy definition,” according to a press release. Attendees can see up to 12 shows for one $16 ticket. There will also be free events, referred to as Random Acts of Fringe.

Highlights include the return of local artist and toymaker Edwin Salas, who will present a dark retelling of Grimm’s classic fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel”; the free event “Drip, Drop Splash Picasso Here,” in which three dancers will perform with paint on a canvas; and a sensory meditation on grief from New Orleans performing artist Synamin Vixen.

Also back after two years is the LaZoom Fringe Bus Tour, which will make multiple stops around the River Arts District while passengers experience onboard entertainment.

For more information and tickets, visit

Tales of the rumbling mountains

The Asheville Museum of History will hold “The Rumbling Mountain of 1874” via Zoom on Tuesday, March 19, 6 p.m. The event airs live and will be recorded.

WNC native Trevor Freeman, the museum’s public programs director, will discuss a historic event in which the mountains surrounding the eastern edge of Hickory Nut Gorge shook and then rumbled for several months — causing panic among locals who thought the world was ending. News of the occurrence spread nationally, and 150 years later, many stories — both true and tall tale — have developed in local lore. Freeman says he will examine the different facets of regional stereotypes, as well as shed light on the real story.

“The geologic activity that happened … generated so much fervor because it continued for so long and because of the eager eyes ready to write about the Appalachian region at the time,” says Freeman. “That combination of scientific exploration and mystery contrasted with stereotypes of superstitious moonshiners and preachers in a ‘backward’ place served as a fantastic source of inspiration for writers such Frances Fisher Tiernan.” Tiernan, who went by the pen name Christian Reid, wrote Land of the Sky.

Tickets are $5 for museum members and $10 general admission. Community-funded tickets are also available.

For more information and registration, visit

A bazaar for creative supplies

Makers seeking materials for their projects can visit Show & Tell’s Art & Craft Supply Bazaar at plēb urban winery Friday, March 15-Sunday, March 17, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Available items include new and used tools for sewing and quilting, knitting and crocheting, floral design, printmaking, jewelry-making and candle-making.

Pan pizzas will be available for purchase from Mean Pies Pizza daily, 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. On Sunday at 4 p.m., Robert Bennett will host a pop culture edition of Robert’s Totally Rad Trivia.

plēb urban winery is at 289 Lyman St. For more information, visit

A contemporary art salon

The New Salon: A Contemporary View, an exhibition that embodies the rebellious spirit of the salon in art history and applies it to new contemporary art, opened March 8 at the Asheville Art Museum. On display through Monday, Aug. 19, the show is guest curated by New Orleans-based contemporary artist Gabriel Shaffer.

The exhibition showcases artists working in pop surrealism, street art and graffiti and will feature a broad range of work including surrealist paintings from Robert Williams, medieval-inspired works by Daniel Diaz, and the robot-like deities of Kumkum Fernando. Los Angeles-based artist Lauren YS, “known for their mystical creatures and psychedelic style,” will contribute a site-specific mural.

“If there was one question I could ask the majority of these artists who have been around since the nineties, it would be, ‘Where were you when you read your first copy of Juxtapoz [Magazine]?’” says Shaffer in a press release. “Multiple subgenres of art have blossomed out of its countercultural foundation, giving rise to countless artists furthering the styles it once championed. Jux helped make it possible for cartoon imagery, illustration, craft, graffiti, fantasy and good old-fashioned art mayhem to have a diverse and broad audience.”

The Asheville Art Museum is at 2 South Pack Square. For more information, visit

Congressional Art Competition

The office of U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards is accepting submissions for the 2024 Congressional Art Competition from high school students living in North Carolina’s 11th district. The winner of the competition will have their artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol for one year.

“The annual Congressional Art Competition is an opportunity for high school students … to showcase their talent, creativity and passion,” says Edwards in a press release. “After seeing the incredible artwork from WNC’s budding artists during last year’s competition, I’m even more excited to see the art that this year’s contestants will create for all the visitors at the Capitol to see.”

After the Congressional Art Competition winner is selected, Congressman Edwards will hold a Facebook Favorite competition, posted on his official Facebook page, for the public to vote for their favorite piece of art. The Facebook Favorite winner’s artwork will be displayed in Edwards’ Hendersonville district office, and the runner-up’s artwork will be displayed in his Washington, D.C. office.

Artwork submissions are due to the Hendersonville district office by Wednesday, April 24.

For more information about the competition requirements, visit or contact the Hendersonville district office at 828-435-7310.


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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