Around town: PBS show begins national adventure in WNC

AGE-OLD ADVENTURE: Local resident Scott “Doc” Varn, right, and photojournalist Sophia Michelen are co-hosts of the new PBS show, “America: The Land We Live In,” which explores popular destinations featured in the 19th-century travelogue, Picturesque America. Photo courtesy of World Life Productions

A new PBS show, “America: The Land We Live In,” travels the path of early adventurers to discover the nation’s natural wonders and hidden treasures, beginning in the mountains of North Carolina. The show premieres Friday, Feb. 23, hosted by Western North Carolina resident Scott “Doc” Varn and photojournalist Sophia Michelen as they follow the 19th-century travelogue, Picturesque America.

With no GPS coordinates to guide them, Varn and Michelen seek guidance from locals, historians and river guides to find locations along the French Broad River. They venture off the beaten path on rugged escapades that take them whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking and fly-fishing.

“We talk about the journey being as important as the destination, but once you do it, you know it is. That’s where the story is, in the retracing of their footsteps,” Varn says.

Varn adds that at the time of Picturesque America’s release, photography wasn’t very portable or easily reproducible, so people would sketch the natural wonders they came to find. He notes that few knew what gems lay beyond their own stomping grounds until the release of the travelogue. It was authored by multiple respected writers of the period, including several women, which was unusual at that time.

“This was a publication that is incredibly important to conservation and preservation in America, that hardly anyone knows anything about today. It sometimes gets referenced in history books … but it is a lot more powerful and important than people know,” Varn says.

The show’s pilot episode continues the journey in South Carolina, where Varn and Michelin search for treasures among Charleston’s preserved architecture and polished gardens. They experience Lowcountry traditions and hunt for a giant live oak tree on the Ashley River, meeting artists and exploring waterways along the way. They discover the “then and now” of the Picturesque America sites.

In the midst of industrialization, the publication opened Americans’ eyes to the untouched natural beauties of the nation.

“It changed the way Americans thought about the natural and historic world,” Varn says. “People wonder why we have more state and national parks than any other country in the world — it’s because of this publication.”

Varn hopes that the pilot episode of “America: The Land We Live In” will reignite the awareness first sparked by the original publication, especially during this time of devastating losses of our nation’s lands.

“If people don’t get out and experience the natural, historic world, they won’t care about it,” Varn says.

Check local listings or stream at

Nina Simone’s brother performs at Warren Wilson

Sam Waymon, brother of the late Nina Simone, will take the stage at Kittredge Theatre at Warren Wilson College on Friday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. The full evening of musical performances includes supporting WNC artists Reggie Headen, Kelle Jolly, Will Boyd, Duane Simpson, Derrick Gardner, Connor Law, Quint Lange and Jason DeCristofaro.

The evening will showcase Waymon’s eclectic fusion of classic R&B, rock, soul and funk with infusions of blues and jazz. He will perform his original compositions as well as reinterpretations of classic tunes that have shaped his career.

Waymon has made remarkable contributions including co-writing many of his sister’s popular songs, touring with her band for 25 years as manager, confidant and organist, and singing at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral.

Kittredge Theatre is at 701 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa. Tickets are available at

Singing session and potluck 

All ages are invited to a community singing session led by musician Melanie DeMore at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville on Saturday, Feb. 17, at 3:30 p.m.

DeMore is a three-time Grammy-nominated singer/composer, choral conductor, music director and vocal activist who believes in the power of voices raised together. She facilitates vocal and stick-pounding workshops for professional choirs and community groups, as well as directing numerous choral organizations across the U.S., Canada and beyond.

The Community Singing Session will be followed by a potluck dinner. Tickets purchased in advance are free for youths and $20 for adults. Day-of tickets are $5 for youths and $25 for adults.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation is at 1 Edwin Place. To purchase tickets, visit For additional questions, contact 

Black History events continue

Asheville Parks & Recreation invites the community to reflect on local Black history, heritage and hope at a series of events in February to celebrate Black History and Legacy Month.

All events are free, but advance registration is recommended, as space may be limited.

A presentation and discussion about the legacy of the Burton Street neighborhood and its founder, Edward W. Pearson, will take place Friday, Feb. 16, 6-7:30 p.m, at the Burton Street Community Center, 134 Burton St. Light refreshments will be provided. Call 828-254-1942 for more information.

A “Black History Month Through the Eyes of Art” open reception will take place at Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Community Center, 285 Livingston St., on Thursday, Feb. 29, 6-8 p.m. Local artists will acknowledge and celebrate Black heritage through different mediums. To showcase your art or for more information, visit or call the center at 828-259-5843.

For a full listing of Black History and Legacy Month events, visit

Grove Park hosts arts, crafts conference 

The 37th National Arts and Crafts Conference will take place at the Grove Park Inn, Friday, Feb. 16-Sunday, Feb. 18. The show is an educational conference as well as a combination of three shows where Arts and Crafts-era antiques and contemporary works inspired by the movement will be available for purchase.

“We really appeal to not only bungalow owners and collectors of the Arts and Crafts movement, but people who … enjoy the interiors inspired by the natural world. That’s really what the American Arts and Crafts movement was,” says Kate Nixon, director of the event. “Historically, the Arts and Crafts movement was a response to the industrial era. [It was] known for rejecting the embellishments of the Victorian era … and basically tried to put the power of creating your own interiors back into the people.”

Nixon says seminars will include pottery, architecture, Arts and Crafts furniture, and more.

In addition to seminars from guests like David Rago from the PBS program “Antiques Roadshow,” the show will include demonstrations, a silent auction fundraiser for the Arts and Crafts Research Fund, a historic home tour of Montford Area Historic District, book signings and a documentary about a printmaker who trained in Japan.

The Grove Park Inn is at 290 Macon Ave. For information visit

Asheville’s Franklin School holds TED talk 

The Franklin School of Innovation, an Asheville charter school, will hold an officially licensed TED event on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 6-9 p.m., at N.C. Stage Company. This year’s theme is “curiosity.”

“We aim to challenge society to think deeper into their lives and the lives of those in the community. With the theme of curiosity, we aim to dive deep into ideas and interests that set us apart, so that we can expand our knowledge, grow together and better our communities,” says Franklin’s TEDx team in a press release.

This is the third year of TEDxYouthFranklinSchoolOfInnovation. Sponsorship funds are independently coordinated on a community-by-community basis. Sponsors of the event will receive advertising, stage mentions and complimentary tickets.

N.C Stage Company is at 15 Stage Lane. Learn more at

A celebration of the violin 

The Asheville Symphony will present its inaugural artist residency, Tuesday, March 12-Monday, March 18, celebrating the impact and legacy of the violin and featuring world-renowned violinists Noah Bendix-Balgley and Shanshan Yao, a husband-and-wife duo.

Asheville Symphony’s two-year artist residency program focuses on a single musical instrument in collaboration with a leading artist. The weeklong initiative explores genres, instrumentation, solo performances and more.

“Whether you are a music student, a lifelong fan of the violin or just curious to learn more about and appreciate music, the artist residency is for you,” says Asheville Symphony Executive Director Daniel Crupi in a press release. “Our aim is to deepen audiences’ insight and increase esteem for this amazing instrument’s place in the musical canon.”

For more information and event locations, visit

Wake up to new voices in WNC 

Asheville Media Group announced the launch of three morning shows featuring established and new Asheville voices, airing weekdays 6-10 a.m.

On Feb. 5, the group launched the first all-female morning show in Asheville, “The Morning Mix with Melanie & Crystal,” hosted by Melanie Wilkinson and Crystal Brown of “The Hot Mess Momcast.” Listeners can tune in on Mix 96.5, or the Mix 96.5 app.

On “The Rizzo & Jeff Show,” launched Feb. 12, influencers from Rochester, N.Y., explore what makes Asheville unique. Listen on 105.9 The Mountain, or the 105.9 The Mountain app.

On Monday, Feb. 19, Asheville will have a new country music and entertainment choice with the launch of “The Big D & Bubba Morning Show,” based out of Nashville. Listen on 105.5 The Outlaw or

For more information visit


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One thought on “Around town: PBS show begins national adventure in WNC

  1. Lou

    Be sure to take them to all the camps around town because all the housing is only affordable to the very rich. Oh, and don’t forget the debris scattered all across every single roadway. This town is SO OVERRATED.

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