Dozens of members of Asheville’s culinary community are teaming up this week to help raise funds for vital programs that benefit local underserved youths. The event these local chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs are rallying around is the seventh annual Art Affair fundraising gala for OpenDoors of Asheville.
With the theme “From Athena to Zeus,” the celebration on Saturday, March 5, will also serve as a sort of prelaunch for the spacious and elegant new Green Man Brewery building at 27 Buxton Ave. on Asheville’s South Slope in advance of the space’s St. Patrick’s Day grand opening. “We are actually hosting the event as our very first night ever in our new facility,” says Green Man co-owner Wendy Thies. “We felt this was an amazing way to kick-start the next chapter of our brewery, and we are thrilled to be a part of it all.
“We believe it is incredibly important to give back to our community and were so honored when asked if we would be willing to play a larger role with OpenDoors and donate our space,” she continues. “What they do for kids is nothing short of spectacular.”
Art Affair event chair Dosty Quarrier explains, “OpenDoors serves many Asheville families struggling to break the complex cycle of social, economic and educational hardship. The theme for Art Affair this year offers a modern-day twist on ancient Greek lore — one that celebrates our local heroes and heroines who teach, mentor and advocate on behalf of students to help them reach their full potential.”
In support of OpenDoors’ mission, nearly 30 restaurants, bars, breweries and wine distributors are providing their products, creativity and expertise to help make this year’s event a success. And in keeping with the theme, East Asheville craft cocktail bar and lounge Post 70 will donate libations that have their own mythological twist for the event.
“I have a cocktail on the menu at Post 70 called Apollo’s Chariot, which is very fitting for the theme,” says Post 70 bartender Courtney Nelson of what she plans to serve to Art Affair guests. “It’s a Metaxa brandy-based cocktail. Metaxa is a Greek brandy made from grapes. Apollo’s Chariot is a light, refreshing variation of a classic cocktail called a sidecar and is very approachable and enjoyable to most all tastes.”
Meanwhile, Limones chef Hugo Ramirez is contributing his own taste of Greece with mint-lime chicken skewers, feta cheese pearl couscous, green olive-tomato shrimp ceviche and cream tzatziki. Amy Cavenaugh, who co-owns Limones, became involved with OpenDoors and Art Affair after her own children befriended fellow students who were beneficiaries of OpenDoors programs. “I saw how effective it was in the lives of my kids’ classmates,” Cavenaugh says. “And I came to know some of the kids OpenDoors was helping, so it was personal.”
Chef Peter Pollay of Posana Café plans to add to the event with his restaurant’s popular kale salad. Although this is the first time he has donated a dish to an Art Affair gala, he and his wife, Martha, were introduced to OpenDoors by a friend and have attended the event in years past. “When they contacted me to ask if we’d participate,” Pollay says, “I said that we’d love to, for sure.’”
Art Affair also features live entertainment plus silent and live auctions, which each year brings together a diversity of talent, both culinary and otherwise. The auctions will showcase the work of more than 75 regional artists, including ceramicists, woodworkers, glass artists, jewelers and painters. The spotlighted artist this year is local painter and muralist Jeremy Russell, who was also commissioned by Green Man Brewery to create a gigantic trio of murals to decorate the new facility’s interior. Fashion by R. Brooke Priddy’s Ship to Shore and Ananda Hair Studio will be featured as well.
The evening will also include the presentation of the OpenDoors 2016 Laureate of the Year Award, which recognizes outstanding service in helping eliminate child poverty. This year’s recipients are Public Defender’s Office attorneys Yolanda Fair and Martin Moore.
Lisa Whittenburg, a local single mom raising three children while struggling with the challenges of multigenerational poverty, has firsthand experience with what OpenDoors does to uplift Asheville families. “I know what I struggled with when I was a child,” she recalls. “Then, my kids were struggling because I was having to work second- and third-shift jobs to provide for them. But now they get nurturing from OpenDoors around the clock.”
Whittenburg adds that the organization’s name aptly represents how it can help create opportunities for local families. “I have seen the transformation, the confidence, the loss of aggravation and frustration,” she explains. “Each one of my children has developed a new curiosity, and their whole conversation has changed. They are on a whole new level of learning. I’m so proud of them and so grateful to OpenDoors.”
Art Affair 2016 is at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at the new Green Man Brewery, 27 Buxton Ave. A VIP party begins at 6:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $100. VIP tickets are $150. For more information, visit opendoorsasheville.org.