William Henry Jackson prints of WNC on display at Pack Library

When Peggy Gardner was in graduate school a few years ago, searching on-line for inspiration for a paper she was writing on local history, she decided to visit one of her favorite Web sites — the Library of Congress — and type in “Asheville.”

What appeared on her screen next, she explains, “was so surprising that it still has my attention.”

“William Henry Jackson” were the words that popped up — the name of a man considered one of America’s foremost photographers of the early West. “‘This must be wrong,'” Gardner remembers thinking. “‘Jackson only took photographs out West.'”

Turns out Jackson did visit Western North Carolina — 100 years ago, in May and June of 2002, to be exact.

“Jackson captured exquisite scenes along the French Broad and the Swannanoa rivers,” explains Gardner. “He documented our grand hotels and inns, our little town nestled in its bowl of mountains. He went to Vanderbilt’s brand new home, where Olmsted’s saplings were just beginning to get their footholds. He stopped by the church in Biltmore Village and noted its singular presence. He made his way to Hot Springs and Sapphire, discovering more inns and waterfalls, rough mountain roads and inspiring vistas.”

The more she studied the old photographs, says Gardner, “the more I fell in love with these images. … They show our home through the eyes of a master, in a time before cars. Gazing at them makes me remember summers in our mountains in a simpler time, rocking on the porches of the old wooden inns.”

Jackson lived from 1843 to 1942, his life and career spanning a century of tumultuous change in America. He was a sketch artist in the Civil War, then a chief photographer for the U.S. Geological Survey. His photographs of Yellowstone, along with sketches and paintings by his colleague, Thomas Moran, helped convince Congress to make it our first national park in 1872. Jackson traveled around the world in the 1890s, shooting for the World’s Transportation Commission and Harper’s Weekly. He kept working well into the 20th century, through the Depression and up to the beginning of World War II.

As he aged, Jackson realized the importance of his work as historical record, and took care before he died to see that it might endure. Over 70 of the negatives from Jackson’s WNC trip are housed at the Library of Congress. Remarkably, prints can still be made, straight from the original 8″x10″ glass plates.

These prints will be displayed at Pack Library (67 Haywood St.) in downtown Asheville through Sunday, June 30. Gardner, who now works locally as a free-lancer in the archival field, envisions a set of the images housed permanently at the North Carolina Collection at Pack Library, where they would provide, she says, “an important documentation of our area, a record that should be enjoyed and studied here in the mountains.”

Toward that end, she has devised the program, “Buy Two Jacksons, Get One (and Give One to Your Library!).” For $200, participants can purchase one exhibition-quality, archivally processed 11″x14″ photograph of their choice, and a tax-deductible $100 will be donated to purchase a Jackson print for the library. Prints will be presented in a 16″x20″ archival mat (in a color choice of white, soft white or ivory), ready to take to a framer. The prints will be ordered July 1 and participants will be notified when their prints are ready for pick-up at the library in September.

To order the prints or to learn more about the collection, ask for Ann Wright, Zoe Rhine or Mollie Warlick at the N.C. Collection Desk at Pack Library. The prints are also shown and can be ordered off the library’s Web site ( However, it’s important to note that there’s a significant difference in quality between the actual prints and the on-line images.

For more information, call Gardner at 252-9656.

A discovery program for teens

“The people are cool,” was among the many positive comments offered by teens who participated in the first week of the Teens in Town summer program. (Another appreciated “getting to know everyone and not being forced.”)

Joy Harmon, Director of Math ‘N Art (the non-profit family learning center offering the program), told the kids, “This was my dream — and that they really needed to follow theirs.”

Part educational, part experiential, part career development — but definitely all fun — Teens in Town offers morning and afternoon sessions in which participants can choose from “an array of classes,” explains Harmon, covering such subjects as dancing (including lindy and belly dancing), drumming, singing, drama, math, science and environmental studies. Classes change each week, so no week repeats itself. “There’s lot’s of opportunity to do something you really want to,” says Harmon.

For lunch, teens learn to enjoy different kinds of food by eating at a variety of downtown restaurants. On the day I talked to Harmon, the plan was to prepare lunch with food from the French Broad Food Co-op. “We’re going to do environmental studies,” explains Harmon, “[to] show them how to be conscious about food — and that they can create wonderful food from fresh stuff.”

Career development is another important component of the program. The kids will visit various downtown businesses, coming prepared with specific questions. The response from the business community has been great, says Harmon, who lists a slew of businesses that have stepped up to share their expertise, including Kinko’s, Enviro Depot, Laurey’s Catering, A Far Away Place, Asheville Music Zone, Paul Taylor Sandals, and the French Broad Food Co-op. “Business people really do want to educate kids — they just don’t know how to do it,” Harmon declares. “But when you make it easy for them, and give them a very tiny window where their time is really well-used, I think that they feel really appreciated and very responsive”

Harmon has noticed something else about the teens in her program: “With proper respect from us, I think they demonstrate an incredible amount of respect to everybody else.” She goes on to explain, “We’ve just been seeing people appreciating them very much. We’re walking around downtown in groups of 20 people, and the kids stay to the right so people can go past them on the sidewalk. All my teachers are saying that the kids are just totally respectful [and that] it’s the best teaching experience they’ve ever had … it’s been wonderful. I think a lot of that is because we’re giving them choice[s] and we’re giving them respect.”

The cost for the program is $150 per week. Thanks to a generous grant from the Community Foundation of WNC, the financial cost of 10 of the 20 weekly spaces are covered by a scholarship. The program will run weekly through Friday, Aug. 9.

For more information, call Math ‘N Art at 252-8215.

Volunteer “describers” needed to help sight-impaired “see” plays

Imagine experiencing a play with your eyes closed. Sure, you could more or less follow the story by listening to the dialogue — but think how much you’d miss by not being able to see the gags, the physical action and any expressive body language. That’s exactly what the sight-impaired miss when they attend a play, and it can obviously lessen their enjoyment of the theater experience.

Enter Descriptive Audio for the Sight Impaired (DASI, pronounced “daisy”), an organization created by members of the local sight-impaired community. Using special, unobtrusive microphones and a transmitter, trained people describe actions, facial expressions, scenery, and costumes for patrons who may have difficulty seeing these. The “describer” also reads the playbill before the performance and during intermission.

DASI is the first service of this type provided in Western North Carolina and is currently funded solely by private donations. The service was offered to a limited number of theater-goers during Asheville Community Theatre’s recent productions of Harvey and Wit. Thanks to a generous donation by the Asheville Lions Club, DASI has been able to purchase additional receivers and can now serve 10 sight-impaired patrons at selected performances. The organization hopes to expand its services to other theaters, and has made initial contacts with Flat Rock Playhouse and the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre in Mars Hill.

However, in order to expand, additional trained describers are also needed. DASI will hold an audition for potential describers on Sunday, June 23 at 2 p.m. in the Social Room at the Vanderbilt Apartments (75 Haywood St.) in downtown Asheville. After reviewing a short video, the candidates will be asked to describe it as it’s being replayed. The candidates chosen will receive further training at a later date. At the present time, the describers are all unpaid volunteers. DASI’s goal is to obtain additional funding so that describers may one day receive a stipend for their time and expenses.

To attend the audition or for more information, contact DASI Vice President Jan Stanko at 253-8781.

Take the HIV test

An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people in this country have HIV and don’t know it. To combat this situation and raise awareness, the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) is sponsoring the 8th annual National HIV Testing Day on Thursday, June 27. Locally, the Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP) is encouraging members of the community to take the test if they already haven’t.

“Far too many people still learn that they have HIV late in their infection — once illness has appeared, missing years of opportunity for early care and treatment,” explains Lori Thornton with WNCAP. It is for that reason that, in 1995, NAPWA began the HIV Testing Day campaign as an ongoing effort to promote testing and encourage more people to assess their risk, learn their HIV status and take control of their health and lives.

Getting tested for HIV in Asheville is easy. Free, confidential testing is available at the Buncombe County Health Center (35 Woodfin St., 250-5109), WNC Community Health Services (10 Ridgelawn Rd. in West Asheville, 285-0622), and Minnie Jones Family Health Center (1 Granada St. in West Asheville, 251-2455). Planned Parenthood (603 Biltmore Ave., near Mission Hospital in Asheville, 252-7928) offers low-cost HIV testing with quick results.

HIV infection is preventable. Abstaining from unprotected sex (oral, anal and vaginal) and abstaining from sharing injection equipment (needles, cookers and cotton) are the best ways to avoid infection.

Learn more about risky behaviors by calling the National AIDS Hotline anonymously at (800) 342-2437 or (800) 344-7432 (en espanol), available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In WNC, call WNCAP at 252-7489 or (800) 346-3731 for more information about HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases.


Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.