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Exhibit chronicles the women of southern Appalachia

“It’s a very powerful exhibit,” says Sharon Baggett, director of education at the Smith-McDowell House Museum. She’s talking about “Serving Home and Community: Women of Southern Appalachia,” on display at the museum through Sunday, April 6. Especially, she notes, “because you get to learn about these women in their own words.”

Originally presented at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and now on a 20-city national tour, “Serving Home and Community” chronicles the lives of 40 everyday women living in Southern Appalachia via portraits by acclaimed documentary photographer Barbara Beirne.

Beirne, explains Baggett, “traveled throughout five states [Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia] in the Southern Appalachian region and took photographs and did interviews with different women in each of the states.”

Beirne’s work draws on two generations of Appalachian women, ranging in age from 50 to 100, to capture the rhythm of life in such places as Cherokee, N.C.; Pippa Passes, Ky.; Ravenswood, W.Va.; and Ivanhoe, Va. The women photographed and interviewed include a union activist, a daughter of a slave, a pediatrician, a miner, a police captain, a musician and a published writer.

Each photograph is accompanied by an excerpt from Beirne’s interview so that “you learn a little bit about the women’s lives as you go through the exhibit,” notes Baggett.

And despite the hardships they’ve endured — including unemployment, illness and natural disaster — many of these unsung heroines take a positive view of their experience in this isolated, sometimes unforgiving region.

Consider these words from Pippa Passes resident Verna Mae Slone: “Many lies and half-truths have been written about the mountain people, but we know God sent his very strongest men and women here who could enjoy life and search out the few pleasures contained in a life of hard work. I wrote my [memoirs], What My Heart Wants to Tell, because I wanted my grandchildren to be proud of their heritage.”

In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum and the Western Carolina Women’s Coalition will host a screening and discussion of Tammy Hopkins‘ award-winning documentary film Women of These Hills II: Three Cultures of Appalachia on Tuesday, April 1, 7 p.m. in A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium (formerly Laurel Auditorium). Suggested donation: $3. Hopkins will be on hand to talk about her film; a reception will follow the screening, and video copies of the film will be on sale.

Women of These Hills II records the stories of three Western North Carolina women — Amanda Simmer of Cherokee, Mary Jane Queen of Cullowhee, and Elizabeth Allen of Hendersonville — who share their memories of growing up as mountain women from distinct backgrounds (Cherokee, Scots-Irish and African-American, respectively). The documentary was the Official Selection of the 2002 Berkshire Woman’s History Conference

The Smith-McDowell House Museum is located at 283 Victoria Road on the campus of A-B Tech Community College. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, $3 for children and young adults ages 5 to 18, and free for children under 5. For more information, call the museum (253-9231) or visit the WNC Historical Association Web site (www.wnchistory.org).

Grove Arcade hosts arts event

The newly renovated Grove Arcade will celebrate the arts in Western North Carolina’s vibrant creative community with an Art Explosion on Saturday, March 29, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. The daylong, free event will feature music and assorted classes, as well as artisans displaying their work throughout the arcade, explains Director of Communications Ann McMartin.

Musicians Dan Beebe, Jason Everett Dogget, Michael Farr and Carrie Gerstmann and local bands ADA, Malachite Moon and United Soul are scheduled to play throughout the day.

Classes, says McMartin, will include: basket-making with Judy Quinn (11 a.m.-noon); math games, tricks and fun for all ages with Math & Art’s Joy Harmon (12:30-1:30 p.m.); a unique approach to skin care blending Chinese medicine with natural Swiss monochromatic light therapy and lymphatic stimulation (Karen Howard, 2-3 p.m.); writing songs with Farr (3:30-4:30 p.m.); and herb/drug interactions with registered pharmacist Linda Green (5-6 p.m.).

Artworks in diverse media will be on display and available for sale. The North Carolina School of Natural Healing will also have a display booth open during the day.

The Arcade, McMartin explains, “represents a lot of the arts in the area. We felt that this was a good marriage.” She invites the public to “come on in and see some of our new shops that are opening daily — and enjoy themselves!”

For more information, call the Grove Arcade at 252-7799 or visit their Web site (www.grovearcade.com).

Paying for city elections

A breakfast meeting of the Asheville/Buncombe League of Women Voters will address campaign-finance reform in North Carolina municipal elections. The event happens Wednesday, April 2, 7:30 a.m. at The Cabin (287 Weaverville Hwy.). Guest speaker Adam Sotak of Democracy North Carolina will highlight reforms being implemented in Chapel Hill and discuss the legal context for such local efforts. The public is invited; no reservations needed.

“Last fall, at … the urging of [the League and] other organizations, City Council was asked to appoint a committee to study campaign-finance reform,” notes League board member Andy Reed. The result, he feels, has been less than satisfying.

“Instead of appointing a standard, typical … committee in which all the Council members choose the members, each Council member chose one person to represent his or her opinion,” Reed explains.

“So the committee to study campaign-finance reform didn’t come up with a consensus. Instead they came up with two different reports –one from a majority, one from a minority.”

In addition, says Reed, two Council members will file their own separate reports on the issue.

The only change Council is considering, says Reed with some frustration, “is raising the filing fee. … The filing fee for City Council elections has been $5, so anybody could run. They want to raise it to $75 — and seem to think that that’s going to be a way to improve local campaign financing.”

The League, Reed reports, “is really … concerned that the Council is not addressing the issue in a way that the public wants the Council to address it. We decided to have this forum and educate the public about ways that other municipalities around the state are dealing with or trying to deal with public financing or lowering the cost of elections on the municipal level.”

Both statewide and nationally, the League of Women Voters is a longtime proponent of such reform. The local League chapter is a member of the Coalition for Campaign Finance Reform, an advocacy group concerned about the rapidly escalating cost of Asheville’s municipal elections.

For more information, call 658-2141 or 258-8223.

Conference links mental health, spirituality

“There’s a spiritual component to mental health that was ignored for many, many years,” notes Bill Barthel, associate director of mental health education at the Mountain Area Health Education Center.

Seeking to “help people see the connection,” he explains, MAHEC has sponsored an annual conference called “Spirituality & Mental Health: Bridging the Gap” for the last 16 years. The conference brings together mental-health professionals and spiritual leaders to explore and strengthen the ties these groups share.

This year’s conference — featuring internationally known therapist/teacher Bill O’Hanlon — happens Friday, April 4, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (registration is at 8:30 a.m.) in MAHEC’s Thomas Bacon Lecture Hall. O’Hanlon will present a daylong workshop titled “Integrating Spirituality and Brief, Solution-Oriented Therapy.” The cost is $75 before March 27, $90 thereafter. The fee covers educational materials, administrative costs and refreshments. CEUs are available for an additional $10 fee, payable at registration.

O’Hanlon is a founder of Solution-Oriented Therapy — which, Barthel explains, “is not so much concerned with what the problem is but focuses on [the client’s] strengths and identifying as efficiently as possible strategies to deal with whatever the client presents.”

“Solution-Oriented Therapy is a model that most folks don’t think has a spiritual component,” notes Barthel. “Mr. O’Hanlon wants to set the record straight and help folks understand the role of spirituality in that particular model.”

The workshop will offer practical methods, research evidence and a conceptual model for connecting clients with spirituality and using spiritual resources and methods in the service of change, even with clients averse to religion or spirituality. Via demonstrations, lecture, videotape, poetry, music and clear handouts, participants will learn new therapeutic tools and ideas that respectfully work with each client’s sense of spirituality.

O’Hanlon has authored or co-authored 20 books, including Do One Thing Different: Ten Simple Ways to Change Your Life, which was featured on Oprah in 1999. He has also appeared on The Today Show and a variety of other television and radio programs, and his work has been featured in Newsweek, Ladies Home Journal, New Woman, Self and Parenting.

The conference is presented in collaboration with ARP/Phoenix and co-sponsored by the Pastoral Counseling and Growth Center of Asheville, Appalachian Counseling of Hendersonville, Potter’s Touch of Asheville, and EDGES of the Spirit (a Unitarian-Universalist-led pilgrimage ministry based in Hendersonville).

To register or for more information, call MAHEC at 257-4768. To find out more about O’Hanlon and Solution-Oriented Therapy, visit the following Web sites (www.brieftherapy.com; www.possibilitycenter.com/bt/).

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