Are you ready to HATCH your creative career?

Cellist Ben Sollee is one of the music panelists.

This weekend, Asheville will host an eclectic liberal arts festival known as HATCH. Downtown galleries, studios and amphitheatres will be converted into HATCH venues for workshops and networking engagements.

The HATCH festival combines the creative disciplines of music, architecture, art, fashion, photography and journalism. HATCH’s unique format allows up-and-comers to interact with industry professionals through a series of mentoring events.

College students and blossoming artists submit their best work in hopes of being chosen as a HATCH groundbreaker. In years past, HATCH has sponsored groundbreakers from across the globe including individuals from Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The collaborative vibe of HATCH has allowed certain young groundbreakers to make lasting connections in their designated fields. Local Asheville designer Liz White was chosen as a fashion groundbreaker for the 2009 festival.

“I'm very much an independent designer and am self taught, so having the experience of meeting and participating in workshops with other professionals was knowledgeable,” said White of her HATCH experience.

Through her interactions with fellow designers and mentors, she was inspired to create a gown using the fabric of a recycled parachute. Her striking, innovative piece was featured at one of the festival’s fashion showcase events.

HATCH mentors were so impressed with White’s design that she was asked to return to the festival the following year. She was chosen as the co-head for the fashion discipline for the 2010 HATCH.   

Upon her return to the festival, White was introduced to fellow designer Jeff Garner. They immediately established a rapport, after realizing the similarities of their design styles. At the conclusion of HATCH, Garner commissioned White to create a few samples for his showcase at London’s Fashion Week.

Her pieces garnered rave reviews, prompting Garner to offer her a full-time position at his Prophetik design house in Nashville, Tenn. Through her collaborations with Garner and Prophetik, White has continued to exhibit her designs annually at London Fashion Week.

She’s had the privilege of dressing Livia Firth, wife of Academy Award winning actor Colin Firth, for the 2011 Golden Globes (dressed by Liz White for Prophetik) and Emily West for the 2011 Academy of Country Music Awards.

White is currently filming a documentary about the history and future of the Prophetik design house which will premier at the Monaco Film Festival in May 2011.

Even more mentors

This year’s HATCH will bring in more than 70 new mentors from all across the world.

Journalism mentor Jeff Chu worked in London for seven years as a staff writer for TIME magazine. HATCH’s journalism panel will focus on how to recognize newsworthy events in the digital world.

Ben Sollee, classically trained cellist, lyricist and performer, will sit on the music panel for the upcoming event. In his role as a mentor, Sollee will discuss the delicate balance of being an entertainer and an activist.

“From what I’ve heard of the festival, Hatch has been successful in setting up a collaborative spirit and creating that catalyst of conversation between artists that are out there working and those that are up and coming,” said an optimistic Sollee.

While HATCH isn’t centered around an overall theme, common topics of discussion often arise organically through the interactions of groundbreakers and mentors, organizers say. In 2010, the seven disciplines of HATCH focused on using creativity to generate social change. In a broad sense, the 2011 HATCH experience will illustrate how groundbreakers can utilize technology to evolve their skills and reach a broader audience.

“No one person can make HATCH happen. There has to be a central point of communication in order for it to work. The most important thing is that each discipline is under the guidance of a professional in the field who is given autonomy to pull it together,” says Craig McAnsh, Hatch’s executive director. 

To avoid the last-minute scramble of 2010 HATCH, McAnsh and his fellow board members selected seven new discipline heads early on in this year’s organizing process.

The 2011 HATCH will feature a new program that engages local middle school students. The “Hatchling” program will focus on architecture and will teach participants to view their surrounding community as a living body. Students will learn how to boost the health of their community through volunteer and outreach programs. 

Although HATCH remains a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization, the festival’s exclusive venues and events don’t come cheap. To fund HATCH, organizers have acquired big-name sponsors including Intel and Toyota. During the course of the festival, HATCH organizers will announce a new Intel-sponsored program that will benefit the Asheville community.

While HATCH invites mentors and groundbreaking artists to attend the festival for free, tickets are available for purchase for interested members of the community. Tickets for panel discussions and keynote speakers are $5 each.

Purchase a $7 ticket to view one of the numerous films that will be running throughout the festival. Tickets for networking parties are $20 each. Individual workshops will be priced. Visit to learn about available ticket packages.

— Philip Foster is an Asheville-based freelance writer.

who: HATCH Asheville
what: Festival of networking and mentoring
where: Venues across downtown Asheville
when: Thursday, April 14 to Sunday, April 17 (Full schedule at


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