Notepad

Dinosaurs that move

Sure, dinosaur bones are interesting, but how about a life-size steel dinosaur skeleton that actually moves and that you control (through a combination of levers, pulleys, hinges and springs)?

Natural History Machines, on display through Sunday, May 4 at the Colburn Gem & Mineral Museum in downtown Asheville, serves up three such sculptures (a diplodocus, a deinonychus and an ornithomimus). The exhibit is one of three presently traveling to museums throughout the country.

These interactive steel dinosaurs, a.k.a. kinetosaurs, were created and sculpted by Asheville artist John Payne as a way to help both children and adults learn about natural history while demonstrating some basic mechanical principles.

The kinetosaurs, Payne explains, are basically puppets. “They’re based on the skeletons of dinosaurs, and all their movements are mimicked through mechanical means — but it ends up giving a lifelike performance. All of them are run by two cables which have two rings which you hold onto with your hands, and you puppeteer them.”

Payne — whose heroes include Gandhi, Muddy Waters, Martin Luther King, kinetic artist Alexander Calder and Dr. Seuss — says he was inspired to create kinetosaurs by his 11-year experience as a stay-at-home dad.

“I took my kids to museums during that time,” he explains. “I decided after they were in school to develop an exhibit that would really get children and families into museums. … I used my resources, being a sculptor, and I came up with this idea. I knew what would really fire children’s imaginations, because I had some firsthand experience there.”

Payne also admits to an obsession with science and mechanical engineering. Once he set his sights on creating a traveling show that would appeal to both children and adults, the artist started teaching himself paleontology to help him make his dinosaurs more lifelike. Fusing his mechanical aptitude with his artistic sensibilities, Payne fabricated the first kinetosaur, which worked like a marionette.

Payne has high praise for the Colburn Museum (part of Pack Place Education, Arts & Science Center). “They pay a lot of attention to the people that come in there. … It’s a beautiful museum, too — with a very nice collection of gems and minerals. Who knows, it might be the future Museum of Natural History in Asheville.”

The museum will also host two special events in honor of Earth Day (admission is $5 per event).

On Tuesday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m., Dr. Story Musgrave will present “Earth as Art,” a multimedia show incorporating 160 slides he shot from space. A veteran of six space flights (including all five of NASA’s shuttles), Musgrave will offer a unique interpretation of the earth’s beauty.

The next evening (Wednesday, April 23, 7:30 p.m.), artist Kaiulani Lee will perform her one-woman play A Sense of Wonder. Based on the life and work of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson, the play tells the story of an extremely private individual thrust into the role of controversial public figure in her fight to defend the natural world.

The Colburn Gem & Mineral Museum (2 South Pack Square) is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $4/adults, $3/seniors and children, and free for children under 4. For more information, call 254-7162.

— Lisa Watters

The mysteries of intimacy

A video image of five actors (each reacting to an off-screen incident in a distinctive way) that moves so slowly, viewers might easily mistake it for a static picture. Eerie miniature photographs of an artist’s friends, taken by a tiny camera she placed in her mouth. The simple image of an open hand, repeated on billboards installed at assorted locations throughout Western North Carolina. A painting of a mountain scene on two panels that open like doors to reveal another painting of a lone figure that seems to be running away (or in circles).

These are just a few of the engaging works awaiting visitors to Self and Soul: The Architecture of Intimacy, showing at the Asheville Art Museum in Pack Place through Sunday, May 25. Organized by guest curator Ann Batchelder (who was inspired in large part by German philosopher Martin Buber’s seminal book I and Thou), the exhibit addresses the dichotomy between the individual’s desire for intimacy with others and the desire for autonomy.

“I figured if I was curious about [this topic], other people were curious about it too,” notes Batchelder. “I wanted to see how contemporary artists were looking at these types of questions.”

Accordingly, she began exploring the work of contemporary American artists who address different aspects of relationship and intimacy. “I was particularly interested in having a wide variety of examples,” she says.

The resulting exhibit showcases 13 artists working in such varied media as painting, photography, sculpture and video.

Many of them, notes Batchelder, “are in the forefront of their field in American contemporary art — the kind of work you wouldn’t typically see together unless you were in a major city.” The show also spotlights some emerging artists. “It’s really amazing to see all this work together,” she exclaims.

Many of these works, continues Batchelder, “invoke the viewer in a very collaborative way — either directly or indirectly — that encourages the viewer to take part in the experience of the art. … Your interpretation is as valid as the artist’s interpretation … or an art historian or a critic.”

Batchelder says she has two goals for Self and Soul: “That people who come to see the show will, first of all, have the opportunity to see some really exceptional contemporary work … and secondly, I wanted the viewer to walk away with more questions about intimacy than when he or she walked in.”

In conjunction with the exhibit, performance poet Glennis Redmond will present “Pictures to Words: Responding to an Exhibition,” a poetry reading and group discussion at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 9 in the museum. The event’s $10 admission price also includes museum entry.

Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday (till 8 p.m. on Fridays) and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $6/adults; $5/seniors, students with ID, children 4-15; and free for children ages 3 and younger. For more information, call the museum at 253-3227.

— Lisa Watters

Calling local growers, sellers and restaurants

A lot of folks want to support local agriculture but may not know how. The Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project’s free Local Food Guide, available at area businesses and online, provides invaluable guidance.

The ASAP Guide lists local farms, tailgate markets, restaurants, grocers and other businesses that sell or process local farm products. It also profiles farmers.

“We’ve had many people walk in our restaurant with the Local Food Guide in their hands,” reports Early Girl Eatery co- owner Julie Stehling. “If you want people to find your farm or business, the Guide is the place to be.”

ASAP is encouraging all local farms, as well as local businesses that sell or process their products, to get into the Summer 2003 Local Food Guide (available June 1). The deadline for inclusion is Wednesday, April 23.

ASAP is a nonprofit focused on sustaining farms and rural communities in WNC.

To secure a place in the 2003 Local Food Guide, go to www.BuyAppalachian.org. Those who don’t have Internet access can call Charlie Jackson (293-3262) to request an application form.

— Lisa Watters

Aging well

A fun-filled day of workshops, entertainment, free health screenings and door prizes is planned for Thursday, May 1 to kick off Older Americans Month in Buncombe County. The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Baptist Church (520 Rose Hill Road) in south Asheville. It’s for “anyone who works with, cares about or plans to be an older adult!” explains Wendy Marsh, director of the Council on Aging.

“Hopefully, that’s most of us,” she notes with a laugh.

The morning will feature three learning sessions, each offering a choice of workshops.

“We kept the workshops fairly short, so that people won’t have to sit for long periods of time,” Marsh explains. “As service providers, we see a lot of people who could benefit from learning more about movement and exercise, [who] need information about memory assessment, nutrition and good health, and how to protect yourself from scams. One [workshop] is about ‘Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?’ — how do you divide up, so to speak, someone’s estate without causing hurt feelings?”

Other workshop titles include “Navigating in the Medicare World,” “What Does It Mean to ‘Live Well’?” “Nutrition, Vitamins, Supplements and Aging,” and “Lifelong Learning Can Change Your Life.”

During the buffet-style lunch, the Rev. Lester Crayton will give the invocation, and keynote speaker Linda George will present “The Five Pillars of Successful Aging.” Those five pillars, says George (a sociology professor at Duke University) are health, financial security, social relationships, cognitive flexibility and engagement/passion.

“She’s a great speaker [and] nationally known for her work in aging,” notes Marsh.

Afternoon activities — the “fun and celebratory” part of the day, says Marsh — will include free health screenings of various kinds, information booths, and entertainment by the Autumn Players, a group of senior adults affiliated with the Asheville Community Theatre.

“We want to draw attention to the good things about getting older,” Marsh exclaims, adding, “They’re not all bad!”

A $10 registration fee includes the buffet lunch. Limited scholarships and transportation arrangements are also available.

For more information, call the Council on Aging at 258-8027.

— Lisa Watters

A shot of spring

If you’ve ever felt the urge to snap a photo, this magnificent spring season ought to be enough to tease one out of you. And if you’re looking to share the beauty, Spring in the Appalachian Mountains — a photography contest hosted by the Cradle of Forestry and Ball Photo Supply of Asheville — is looking for you. You have until Thursday, April 24 to snap one (or submit one taken in years past). The Cradle of Forestry historic site will display the photos during their Appalachian Spring Celebration.

There’s no entry fee, but all photos must be color prints (no smaller than 8-by-10) that have been matted and mounted or framed so that they can be hung. The title of the photograph, plus the photographer’s name, address and phone number, must appear on the back of the mount or mat. A title may appear on the front of the entry, but the photographer’s name must not. Each photographer may enter two photos in the contest.

Photos will be judged based on technique, interest, value and composition. Ribbons will be awarded for first through fifth place and for honorable mentions.

In addition, the top three winners will receive gift certificates from Ball Photo ($100 first place, $50 second place, $25 third place). The top five finishers will each receive one free roll of film, and all participants are eligible for a one-time, 50-percent discount on film (any amount) brought in to be developed. And all entrants will have a chance to win copies of the book Southern National Forests, family passes to the Cradle of Forestry, and other prizes.

Entry forms can be picked up at Ball Photo (85 Tunnel Road) in the Innsbruck Mall in Asheville, or the Forest Place (100 S. Broad St.) in Brevard. For more information, call the Cradle of Forestry at (828) 884-5713, ext. 16 or ext. 11. — or visit their Web site (www.cradleofforestry.com).

— Lisa Watters

Institute offers free teacher workshops

Current graduates of both public and private schools in WNC are scoring below the national averages on math and science tests; nationwide, such scores have fallen below those of numerous other countries around the globe. To help address this failure, the Pisgah Forest Institute (based at Brevard College) will offer teacher workshops this summer in earth science and environmental studies, making use of the natural resources unique to Western North Carolina.

The two- and five-day workshops are offered free of charge, thanks to funding from Progress Energy and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service. Registration is ongoing at www.brevard.edu/pfi. Information is also available from coordinator Heather Cosby at (828) 884-8229.

— Cecil Bothwell

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