Tangerine dream

The Asheville Area Arts Council’s annual Color Ball takes on prohibition-era themes

This year’s Tangerine Ball borrows inspiration from one of Asheville’s most luminous eras: the roaring ‘20s. The Asheville Area Arts Council says the event (its annual fundraiser) is “in honor of our great literary traditions, in honor of our ghosts, in honor of an opulent and abundant time, when the Asheville style was influenced by the creative, expressive and just a bit special.” But the age of The Great Gatsby, the Charleston and art deco was also the age of Prohibition — aka the rise of bathtub gin. In the Moonshine Mecca of the Appalachians, its likely that imbibers turned not to rotgut cocktails but to artful corn liquors. Which is why Troy & Sons Distillers tops off the event with its boutique North Carolina heirloom whiskey and moonshine.

Past color balls turned out in green, red, white and purple. For this year’s fete, AAAC executive director Kitty Love was thinking about a glitter theme, but, in the end, the vote for tangerine won out. “It turned out to be a perfect choice,” says Love, who pulled the on-trend color into a painting she created for the ball, in collaboration with local artist Heather Shirin. The image (which will be auctioned off at the ball) is of an orange phoenix behind a Zelda Fitzgerald character. “It’s in homage to the fact that she died in that fire,” Love says of dancer, writer and artist Fitzgerald, who perished at Asheville’s Highland Hospital during a 1948 blaze. Love likens the bird of legend, which rises from the ashes of its own funeral pyre, to the beleaguered AAAC, which, in the last couple of years, has experienced a resurgence.

The ball itself is split into four parties, each with different activities. Three of those are pre-parties, and the three different ticket price-points include all of the soirees; one party and the finale; or just the Orange Peel gala. Love says that Color Ball founder Rick Ramsey advised her to focus on the main event rather than the pre-parties. Those mini balls, years ago, were no holds barred blowouts with decorations, music, entertainment (aerialists, anyone?) and theme cocktails.

While the Tangerine Ball’s pre-parties are smaller in scale, they’re no less elegant: 5 Walnut Wine Bar hosts a fashion show and stylist competition; Hotel Indigo’s bash (held on its 10th floor) “has an avant-garde flapper feel for a high-art evening,” according to the event website. And at French Broad Chocolate Lounge, it’s all about Burlesque. And chocolate, of course. The evening culminates at the Orange Peel with “gangsters in suspenders and flappers in garters,” DJ Marley, DJ Gilbot spinning electro-swing, The Lowdown Sires playing jazz, Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School providing live odalisque painting and fan dancing. Each party will feature signature cocktails designed by local mixologists. (That’s where the Troy & Sons liquor comes in.)

Money raised by the Tangerine Ball help fund AAAC projects. “We logged 450 volunteer hours in the last three months,” says Love. “We really have the potential to be meaningful. Our supposed area of service is Buncombe County, so that includes a lot of other communities. We’re going to have to work our way up to where an arts council ideally should be. But this is a great start.”

Love was named executive director at the end of last year, and she came to the position with ideas. “One is that I think we need a cultural-resources directory, and we’re the organization to do that,” she says. Through that and other projects, Love is “looking to create a substantial platform from which we can support Buncombe County.”

For arts enthusiasts, helping out is just a party (or four) away. And when it comes to planning a tangerine-themed outfit, Love offers this advice: Local boutiques and costumers were challenged to a contest (with a $500 prize) to create the best Tangerine Ball store window. Just look for shades of orange and you’ll know exactly where to shop.

Alli Marshall can be reached at amarshall@mountainx.com.
what: The Tangerine Ball
where: Pre-parties at 5 Walnut Wine Bar, Hotel Indigo and French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Ball at The Orange Peel.
when: Saturday, Sept. 15 (pre-parties at 6:30-9 p.m.; ball at 9 p.m. Tickets are $100 for all four parties; $75 for one pre-party plus the ball; $30 for the Orange Peel event only. http://ashevillearts.com/artery/color-ball/color-ball)

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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