Raising awareness for the cause — and the arts, and the music

Last year, Chris Gaspar had an inspired idea: to spotlight the diverse and thriving philanthropic movement in Asheville through the eyes of local artists, musicians, business people and activists. The result: PhilanthroPEAK, a documentary highlighting the efforts of local outreach programs and the people who drive them. The hope, Gaspar says, is not only to raise awareness for the various causes, but also to introduce Asheville to a national audience.

Working it out: Filmmaker David Bourne shoots for PhilanthroPEAK, a film highlighting the efforts of local outreach programs and the people who drive them. Photo courtesy Dreamspider Publicity.

Gaspar had been living in Asheville for several years and was about to film Brooklyn rockers The Hold Steady at a California event for Worcester, Mass.-based nonprofit Concepts4Charity. "We were going to put a lot of money towards that," he recalls, "and I was like, 'Listen, there are a lot of cool things going on [in Asheville].'" So Gaspar and Concepts4Charity enlisted the services of a number of local companies — including Bourne Media, American Green, Acapella Audio and Stellar Media — and began production on PhilanthroPEAK.

Now, with the shooting phase (which has been underway for about a year) drawing to a close, Concepts4Charity is hosting a six-hour fundraiser — PhilanthroPEAK Live — at the Diana Wortham Theatre, featuring live music (Aaron Price with Kellin Watson, Woody Wood, Jar-e, Underhill Rose, The Secret B-Sides and Jenny Greer of Jen and the Juice), comedians Scotch Tomedy, visual artists, theatrical performances, interactive displays from the Bob Moog Foundation and a ceramics demonstration by local author and artist Shay Amber. Local nonprofits will also be on hand with information about their organizations. Basically, says Gaspar, this is the "capstone event," complete with film crews on hand to capture the entire evening.

The film itself features many of those artists, performing and speaking about causes they support. PhilanthroPEAK Live headliner Kellin Watson says she's grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness for such a wide range of causes, two of which are especially close to her heart.

"I've always been a big supporter of breast cancer awareness," Watson says. "I've lost a friend, and then both my grandmothers had breast cancer, so that was something that was always important to me. And also, the music in public schools programs are something that I'm always behind, because there was such a cut in funding in the last eight years. And that's what Concepts4Charity seems to be about, putting it back into schools."

Watson is right. Since 2003, the organization has been funding and operating after-school music programs in several states, with the goal of using connections made through PhilanthroPEAK to establish a hip-hop culture program at Asheville High. Already, the newly-founded Asheville chapter of Concepts4Charity has received permission to implement such a program, which officially launches next year. Proceeds from the film will in part go towards funding that program, says Concepts4Charity's national director Kaleem Clarkson.

"It utilizes community artists as educators as well as performers to come in after school," he explains. "Basically, these students have an opportunity to pick a discipline, whether it is break-dance, rapping, singing and songwriting or poetry. What we do is bring in guest artists to teach those different elements."

According to press for PhilanthroPEAK Live, Concepts4Charity is "devoted to raising awareness for community issues through sports and the arts. PhilanthroPEAK will be a story that takes action by discussing ideas for developing grassroots projects in Western North Carolina, while also promoting the goodwill and concerns of the local community."

The project really sought to get to the heart of local needs, dreams and goals from the beginning, when organizers rented a cabin in Leicester and sent out an "open invitation" for those involved to stay the entire weekend and share their stories in a relaxed, communal environment. The strategy, says filmmaker David Bourne, was a success, and it yielded some spectacular footage. Expect a similarly open approach at the PhilanthroPEAK Live event.

"We'll get some interviews out in the audience and film some folks," says Bourne. "Because there are tons of people in Asheville who will come out to support a cause and do it by listening to this great music." Whether you're looking to get more involved with local outreach or you're just in it to have a good time, come check out what PhilanthroPEAK Live has to offer. You might even end up in the movie.

[Dane Smith can be reached at rocknrolldane@gmail.com.]

who: PhilanthroPEAK Live
what: Multimedia event featuring artists and charities featured in forthcoming film, including Aaron Price with Kellin Watson, Woody Wood, Jar-e, Underhill Rose, The Secret B-Sides, Jenny Greer and Scotch Tomedy
where: Diana Wortham Theatre
when: Saturday, March 20 (5 p.m., $10 advance/$15 at the door. concepts4charity.org/events/87)

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