Around Town: Preserving a Picturesque America to auction French Broad River paintings

EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY: “The Smokies — Weavers Bend” by artist Bryan Koontz will be one of 15 paintings up for auction by Preserving a Picturesque America, Thursday, June 16. Photos courtesy of Preserving a Picturesque America

Scott “Doc” Varn loves sharing the story of Picturesque America with modern artists.

“They all of a sudden see a sense of purpose, the thing that inspires them, the reason that they’re painting,” says the Asheville artist and printmaker.

Picturesque America was a series of nearly 1,000 prints published by Appleton Press in the 1870s. The prints depicted natural and historic landmarks from across the country for the purposes of education, conservation and preservation.

After becoming aware of the series more than a decade ago, Varn founded local nonprofit Preserving a Picturesque America. One of the group’s missions is find and re-create all of the original pieces.

Now a group of Western North Carolina artists has come together to help PAPA move closer to that goal and to raise money for local conservation organizations.

PAPA will hold an auction on Thursday, June 16, 5:30-9 p.m. at Brunk Auctions to sell 15 paintings. Fourteen of the works depict modern-day versions of scenes along the French Broad River originally captured in Picturesque America. The 15th is a portrait of Harry Fenn, one of the major contributors to the original series.

“It has been no problem getting new artists, because those that do care about this wonderful place that we live in are like, ‘Yes, I’m happy to do this,’” Varn says. “And they love the idea of the adventure aspect. They love repeating what the artists here did 150 years ago. And they want to give back in some way.”

The event opens with an art preview and artist reception, complete with food, wine and entertainment, 5:30-6:55 p.m. The live auction kicks off at 7 p.m. Those who can’t attend in person can bid online for free, but they must pre-register.

Each artist will receive 50% of the sale price; the other half will benefit a designated conservation group. These organizations include the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Asheville GreenWorks, Carolina Mountain Club, Chimney Rock State Park, Friends of the Cherokee National Forest, MountainTrue, Pisgah Conservancy and RiverLink.

Cost to attend the auction is $75 per person or $125 per couple. Tickets to the event also include a drawing for over $1,000 worth of prizes.

Brunk Auctions is at 117 Tunnel Road. To get tickets or to view the art, visit

Is this just fantasy?

Mindi Meltz doesn’t like most fantasy literature, which may seem a bit strange. After all, the Henderson County author has penned several novels full of imaginary lands, mythical creatures and magical beings.

“I did not think of myself as a fantasy writer until I got pigeonholed that way by the genre gods,” she says. “What I write is more like myth or fairy tale. I’ve always been fascinated by dreamwork, and to me, myths are like the dreams of our collective psyche.”

Meltz’s latest novel, The Queen’s Rain, will be published Tuesday, June 14, by Logosophia Books. It will be the third part of her After Ever After trilogy, which also includes The Ritual of Forgetting and This Blood Means Life.

“The last few years have illuminated our exile and disconnection from our bodies, our oneness with others, our dependency on nature and our animal selves,” she says. “My story is about returning to those things. It’s about sickness and healing, and with its unique emphasis on the heroine’s journey, the many aspects of the feminine denied.”

Meltz will hold her book launch at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva on Saturday, June 18, at 3 p.m. She will also read, discuss and sign copies at Of Wand & Earth in Marshall on Saturday, July 23, 3-5 p.m.

To order the book, go to

A day to remember

Tyler Houston, a rising senior at North Henderson High School, has been selected to represent the U.S. in the inaugural All-American D-Day Band, which will perform in June 2023 in Normandy, France.

“It is important to me because I have multiple family members that served our country in the military, and this is a way for me to give back and celebrate them,” Houston says. “Not many of those people [who fought on D-Day] are still here with us today, and it will be amazing for me to honor those who are still here, as well as those who have passed.”

Houston, a percussionist who plays mallet, timpani and drums (among other instruments), is one of 125 high school musicians nationwide selected for the honor. He was nominated by his band director, Steve Sigmon. Once he was named a finalist, he had to submit a video audition.

The band originally was supposed to travel to France this year, but the process was pushed back a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The All-American D-Day Band will perform the ceremonial music for the officially recognized commemoration and wreath-laying ceremonies at the Brittany and Normandy American cemeteries and memorials. In the historic village of Sainte-Mère-Église, the band will perform in the International Salute to Liberation and lead the D-Day Memorial Parade.

“I am very proud and honored to be able to represent North Henderson High School and Henderson County on the global stage like this,” he says.

For more information, go to

Epic trail

The Fairy Trail is back at Hendersonville’s Bullington Gardens.

The whimsical trail, which started five years ago as a way to entice families to visit the gardens and cultivate an interest in gardening, winds along a wooded path for about 300 yards and includes the homes and villages of fairies and gnomes. All are prepared by volunteers.

The Fairy Trail is free and open Mondays-Saturdays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. through Wednesday, Aug. 31. Visitors are sent through the trail in 10-minute intervals on a first-come, first-served basis; short waits aren’t uncommon.

The first Fairy Market is on Saturday, June 11, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and will feature face painting, Zentangle art classes and a gnome scavenger hunt. Handmade crafts, crowns, wands and wings will be available for purchase.

This year’s trail includes some new installations, including the Tooth Fairy, a unicorn stable and a photo opportunity featuring fairy wings.

Bullington Gardens is at 95 Upper Red Oak Trail, Hendersonville. For more information, go to

Zipping for Autism

Zipping for Autism, a fundraiser benefiting Camp Lakey Gap, will be Sunday, June 12, at Adventure Center of Asheville.

Individuals and teams of up to 10 people can participate in the zip lining event. All donations and funds raised will go toward helping WNC residents with autism attend Camp Lakey Gaps’ summer programming and support services.

Camp Lakey Gap is a weeklong residential camp and year-round service provider for people on the autism spectrum. It serves both children and adults, grouped together by age.

Adventure Center of Asheville is at 85 Expo Drive. For more information or to register as a team or individual, 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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