Give a bird a home

Here’s a chance to get creative, help out a feathered friend — and support a worthy cause. Dirt and Sky People Gallery (51 N. Lexington Ave. in downtown Asheville) is hosting the First Annual Birdhouse Auction, slated for Friday and Saturday, March 28-29. Donated birdhouses, from simple to elaborate, are welcome. The event will benefit The Bountiful Cities Project, a local nonprofit with a unique vision that blends environmental education, food production and park-building.

To encourage creativity, organizers are offering an array of prizes for the top three entries.

The first-place winner will walk away with a one-night free stay at Heritage Cabins. Assorted gift baskets, gift certificates and items from local stores are among the prizes.

Bountiful Cities, formed in 2000, aims to create beautiful community spaces on urban land where food can be produced. That mission became reality last year when the former MAGIC garden on Pearson Drive was sown with more than a dozen types of vegetables and flower crops which were later donated to service providers for low-income families. Besides creating green spaces and growing food, the project also works with local youth, teaching students at Warren Wilson College, the YMCA summer camp, Math ‘n’ Art (a private tutoring program), and the Asheville and Buncombe County schools about nutrition and the valuable work of food production.

The all-volunteer group hopes to eventually raise $17,000 to purchase the community garden which is currently being leased.

The auction preview is on Fri., March 28, from 11-6 p.m. and Sat. March 29 from 11-5:30 p.m. Saturday’s reception begins at 5:30, followed by the auction at 7 p.m. Before the auction, the winning birdhouses will be chosen and and their creators rewarded accordingly.

For more information, contact Shane (255-8318) or Sabra (275-1751).

— Larisa Harrill

Spotlight on theater folk

An upcoming audition at Blue Ridge Motion Pictures (12 Old Charlotte Hwy.) offers local actors and technicians — both children and adults — a chance to strut their stuff before more than a dozen theater professionals from throughout the region.

The WNC Theatre League’s annual auditions are aimed at developing a data base of local theater folk to work on productions by The Artist Resource Center, Bravo Company, Flat Rock Playhouse, Haywood Arts Repertory Theater, Highland Repertory Theater, Montford Park Players, North Carolina Stage Company, Parkway Playhouse, Pleiades Productions, and Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater.

Adult actors must prepare 90 seconds of material, consisting of either one monologue, two contrasting monologues, or one monologue and 16 bars of a song (an accompanist will be available; please bring your own sheet music in your key, as the accompanist will not transpose).

Children should present a memorized selection, poem or rhyme and, if they wish, sing a song (singing to tapes is not allowed).

All actors must provide 15 copies of a photo/headshot and resume for easy distribution to theater groups.

To preregister for auditions, send an e-mail (see below) or mail copies of your photo, headshot and resume to Bravo Company, PO Box 478, Black Mountain, NC 28752. Please indicate your preference for Wednesday evening, Saturday afternoon, or Saturday morning (children-only) tryouts.

Adults (16 and up) can audition Wed., Feb. 26, from 6-9:30 p.m. and Sat. Mar. 1, 1-7 p.m. Childrens’ (6-15) auditions take place Sat. Mar. 1, 10 a.m.-noon.

For more information, contact Blue Ridge Motion Pictures at (828) 299-3297 or e-mail

— Larisa Harrill

Calling all storytellers

More than half of Buncombe County preschoolers spend their days in childcare, reports Erwin Gunnells of the Asheville-Buncombe Library System’s Preschool Outreach Project. Many of these kids miss out on the pleasures of reading, because both teachers and parents are so overloaded that there’s no time to visit the library or sit down and enjoy a book together.

“Reading aloud to children is the No. 1 indicator of future literacy [and] of success in school. That’s been proven many times,” notes Gunnells. “It’s the determining factor, more than even the education of the parents.”

For 14 years now, the POP program has been working to ensure that preschool kids receive this early stimulus by sending storybooks and volunteer storytellers into a growing number of daycare classrooms.

“[The kids] grow to love the story time,” she says. “One group learned the days of the week so they would know when their ‘library lady’ was coming.”

During twice-yearly workshops at Pack Library (67 Haywood St. in Asheville), new volunteers learn read-aloud techniques, songs and puppetry, and tricks for keeping the attention of a group of preschool children. The next workshop is scheduled for Thursday, March 6, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Lunch and parking will be provided. POP is accepting applications through the end of February.

Volunteers, says Gunnells, come in all shapes and sizes. “[They] are retirees and students, men and women, those experienced with children and those to whom it is a new experience. Some work full time and still manage to make their visits.”

These dedicated folks, she notes, are the program’s lifeblood. “Most of them give far more than we require, bringing a wealth of creativity and wisdom to the preschool classrooms. They may bring other things too … [such as] musical instruments, seashells, childhood toys and, in one case, a live chicken! Some go wearing mouse ears or farmer hats, while others dress more sedately, but all of them seem to love what they’re doing.”

Applications are available at branch libraries or by calling the POP office at 250-4729.

— Lisa Watters

Get ready for the stampede

Watch out, Asheville: The Sunset Stampede is coming! This all-day event will be held outside the Grove Arcade on Saturday, May 3. An East to West Fitness Fair will feature fitness instructors as well as alternative and traditional health-care providers. For those looking to get active, there’ll also be three running events — a one-mile run as well as four- and 10-mile runs/fitness walks. The one-mile Kid Stampede (a noncompetitive fun run) starts at 4:30 p.m.; the other events begin at 5 p.m. Afterward, there’ll be a big party at the finish line with three bands and a chili cook-off.

Two 10-week training programs start this week, offering support and camaraderie to help both beginners and more accomplished runners get ready.

The four-mile training program, sponsored by Tortoise & Hare outfitters in Biltmore Park, will be facilitated by co-owner Randy Ashley. The program starts Saturday, Feb. 22 and offers four group runs each week to give participants some options. The runs will happen Tuesdays (starting at 6 p.m. at Weaver Park), Wednesdays (6 p.m. at Tortoise & Hare), Thursdays, (6 p.m. at Weaver Park) and Saturdays (9 a.m. at Tortoise & Hare). Weekday runs will range from three to five miles; the Saturday runs will range from five to 10 miles. There’s a $12 fee for the program, and participants will be awarded a singlet and water bottle on completion. To sign up, drop by Tortoise & Hare between 4-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19 or Thursday, Feb. 20.

The YMCA is sponsoring a 10-mile training program facilitated by personal trainer Jonathan Poston. The twice-weekly program, which starts on Wednesday, Feb. 19, will feature runs at three different locations: the YMCA, Biltmore Park and Bent Creek. The runs are scheduled for Wednesdays (4:30-6 p.m.) and Saturdays (8-10 a.m.). The fee is $35 for members, $45 for nonmembers. The program won’t be offered unless enough people sign up, so if you’re interested, don’t delay.

To learn more about the training programs, call the Tortoise & Hare at 681-5325 or the YMCA at 252-4726. For more information about the Sunset Stampede, call 253-0052.

— Lisa Watters

What challenge should Asheville/Buncombe tackle next?

Every fall for the last four years, Asheville-Buncombe VISION has held communitywide dialogues addressing a specific issue, such as land use, transportation, and jobs/wages. Last year’s dialogues focused on the question, “How will we respond to the health needs in our county?”

“We had a number of groups that met in many different locations around the county,” reports George Keller of the Community Dialogues Steering Committee. “Wellness and prevention popped up again and again in the discussions. There were many people who were motivated to get out there and work together on trying to improve the general overall wellness of the population.”

In the end, says Keller, “Five or six action groups were formed by people who had been in the discussions and saw from the areas of agreements things they could get together and do.”

According to Keller, most of those groups are still meeting, tackling such issues as getting healthier food into — and soft-drink machines out of — school cafeterias; creating a health-and-wellness booklet offering health tips and a directory of free and low-fee health services; and attracting more doctors to the area (there is now , on average, a three-month waiting period to get an appointment for an initial consultation, says Keller.)

The dialogues, notes Keller, were not debates.

“They were facilitated — and we looked for areas of common agreement,” he explains. “It is fascinating when you get in these discussions with folks who seem to have a wide range of opinions — and you think, ‘Gee, we’ll never agree on anything’ — how quickly you can find very large areas of agreement where we can get together without arguments and really get down to work to try to improve things.”

The steering committee is now soliciting suggestions from the Asheville/Buncombe County community on a topic for the 2003 dialogues. Topics should be broad and compelling; they should draw from diverse groups; and most importantly, says Keller, “they should be doable on the local level. We don’t want to pick something that would require federal or state action down the road; we’d like to find things we can do here, in Buncombe County and Asheville.”

Keller also asks that suggestions be submitted as soon as possible, since the steering committee will be meeting shortly to choose a topic.

Among the topics already up for consideration are community-building, air quality, healthy families and government participation. Regarding that last topic, Keller reports, “We’ve even had one person suggest that we merge city and county government into one so they could cooperate better.”

To people who’ve never participated in one of these dialogues before, Keller explains: “It is really a community discussion; we don’t try to change anybody’s opinion. You can come in with pretty unusual opinions and you’re welcome.”

A report of the 2002 Community Dialogues can be read online at the VISIONS Web site (; to get a paper copy, call 254-0333. Suggestions for the 2003 Community Dialogues topic can be e-mailed to

— Lisa Watters

Where art and science collide

Aspiring sixth-grade artists in Henderson County have a chance to grab the spotlight while helping promote environmental awareness. The winners’ work will be displayed throughout the month of March in the auditorium of the Main Branch of the Henderson County Library, along with a 25-word personalized message describing the piece. The winner’s name and photo will appear in the Hendersonville Times-News. There’s even a prize for the first-place winner. (Last year’s winner, Lauren Dotson, received a two-person backpacking tent courtesy of Diamond Brand Outdoor Center.)

The Environmental and Conservation Organization’s eighth annual art contest combines art and science while honoring young Henderson County artists. This year’s theme is “The Three R’s of Waste: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.” All submissions — sculptures, drawings, crafts, etc. — must represent this theme. (Last year, for example, Dotson depicted the theme “Walkways, Bikeways, Greenways: What’s Your Way?” with a drawing of downtown Hendersonville after the trolley was brought to town.)

ECO Chair Katie Breckheimer explains: “When I was in school, I felt — in a naive way — that people in general understood the consequences of their actions. … But I learned it takes early education to really understand the impact they have on our world.” She hopes the art project will spark the kind of environmental dialogue that she feels is needed to teach children about humans’ collective responsibility to the earth.

An awards ceremony honoring the top 20 finalists and their families will be held on Monday evening, March 10 at the Main Branch of the Henderson County Library. All finalists will receive a complimentary day of adventure at the Mountain Trail Outdoor School at the Kanuga Conference Center, which includes games, wall climbing, high ropes and hoMing.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, Feb. 28.

For more information or a brochure package, contact Katie Breckheimer (749-9104) or Mary Jo Padgett (692-0385).

— Larisa Harrill

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