Celebrating the crafts of Scotland

The mountainous terrain of the Southern Appalachians bears a strong resemblance to the rocky Scottish Highlands, making this area a natural choice for the many Scots who settled here in the 18th and 19th centuries. No surprise, then, that Appalachian crafts and culture, language and lore also closely reflect their Scottish counterparts. In honor of those cultural connections, the Southern Highland Craft Guild is hosting an exhibit of Scottish craft traditions created by the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. “Celebrating Scotland’s Crafts” makes its U.S. premiere at the Folk Art Center May 4 through Sept. 29.

Curator Louise Butler has collected the work of present-day crafters from across the Scottish Isles who practice traditions passed down in small communities since pre-industrial times. Bagpipes, Fair Isle knitwear, Orkney straw-back chairs and historic kilt tartans are among the 106 items on display, along with information on their history and how they’re made.

The Guild is also sponsoring a series of Scottish cultural events, both educational and celebratory, to be held throughout the run of the exhibition. A grand opening ceremony on Saturday May 4 will festively usher in “Celebrating Scottish Crafts,” beginning at 2 p.m. in the Folk Art Center’s auditorium. The ceremony will include traditional Scottish bagpipe melodies from the Montreat Pipe Band; a keynote speech by Royce McNeill, director of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games; a recitation of Robert Burns’ poetry by native Scot (and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland) John A. Dall; a carrying and posting of clan flags by the Scottish American Military Society; and performances of the Scottish and British national anthems by acclaimed vocalist/Scottish-music historian Flora MacDonald Gammon.

After the ceremony, visitors can learn more about Scottish heritage via meet-the-artist sessions at various stations throughout the Folk Art Center (3-5 p.m.). At least a dozen experts on assorted Scottish traditions will give 15-minute mini-workshops or demonstrations. Both the opening ceremony and the meet-the-artist sessions are free.

An authentic Scottish dinner provided by St. Andrew’s Square Catering will be held from 5-6:30 p.m., followed by a traditional Scottish “ceildhi” (a Gaelic word that literally means “a visit”) at 7:30 p.m. The ceildhi (pronounced “kay-lee”) will feature a lineup of authentic Scottish entertainers: vocalist MacDonald Gammon (who will also emcee), the Haywood Scottish Dancers, Scottish trumpeter/mouth harpist Matt Newsome, fiddler/Celtic harpist Patricia Talbert, and the Montreat Pipe Band. Both the dinner and the ceildhi will be held in the auditorium. Tickets for the two events ($20 each) are available at the Folk Art Center or by calling the Guild.

A companion exhibit showing in the Folk Art Center’s interpretive area through Oct. 6, “Tracing Our Threads: the Kilbarchan Weaving Project,” displays samples samples by American weavers using patterns graciously loaned by the centuries-old Weaving Center in Kilbarchan, Scotland. More than 70 weaving patterns out of use since the 19th century are being studied for their connection with the Scots-Irish weaving traditions of the Appalachian Mountains. The Guild has partnered with the WNC Fiber Guild and Scottish Heritage USA to present this exhibit.

Additionally, the organizers of the Kilbarchan project, Marjorie Warren and Barbara Miller, will be featured in the Center’s Focus Gallery (which exhibits work by individual Guild members) through June 4. Warren, a native Scot who lives in Lake Junaluska, does Scottish-style weaving; Miller, a Pisgah Forest resident, is showing a retrospective of her 30+ years of weaving Southern Appalachian patterns.

The Guild is also sponsoring a special performance by Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser on July 6, 8 p.m. at the Diana Wortham Theatre. Hailed by the San Francisco Examiner as “the Michael Jordan of Scottish fiddling,” Fraser will be accompanied by cellist Natalie Haas. Tickets for the concert are $22.

Fraser, who’s been conducting fiddle schools in both Scotland and the U.S. since 1987, likes to compare fiddle traditions in the two countries. In many cases, he says, he’s found that American fiddlers have passed on aspects forgotten in Scotland.

The Folk Art Center is located at Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just north of the Hwy. 70 entrance in east Asheville. For more information, call the Guild at 298-7928.

Becoming a runner

This time last year, this reporter was a definite nonrunner. Over the years, I’d tried taking up the sport, but either an injury or fizzled motivation did in my attempts before they ever really got off the ground. Now, a year later, I am “a runner” — not a very fast or graceful one, I admit, but I have earned the title. Two or three times a week, I pull on my running clothes, lace up my well-worn sneakers, and take a two- to three-mile run. It’s never easy, but I love it; and it’s no exaggeration to say that this peculiar form of exercise has changed my life.

What happened? What precipitated this shift from nonrunner to running aficionado? A little program called the Beginning Runners Program. Offered each year by the Asheville Track Club in conjunction with the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department, its goal is to train runners to finish the Bele Chere 5K in July. In the last five years, more than 300 men and women ranging in age from 10 to 64 have completed the program.

This year’s program starts on Tuesday May 7 at Memorial Stadium (behind McCormick Field). Runners will meet at 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday and 8 a.m. every Saturday during the 12 weeks leading up to the July 27 race.

This is an excellent opportunity for both first-time runners and former runners who want to get back on track. It’s a safe, sane approach whose motto is “train, don’t strain.” In the first week, participants run one minute and walk two minutes. This is repeated 10 times. As the program progresses, running times increase and walking time decreases until one can run three miles without stopping. The class does a trial run on the Bele Chere course the week before the actual race.

A variety of guest speakers (including program graduates) will discuss such topics as proper running shoes, clothing, nutrition, hydration, stretching and injury prevention.

Participants are asked to join the Asheville Track Club (annual dues are $15/individual, $20/family). In additon, each runner contributes 50 cents per session to help cover the cost of T-shirts awarded upon completion of the program.

For more information, call Barbara at 299-7851 or Gary at 298-5106.

Literacy Council needs tutors immediately

The Literacy Council of Buncome County says they have a waiting list of almost 70 adults who wish to learn English and desperately need tutors. Four times a year, the council trains new volunteer tutors. Although the current training has already started (it meets three consecutive Thursday evenings: April 25, May 2 and May 9), Literacy Council Director Sarah Oram says the group would be willing to add an additional Thursday training for volunteers who start May 2. The free training sessions take place at the Central United Methodist Church (27 Church St. in Asheville) from 5:45-9 p.m.

Most of the people on the waiting list are new immigrants to our area from other countries; eight are American-born. The council especially needs tutors who can help adult students in the Arden area learn English as a second language.

The Literacy Council is also seeking extroverted, charismatic people with extensive experience teaching either adult basic education, English as a second language, or working with the learning-disabled to become part of a select Tutor Training Team. This team of seven to eight people would be responsible for monthly nighttime training sessions for new Literacy Council tutors. The Council would give team members lots of opportunities to keep up with developments in adult education, so they could pass on the “latest and greatest” to new incoming tutors. Ample training will be provided.

For more information, call Sara Oram or Director of Volunteer Recruitment Darlena Moore at 254-3442.

WNC Pulitzers

Lofty awards, it seems, are the order of the day at Warren Wilson College.

This year, not one but two faculty members in the school’s MFA Program for Writers have won Pulitzer Prizes in fiction and poetry — the fifth and sixth writers who have taught in the program to receive the awards.

Rick Russo, who began teaching at WWC in 1989, won the Pulitzer for his novel Empire Falls. Carl Dennis, a faculty member since 1987, won the poetry prize for his eighth collection of poems, Practical Gods.

“We’re tremendously proud of our association with both Rick Russo and Carl Dennis, two very fine and accomplished writers who are also talented and dedicated teachers,” noted MFA program Director Peter Turcher.

“As a lecturer and supervisor of graduate students,” Turcher continued, “Rick employs not only the wit and insight evident in his fiction, but an absolutely professional approach to the work of writing, coupled with deep compassion. Anyone familiar with Carl’s poems knows that he is intensely concerned with a kind of practical morality, and his lecture here in January — on generosity as demonstrated in the work of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman — was a clear and persuasive expression of his belief in the ways in which poetry can reach the best in us.”

Launched in 1981, the Warren Wilson program has been ranked among the top 20 graduate programs in creative writing in the nation; to date, its 500 alumni have published more than 300 books.

Back to nature

Our area is blessed with an impossibly lush assortment of wildflowers — perhaps unparalleled in the U.S. To that end, the UNCA Biology Department and the Botanical Gardens at Asheville are offering their 30th annual Spring Wildflower and Bird Pilgrimage, May 3-5.

At intervals throughout the day, field trips will leave from either the Robinson Hall parking lot on the UNCA campus or the lower parking lot of the Folk Art Center. Destinations include Craggy Gardens, Craven Gap, Rattlesnake Lodge and other areas off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The festivities will also include variety of related programs. On Friday May 3, beginning at 7:30 p.m., long-standing pilgrimage leader Scott Dean — a naturalist who specializes in the folklore, traditional uses and natural histories of the region’s wildflowers — will present a program in UNCA’s Robinson Hall. On Saturday May 4, the Botanical Gardens at Asheville will hold its 42nd annual Day in the Gardens, featuring plant and craft vendors, lectures, music, photography exhibits, workshops and tours. On Saturday evening, nature photographer George Ramig will present a program showcasing his magnificent images of local mountains, waterfalls, wildflowers and striking close-ups of our natural world.

Registration for the field trips begins at 6:30 p.m. on May 3 in the Robinson Hall lobby. The registration fee ($3/adults, $1/students) covers all events. Activities will take place regardless of the weather, so bring your rain gear and pack a lunch for morning or all-day trips. Magnifying glasses and binoculars are also suggested. Motorcades are limited to 10 cars (transportation is not provided).

Call 251-6444 for more information.

Mountain Sports Festival needs you!

Running, climbing, paddling, biking, triathlon, disc golf … the second annual Mountain Sports Festival, held in and around Asheville May 31 through June 2, offers both pro- and amateur-level competitions in all those events, plus one more important thing: a chance for you to get involved … even if your idea of a sporting event is a walk from the TV to the refrigerator.

The festival needs volunteers to perform a variety of tasks, including staffing the Festival Center at City/County Plaza — a hotbed of music, food, workshops, vendor booths and award presentations.

Last year’s inaugural festival drew national media attention and a host of top-level athletes and excited sports enthusiasts to the area. This year’s event promises to be even bigger and better. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of the action!

Call 285-9935 or visit to find out how you can get involved.

Leadership lessons of 9/11

Tragedy always offers lessons.

That viewpoint is at the heart of an upcoming leadership seminar presented by Leadership Asheville Forum, the alumni organization for UNCA’s community leadership programs.

More than seven months have passed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That may be enough time for folks to step back and consider what lessons in leadership can be gleaned from those events, says Leadership Asheville board member Jean McGuire.

“Leadership Gifts of 9/11,” a seminar led by Charlotte-based leadership-development consultant Ed Gash, will run from 1 to 5 p.m. on May 7 at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (501 Biltmore Ave. in Asheville). Registration starts at 12:30 p.m.; the cost is $50 for the general public, $45 for Leadership Asheville Forum members.

To learn more about the seminar, call McGuire at 255-8937 (after 5 p.m.). For info on Leadership Asheville, call Mitchell Williams at 251-6125.

Reclaiming the roots of Mother’s Day

It’s often overlooked that Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” established the first Mother’s Day observance in the U.S. on June 2, 1872. Her vision of Mother’s Day, however, was much different from today’s commercialized version: She aimed to mobilize women as agents of resistance against policies that led to injustice and war.

Holy Ground, a retreat ministry in Asheville, is offering a chance to reclaim the roots of Mother’s Day, honor the women in your life, and transform our culture’s “Hallmark” holiday into an act of peacemaking and simplicity. To that end, the ministry has designed a card that evokes the true origins of Mother’s Day while allowing the sender to include a personal message. In addition to the card, the honored woman’s name will be included in an original piece of artwork made especially for Holy Ground and permanently displayed at the ministry headquarters.

The Holy Ground card is a meaningful way to honor not only biological mothers, but women who have “mothered” us in myriad ways: mentors, sisters, spiritual companions. For a $20 contribution, Holy Ground will mail the card to the women you choose to honor (there’s no limit on the number of cards) in time for Mother’s Day. All orders must be received by May 7.

To order cards or for more information, call Holy Ground at 236-0222 or drop by its offices (18 Orange St. in Asheville).

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