Around Town: Zelda Fitzgerald Week returns to Asheville

LEGENDS OF ZELDA: Literary scholar Lisa Nanney, left, and author Danny Klecko will be the keynote speakers for Asheville's Zelda Fitzgerald Week. Photos courtesy of the authors

For years, local history buff Jim MacKenzie believed Asheville was not doing enough to honor the legacy of Zelda Fitzgerald. The Jazz Age icon and artist, who was married to renowned author F. Scott Fitzgerald, spent the last decade of her life in and out of Highland Hospital in Montford, where she sought treatment for mental health issues. Tragically, she and eight other patients died in a fire at the site on March 10, 1948.

“Her legend is bigger than life,” MacKenzie says. “Although she was never in the moving pictures, she always appeared on all the society pages and gossip columns.”

In 2016, MacKenzie helped convince Asheville City Council to proclaim March 10 as Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald Day. That year, in collaboration with Lori Greenberg, founder of Aurora Gallery, the pair held a series of events honoring Fitzgerald.

Since its launch, the two have continued to work with community members and civic organizations to hold events. And over time, the initial one-day recognition has grown into a multiday celebration.

This year, Asheville will host Zelda Fitzgerald Week from Thursday, March 9, to Sunday, March 12, with a series of speeches and other events.

On Thursday, literary scholar Lisa Nanney will discuss Zelda Fitzgerald’s paintings in the context of her 1932 novel Save Me the Waltz at East Asheville Library at 6 p.m. On Friday, author Danny Klecko will launch his new book, Zelda’s Bed, at the West Asheville Library at 6 p.m. Klecko’s latest publication focuses on his 36-hour trip to Zelda’s hometown of Montgomery, Ala.

Come Saturday, Greenberg will moderate a panel discussion, “Letting the Light In,” a discussion of art as it relates to wellness, at East Asheville Library at 4 p.m. The celebration wraps up Sunday at 2 p.m. with Klecko offering tarot card readings in the Fitzgerald Room of the Battery Park Book Exchange. All events are free, but space will be limited at the Sunday tarot card readings.

“I believe it’s important for Asheville residents to honor and remember the decency their ancestors exercised for years, reaching out to Zelda,” Klecko says. “They offered sanctuary to a person who wasn’t one of their own.”

The East Asheville Library is at 3 Avon Road, the West Asheville Library is at 942 Haywood Road, and the Battery Park Book Exchange is in the Grove Arcade, 1 Page Ave., Suite 101. For more information, go to avl.mx/914

History lessons

Few people have done more to preserve the history of South Asheville than George Gibson Sr. Now his neighbors are honoring the longtime community leader for his decades of work restoring the South Asheville Cemetery.

The Kenilworth Residents Association will unveil an interpretive history panel Saturday, March 4, at 1 p.m., at St. John “A” Baptist Church. One side of the panel focuses on Gibson and the cemetery; the other side recounts the timeline of South Asheville, a predominantly Black community that was between South Main Street, today’s Biltmore Avenue, and the south slope of Beaucatcher Mountain.

The community eventually was swallowed up by the Kenilworth suburb.

“I felt it was important to capture the history of the lost community,” says local historian Sharon Fahrer, who created the panel with Ross Terry, owner of KRT Graphic Design. “It is so often overlooked when we talk of the larger communities that were destroyed by urban renewal. In fact, there is very little written about South Asheville.”

Gibson was born in Asheville in 1928 and attended South Asheville Colored School, Asheland Avenue Middle School and Stephens-Lee High School, graduating in 1948. After retiring from the American Red Cross in 1984, he spent much of his time working to maintain upkeep in the South Asheville Cemetery, which was established in the early 1800s as a burial ground for enslaved people. Adjacent to St. John “A” Baptist Church, the cemetery closed in 1943. Most of the 2,000 bodies interred on the site lie in unmarked graves.

Fahrer said she gathered most of the information contained in the panel from talking to the Gibson family and neighbors. The project, one of several history panels put together by Fahrer and Terry, took three years to complete, she says.

St. John “A” Baptist Church is at 20 Dalton St. To see the Gibson side of the panel, go to avl.mx/cfn. To see the Asheville side, visit avl.mx/cfo

Nice threads

Follow the Thread, an exhibit featuring work by members of Tapestry Weavers South, will run through Wednesday, May 3, at the Folk Art Center.

The Southern Highland Craft Guild show will feature geometric tapestry weavings, woven bowls and postcards, framed scenic textiles and three-dimensional faces. Tapestry Weavers South is an organization dedicated to advancing the art and craft of tapestry weaving.

The Folk Art Center is at Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in East Asheville. Admission is free. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. For more information, visit avl.mx/cft

Support for artists

ArtsAVL named 24 recipients of the 2022-23 regional Artist Support Grant, 15 of whom live and work in Buncombe County.

Awardees work in a variety of art forms and mediums within craft, music and theater, literature, media and visual arts. In Buncombe County, this year’s recipients include artists working in film, textile arts, music, painting, poetry, jewelry making and ceramic arts.

The winners from Buncombe County are Virginia Derryberry, Bridger Dunnagan, Joel Elliott, Kristin Erhard, Sean Gaskell, Ryan Glass, Ginger Huebner, Lisa Klakulak, Isabella Losskarn, Deanna Lynch, Morgan McCarver, Sara Murphy, Mary Ellen Lough, Katerine Viloria and Laura Wood.

Grants, which ranged from $750 to $3,000, will support projects including a new series of narrative paintings by Derryberry that will examine this contemporary moment of cultural divisiveness; a poetry manuscript revision from Lough; and Dunnagan’s purchase of new recording equipment to capture the vibrant music culture of Western North Carolina.

Viloria, a first-time grant recipient, will use funds to build a professional website, purchase equipment and reimburse expenses from her first solo show.

For more information, go to avl.mx/cfs.

Punk it up

Four bands will take the stage for Punk Night at The Odd on Friday, March 10, starting at 8 p.m.

The lineup features Asheville groups Cloud City Caskets and Tiny TVs. Rounding out the bill will be Tennessee-based The Reppertons and Raleigh’s Distortions.

Tickets are $10. Doors open at 7 p.m.

The Odd is at 1045 Haywood Road. For more information, go to avl.mx/cfr.

Tickets available

Tickets are available for Literacy Together’s 14th annual Authors for Literacy Dinner & Auction on Thursday, May 4, 6-9 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Resort Expo Center.

Silas House, bestselling author of Eli the Good, Southernmost and other novels, will be the keynote speaker at the event. The annual gathering raises money for Literacy Together’s programs, which provide comprehensive literacy and English language skills to students and others in Buncombe County.

General admission tickets are $95. To purchase tickets, go to avl.mx/amw.

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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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