HATCH-ing a new Asheville festival

Asheville’s arts and culture mavens are buzzing about HATCHfest, a multifaceted festival set to make its debut here in the spring of 2009.

Hatching a festival: The first annual Asheville HATCHfest is more than a year away, but plans for the mammoth arts and cultural festival are underway. Above, a scene from the recent launch party at Echo Mountain Studios. Photo By Jonathan Welch

If the name sounds even vaguely familiar, you may have heard of the Bozeman, Mont., festival that has gone by the name since it began in 2003. HATCH here will mimic HATCH there, and depend on that original festival’s organizers for inspiration, direction and strategy. (The Bozeman festival will continue to be held each fall, while the Asheville counterpart will be in spring, for as many as the next 10 years and perhaps more, if it proves successful.)

Here’s the plan: The festival, with help from local volunteer committees, will bring 50 international luminaries from various fields here to serve as “mentors” for participants. Programming will cover nine separate “disciplines”: architecture, design, fashion, film, journalism, music, photography and technology. In addition to the mentors, the festival will highlight the work of five emerging artists (aka “groundbreakers”)—also drawn from around the world—for each discipline. Over the course of four days and nights, attendees will network, take classes and visit film screenings, fashion shows and concerts.

Some events will be ticketed, others will be free to the public. The overall goal, the organizers said in a recent release, is to “foster the growth of creative minds and spur economic development.” So far, seed money for Asheville HATCHfest has been gathered from the nonprofit Media Arts Project, AdvantageWest, local music-marketing company Music Allies, Echo Mountain Studios, the Grove Park Inn and Asheville resident Mack Pearsall.

Sean O’Connell, president of Music Allies, is a board member for HATCHfest who wanted to bring the festival here after serving as a mentor in Bozeman in 2006. “One only needs to look at the Bozeman HATCH festival to see evidence of its potential financial impact” in Asheville, he said in the release. “After only three years, the original festival generated $5 million, as well as contributed to a transitional tourism season in Montana, and shifted an international cultural spotlight on Bozeman. We expect Asheville HATCHfest to be an even bigger success.”

Alison Watson, executive director of the Media Arts Project and a fellow board member, likewise has high hopes for what HATCH can do to catalyze the local arts scene. “We want to embrace our entire creative-arts community and encourage them in a different way, much like the Black Mountain College days with Buckminster Fuller,” she said. While the festival could draw attendees from across the country and around the globe, “HATCH is here to support our artists living and creating here.”

Visit www.ashevillehatchfest.org to find out more.

About Jon Elliston
Former Mountain Xpress managing editor Jon Elliston is the senior editor at WNC magazine.

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