Women on the move

North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt recently proclaimed March as Women’s History Month. And, at a March 14 banquet in Cary, nearly 70 prominent North Carolinians — including nine women from WNC — received this year’s Distinguished Women of North Carolina awards.

Individuals and organizations across the state nominated women who’ve made significant contributions, in nine categories: the arts, business, education, government, physical fitness/recreation, professions, volunteerism, the betterment of women, and journalism. The WNC winners are: Asheville residents Bonnie Brannon and Willie Brown (for volunteerism), Oralene Graves-Simmons (arts) and Wilma Sherrill (government); Jenn Burleson (journalism) and Vera Holland Guise (volunteerism) of Arden; Fay Coker Walker of Brevard (volunteerism); Dr. Mary Jo Utley of Cullowhee (education); and Phyllis Foxx of Sylva (volunteerism).

To commemorate the new millennium, the N.C. Council for Women, which sponsors the awards, invited all past recipients (dating back to 1984) and all past and current N.C. female legislators to attend the ceremony.

To learn more about the Distinguished Women of North Carolina Award, or the N.C. Council forWomen, call Peggy Alexander or Connie Hawthorne at (919) 733-2455.

How to be a gadfly

Passionate about protecting our majestic Southern Appalachians? The Environmental Leadership Institute — in cooperation with the League of Conservation Voters’ Education Fund — is presenting an advanced training program for working environmental activists. Six full scholarships are available for North Carolina residents, including travel, room, board and tuition.

The five-day intensive training will provide the skills, information and resources to help participants become more effective environmental leaders. Case studies will address grassroots organizing, legislative lobbying, ballot initiatives and electoral campaigning. The curriculum will also focus on developing interpersonal skills such as understanding group dynamics, mastering the art of persuasion, message development, strategic planning and effective decision-making. ELI trainers will include both professional instructors in leadership development and regional experts.

Thirty environmental professionals from around the Southeast will be chosen to take part in this training, based on their depth of commitment, strong communications skills, and evident leadership potential. This year’s ELI will run Monday through Thursday, May 1-4 at the Unicoi State Park Lodge and Conference Center in Helen, Ga.

To obtain an application, call John Runkle at (919) 942-0600, or ELI Coordinator Terrilyn Bayne at (770) 982-5072. Applications must be returned by March 24.

Pretty pictures

You don’t need a degree in forestry — or photography — to recognize how photogenic the Southern Appalachians are. And if you’re feeling inspired, the Cradle of Forestry and Ball Photo of Asheville are offering an excuse to cut loose with your camera: They’re seeking photos of the mountains for the Cradle of Forestry’s seventh annual photography contest.

This year’s theme is “Spring in the Appalachians”; ribbons will be awarded for first through fifth place, as well as for honorable mentions. Photos will be judged based on technique, value and composition. There’s a maximum of two photos per entrant; color prints (no smaller than 8 inches x 10 inches) should be matted, mounted and/or framed so they can be hung.

The top three finishers will receive gift certificates from Ball Photo: $50 (first place), $25 (second place) and $15 (third place). And if ribbons and prizes aren’t enough incentive for you, all the entries will be considered for inclusion in an upcoming Southern National Forests photography book. Contest entries will also be displayed during the Cradle of Forestry’s Appalachian Spring Celebration, April 22 to May 30. The Brevard-based, nonprofit educational organization is affiliated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The deadline for entries is Monday, April 17; entry forms are available at Ball Photo in Asheville, The Forest Place in Brevard, or the Pisgah Ranger Station, on Pisgah Highway. Send entries to: The Cradle of Forestry, 100 S. Broad St., Brevard, NC, 28712. For more info, call 877-3130.

Finding the way

Even great artists sometimes get stuck; the creative energies that are their lifeblood just stop flowing. But an upcoming series of Artist’s Way classes can help neophytes and established artists alike get more in touch with the wellspring of their own creativity.

Based on Julia Cameron‘s The Artist’s Way, the course guides participants through an intense creative process. The local group began here in Asheville, with the help of Jim Nave, a student and partner of Cameron’s. But after the formal class ended, the participants continued to meet, becoming one of the nation’s largest and most passionate Artist’s Way groups. All 17 of them — including business professionals, graphic artists, woodworkers and stay-at-home moms — will give input into the upcoming class. “This is the most qualified group to teach the Artist’s Way I have ever seen,” Nave commented recently.

The group meets from 7 to 9:30 p.m. every Wednesday, at Common Ground Book Distributors on Fairview Road. The course runs March 22 through June 7. Tuition is $350, and participation is limited to 30 people.

For more information, call Beth Carter at 665-8361, or e-mail

Concert group spruces up name

Come spring, doesn’t everyone get a little restless for a change?

The folks at The Asheville Community Concert Association did. They unveiled their new logo and name — Asheville Bravo Concerts — at Tuesday night’s performance of the Ballet de l’Opera de Bordeaux at the Thomas Wolfe Audititorium.

The concert association was founded in 1932. The new name was proposed by Honorary Life Board Member John Bridges and selected by the association’s board of directors at its November meeting.

— Compiled by Paul Schattel

The future of film

The much-heralded digital filmmaking revolution has arrived in Western North Carolina. Harrow Beauty, an Asheville-based production company, began casting this week for 78, a microbudget, independent feature film to be shot locally, entirely on digital video.

The gritty ensemble tale chronicles a day in the lives of eight people living and working near an overcommercialized Southern highway — Highway 78.

Unlike analog video, whose “soft” resolution and harsh contrast often produce a “home-movie” look, digital video can give even low-budget projects results as professional as megaproductions.

“The technology is getting better and cheaper,” says Paul Schattel of Harrow Beauty. “Great-looking movies are being made now for thousands — rather than millions — of dollars.” And that, says Schattel, has far-reaching implications for the future of movies. “There’s a radical democratization going on in the film world right now, as low-budget filmmakers across the nation are able to stop talking about the films they’d like to make, and actually start making them.”

Eliminating film, camera-rental and developing-lab costs means that independent filmmakers can afford to do as many takes as they need, work with smaller crews, and take full advantage of the video camera’s exceptional ability to capture natural light. Add in the budding possibilities for Internet distribution, and it’s clear that these new technologies promise greatly expanded horizons for low-budget, indie filmmaking.

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