Arts Council forms new Arts Coalition

O, PIONEERS: Clockwise from top left, Reggie Tidwell, Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith, Michael Manes and Rae Geoffrey are among the 10 committee chairs for the Asheville Area Arts Council's inaugural Arts Coalition. Photos courtesy of the AAAC

In an effort to better serve the many diverse arts professionals and businesses in Buncombe County, the Asheville Area Arts Council has formed the Arts Coalition to drive policy in 10 key focus areas, ranging from arts education to trade. Committee chairs will hold quarterly focus area meetings and serve on the leadership team. Katie Cornell, AAAC executive director, says the leadership committee began meeting in April and convenes once a month.
The inaugural committee chairs include Laura Mitchell (Arts Education); Stephanie Hickling Beckman (Arts Equity); Jessica Tomasin (Information); Gar Ragland (Manufacturing); Rae Geoffrey (Nonprofits); Liz Whalen Tallent (Performance Venues); Reggie Tidwell (Professional and Business Services); Justin Rabuck (Public Arts, Festivals and Community Events); Gwynne Rukendbrod Smith (Sole Proprietors/Independent Contractors); and Michael Manes (Trade/Retail).

Tidwell, founder of Asheville-based design and photography firm Curve Theory, says the appointment “checks a lot of boxes” for him and that as a person of color, he’s happy to be involved and have influence through that lens. “It’s important to me to see that the arts are continually uplifted here,” he says, noting that they add a layer of vibrancy “that many cities can’t claim.”
As a committee chair, Tidwell also plans to use his position as the founding president of the Asheville chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts to listen, connect and ensure that local designers, photographers and advertisers have the resources they need to succeed and continue to contribute to the city’s economy. In the leadership committee meetings thus far, he says it’s clear that all involved are “a passionate and resourceful group of people that want the city to thrive,” and “want to make sure that our creative professionals have funding, resources and a voice to continue building and remaining sustainable.”

“I want local businesses and organizations to know about the wealth of talent this city holds in its creative professionals, and I want to see businesses and our government investing in the local creatives so that it continues to stimulate our economy,” Tidwell says. “As I build a committee, I’m excited to hear what other goals people will bring to the table.”

For more information, visit

Folkmoot is back

Folkmoot resumes hosting programs and events with the return of Summerfest, Thursday-Sunday, July 22-25. The festival takes place at Lake Junaluska, downtown Waynesville and the Folkmoot Friendship Center, 112 Virginia Ave., Waynesville.

Offerings include an assortment of traditional and contemporary dances, as well as musical performances. These disciplines and others will be represented at Many Cultures Day on Saturday, July 24, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., on Main Street in Waynesville. According to a press release, the outdoor event is intended to be “a comprehensive Folkmoot experience” and a highlight for attendees.
“Folkmoot is excited to return to in-person events after a long hibernation,” says Glenn Fields, the organization’s executive director. “This year, we are very excited to feature an array of groups that represent a variety of American ethnic cultures, showcasing a portion of what makes this unique melting pot of a country so great.”

Tickets range from $25-$100 for evening programs. Many Cultures Day is free to attend. For more details, visit

Memorable educator

Enka High School band director Kevin Young is a quarterfinalist for the 2022 Music Educator Award, presented by the Recording Academy and Grammy Museum. Young is one of 219 quarterfinalists from across the U.S., and the winning educator will be announced the final week of January.

According to the Grammy Museum award website, “the Music Educator Award was established to recognize current educators (kindergarten through college, public and private schools) who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools.” To learn more, visit

Hometown horror

The Nest, the new horror film from local director James Suttles and screenwriter Jennifer Trudrung, debuted at Redbox on July 6 and is available on digital, on demand and DVD as of July 20. The feature concerns a mother’s yard-sale purchase of a seemingly innocent stuffed bear for her young daughter and the sinister behavior the toy soon inspires. The film stars genre legend Dee Wallace (Cujo; The Howling) and such area actors as Kevin Patrick Murphy and Drez Ryan. For more information, visit×8.

Instrumental dexterity

The Blue Ridge Orchestra performs its Summer Winds program on Saturday, July 24, and Sunday, July 25, at 5:30 p.m. in the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts’ Market Street Courtyard. The concert spotlights the orchestra’s woodwinds and brass, mixing full-ensemble pieces with solo and small-ensemble moments. Highlights include the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, interpreted by percussionist Chris Leich on vibraphone, and Paul Hindemith’s Morgenmusik. 

“In addition to the challenges of performing music from different eras in radically different styles with shifting instrumentation, there are always particular challenges presented by the great composers,” says Milton Crotts, BRO music director and conductor.

Mozart’s music demands exact precision; Schubert’s emotional intensity must be matched by the performers; Stravinsky’s complex rhythmic patterns require not only technical facility, but extraordinary concentration,” Crotts continues. “Summer Winds exhibits the skill and versatility of the BRO’s wind players in meeting all these challenges and more.”

General admission tickets are $25, and the courtyard seats a maximum of 75 people. Learn more at

Unity through dance

Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective presents BLVCK Brilliance: A Celebration of Melanin, on Saturday, July 24, at 7 p.m. in the Diana Wortham Theatre. Directed and choreographed by local artist Melvin AC Howell, the show features “a talented and supercharged cast of local Black dancers and a violinist,” and uses “a variety of movement styles and music to celebrate and elaborate not on the trauma and struggles of being Black, but of the strength, resilience and pride Black people possess despite those things.” Tickets are $20. To learn more, visit×2.

Album: released

Asheville-based singer-songwriter Kevin Daniel celebrates the release of his sophomore album, Been Here Before, with a Sunday, July 25, performance at The Grey Eagle’s patio stage. The album features collaborations with fellow local artists Keith Harry and Logan Jayne of Andrew Scotchie & The River Rats, and Kyle Snuffer and Alex Bradley of Empire Strikes Brass. The show begins at 5 p.m. with an opening set from Johnny Chops, followed by Daniel with his band The Bottom Line. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit×1.


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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