Around town: Nerd Pride Festival returns for second year

NERD ALERT: The Nerd Dungeon owner Savanah Stone stands behind the counter of Elder Dragon, the game store’s resident coffee shop. Photo courtesy of Stone

The Nerd Dungeon, a locally owned game shop in West Asheville, will host its second annual Nerd Pride Fest on Saturday, June 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

The gathering coincides with Pride Month. “The Nerd Dungeon is LGBT-owned and operated,” says Sarah Holtkamp, social media and marketing coordinator for the Nerd Dungeon. “When our grand reopening lined up so neatly with the beginning of Pride Month, we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to party and show our appreciation for all the queer nerds who made the move possible.”

The venue has been hosting various nonprofit and cultural events to help give a stage to queer and underrepresented projects, such as the Queer Menopause Workshop and poetry readings by queer Palestinian Mx. Yaffa. The Nerd Dungeon also sells game consoles, Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, plush toys and anime figures.

This year’s Nerd Fest will feature face painting, tarot readings and board games in addition to the regular slate of wares from local artists and vendors. Nibbly Onigiri and Budgie’s Bakeshop will provide concessions, while coffee, boba and tea will be available at Elder Dragon Coffee Shop (located inside the Nerd Dungeon).

Admission to Nerd Fest is a suggested $5 donation, which goes toward Tranzmission and Youth OUTright, two organizations supporting transgender and nonbinary people across Western North Carolina. Proceeds from $1 raffle tickets will also support these organizations.

The festival begins at 10:30 a.m., with a round of quick-play board games by co-owner and board game enthusiast Jacob Smith. At 11:30 a.m., the local Youth OUTright chapter will offer a workshop on self-care and emotional coping strategies. At noon, Gaby Rock will offer a basic overview of tarot cards and how to use them, and Salvador Chavez will lead a queer Zumba dance party. At 12:30 p.m., local queer indie band Lurky Skunk will perform a live set, followed by local singer-songwriter Jodi Mclaren at 1 p.m., and local folk band Holler & Crow at 2 p.m.

To continue the Pride month celebrations, the Nerd Dungeon will host an open mic night each Friday at 7 p.m., during June.

The Nerd Dungeon is at 505 New Leicester Highway. For more information, visit

Local painter hosts scavenger hunt

Amanda McLenon, a local painter, will host a scavenger hunt for seven free pieces of art in the first week of June.

McLenon got her start as a marine biologist but has been painting full time for 13 years. Animals still feature prominently in her works, which are mainly large-scale paintings of birds in graceful motion or preening. The idea for a scavenger hunt came about as she sought to clear paintings from her studio space and to collaborate with local businesses that she has relationships with.

Each day at 11:11 a.m., McLenon will announce a riddle on her social media page, highlighting a local business and leading participants to a distinct location to claim the free art. The art consists of prints as well as small original oil paintings, some framed giclees and some pieces hand-leafed with gold and silver.

Following the scavenger hunt, McLenon will host a sale on some of her other work on Saturday, June 8, noon-4 p.m., at her gallery. She will also give a sneak peek of her new collection, a series called Reminders of the Light. It features large-scale great white egrets, herons and snowy egrets painted onto wood panels using genuine silver and 23-karat gold leaf.

“The Reminders of the Light series is a glimpse into what inspires me — the quiet moments in nature with these statuesque birds,” says McLenon. “I have always underpainted with a bright gold color; in this series, I am allowing what is usually hidden to show in organic places, providing a glimpse into my process.”

She plans to hold an open studio to celebrate this release on the evening of summer solstice, Thursday, June 20, 4-7 p.m. Food and wine will be served, and attendees are invited to wear party clothes with as much sparkle as possible.

McLenon was the 2012 Lowcountry Artist of the Year, and her work has appeared at the Charleston Farmers Market, the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.

McLenon’s work can be found in Pink Dog Creative at 344 Depot St. No. 122. For more information, visit

Philip DeAngelo unveils new painting collaboration

Local painter Philip DeAngelo will display his latest exhibit, Bella Italia, at his gallery until Saturday, June 8. The collection is a collaboration with painter and Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Michael Cartellone.

The two men met at DeAngelo’s gallery and connected over their shared Italian ancestry. The figurative, contemporary paintings incorporate textures meant to invoke the scenic beauty of Italy and pay homage to their ancestral home.

Philip DeAngelo Studio is at 115 Roberts St. in The Wedge Building. For more information, visit

Unity hosts Storytelling and Singing Festival

Unity of the Blue Ridge, an inclusive spiritual congregation, will host the Do Tell Storytelling and Music Festival on Saturday, June 1, 2-5 p.m.

The event will feature an afternoon of musicians and storytellers performing in the sanctuary. Singers include Sarah Kohrs, Elaine Scott, Kat Williams and Gaby Michel; the storytellers are Candler Willis, Chris Sims, Donna Marie Todd, Karen Eve Bayne and Mary White. Participants are invited to bring a picnic to enjoy the festivities. The event is free to the public, and activities for children will be available in the Community Room.

Unity of the Blue Ridge is at 2041 Old Fanning Bridge Road. For more information, visit

WCU honors professor of early literacy

Western Carolina University announced Denise Morgan as the new Goodnight Distinguished Professor in Early Literacy.

The $1.5 million fellowship, awarded in January, is part of the WCU College of Education and Allied Professions Fund, named after Ann B. and James H. Goodnight of the Goodnight Educational Foundation, according to a press release. The organization works to foster community and career development for educators in the UNC System. Morgan is overseeing the improvement of literacy courses at WCU in addition to teaching a newly developed course on reading education. She also serves in an advisory role for the UNC System’s literacy initiative, a statewide network of endowed professors.

Morgan previously served as a professor of literacy education at Kent State University for nearly 20 years and directed the Kent State Reading and Writing Development Center, providing services to school-age students and adults with reading and reading-related difficulties. “Switching from one institution after nearly two decades is quite a change, but everyone at WCU has made the transition very smooth,” says Morgan in the press release. “I am excited to find ways to get teachers the resources they need so they and their students succeed in literacy.”

In addition to her professorship, Morgan looks forward to living closer to her parents in Morganton.

For more information about WCU College of Education and Allied Professions, visit

Black Mountain announces summer music lineup

Black Mountain Recreation & Parks has announced the lineup for the 2024 Park Rhythms Concert Series.

Each year, the Black Mountain Recreation & Parks Department compiles a list of artists to consider for the series. The entire department then ranks the list, and the winners are selected to perform. The eight free concerts showcase many prominent local and regional musicians and will take place on Thursdays, 7-9 p.m., June through August. All shows will be held on the baseball field at Veterans Park in Black Mountain. This year’s lineup is as follows:

June 20: Harvest Records owner Mark Capon’s band, Wagging, will perform with classic Americana act Jessie and The Jinx.
June 27: Indie singer-songwriter Drumming Bird will perform.
July 11: Queen Bee and the Honeylovers will perform a swing jazz set.
July 18: Tyler Ramsey will perform his solo work.
July 25: Country-inspired Colby T. Helms and The Virginia Creepers will perform.
Aug. 1: Lyric will perform a blend of R&B, blues, funk and soul.
Aug. 8: Folk singer-songwriters Greg Farley and Zachary Warren Briggs will perform together.

Aug. 15: Electro-indie rock band Pink Beds will close out the series.

There will be a food truck on-site for the performances. The audience is encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets.

Veterans Park is at 10 Veterans Park Drive, Black Mountain. For more information, visit


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