Forward to the past

Though the immeasurable riches contained in the Library of Congress have long been available for everyone to use, there’s always been one big problem: You’ve pretty much had to go to Washington to access them. Not anymore.

The Library of Congress’ American Memory Program has digitized 5 million of the country’s most important historical documents, and early next year, the Educational and Research Consortium (ERC) of WNC will launch a $5.9 million pilot program to teach WNC schoolteachers how to access these materials by computer. According to Roger France in Rep. Charles Taylor‘s office, it’s the first such program in the nation.

The program will start with 23 public, private and charter schools in WNC; additional schools, including home-based schools, will be added in the next fiscal year.

“This exciting program will train teachers to access and utilize these new resources using the latest technology to greatly enhance teaching and learning,” Taylor said recently in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to help develop our WNC work force to be on the cutting edge of technology, so we can attract high-paying jobs to our region.”

The ERC is a consortium involving Montreat College, Mars Hill College, Western Carolina Unversity and Brevard College.

To learn more about the program, call Roger France at (202) 225-6401 or Alan Wark at Montreat College at 669-8012, ext. 3652.

Tales of the Cherokee

Since 1952, the WNC Historical Association has been presenting its annual Thomas Wolfe Literary Award to outstanding books and publications that either promote WNC’s history and culture, or were written by a local resident. The esteemed local award — which comes with a $500 prize — the TWLA has set a tradition of honoring literary excellence. Earlier this month, the folks at the Historical Association decided that this year’s recipient should be Barbara R. Duncan, who edited and helped collect material for Living Stories of the Cherokee, published last year by the University of North Carolina Press.

The first major new collection of Cherokee stories published in nearly a century, Living Stories includes 72 traditional and contemporary tales from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, and demonstrates that storytelling remains a living tradition in WNC.

Duncan, who lives in Franklin, is an independent scholar with a doctorate. in folklore and folk life. She didn’t compile all the stories alone; she had help from Davy Arch, Robert Bushyhead, Edna Chedkelelee, Marie Junaluska, Kathi Littlejohn and Freeman Owle. The book also includes a forward by Principal Chief Joyce Conseen Dugan.

Living Stories also recently received the Storytelling World Award, presented by Storytelling World magazine, for the best anthology published in 1998.

For more information, contact Rebecca Lamb, executive director of the WNC Historical Association, at 253-9231.

Great grants, Batman!

When artists die, it’s rumored that they go to grant heaven. Rumors aside, one thing’s for sure: Grant heaven recently moved a little closer to Western North Carolina.

For starters, the Asheville Symphony Orchestra just received $5,400 from the Community Foundation of WNC, for their Strings-in-the-Schools program. Formed in 1978, with financial help from the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, the program teaches Asheville and Buncombe County students in grades 6-12 how to play stringed instruments (even home-schooled kids can benefit).

Elsewhere, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation recently announced the establishment of its small-grants program, designed to help agencies and nonprofits preserve the Parkway for future generations. Funded by a larger grant from Charlotte’s Blumenthal Foundation and by donations from other groups and individuals, the program targets nonprofit organizations such as school systems, arts councils, land conservancies, history-focused organizations, scout troops and museums. Funding guidelines are fairly specific: The maximum awards is $500; the project must help meet the goals and mission of the Parkway and the National Park Service; and the project must have a direct physical impact on the Parkway itself.

Not to be outdone, the Arts Alliance, one of the region’s most prominent arts organizations, is now accepting applications for its 1999-2000 Regional Artist Project grants. This annual program provides financial support to developing professionals by funding projects that will advance their artistic careers. The grants (which range from $200 to $1,000) may be used in a variety of ways, including attending workshops or master classes, producing audio or video demo tapes, buying supplies or materials needed to complete or produce a new work, and funding temporary professional assistance to complete a new work. Grant applications must outline a specific project, clearly demonstrating its relationship to the artist’s career development. Selection criteria will include: the excellence of the applicant’s work, demonstration of exceptional talent, evidence of significant ongoing professional growth, and the feasibility of the project itself.

For more information about the Strings-in-the-Schools program, call Asheville Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Steven Hagman. To learn more about the Parkway Foundation’s small-grant program, including submission guidelines, contact the foundation’s executive director, Dr. Houck Medford, at (336) 721-0260, or see their Web site at For more info regarding the Arts Alliance’s Regional Artist Project grants, including submission information and deadlines, contact Dana Davis at 258-0710.

Invasion of the garden snatchers

Kudzu, that infernal Asian vine, has been a bane to the American South for years: Fast-growing and tough as leather, it can suffocate a tree in a single summer. But now, local gardeners are hearing about another plant, which is said to be even worse: the Oriental bittersweet. Imported from the Far East, the plant has beautiful orange and red fruit, making it the splash of many recently planted gardens. But experts say that it can kill herbaceous plants at ground level, and strangle trees as it reaches toward the sun.

Luckily, the Botanical Gardens at Asheville has some answers and will be sponsoring two workshops to teach the public how to deal with Oriental bittersweet. Though aimed at different audiences, both workshops will address the most-common problem plants. One workshop is aimed at professionals, the other at home gardeners. Both will be conducted by Steve Manning and Lee Patrick of Invasive Plant Control, a Nashville-based team of naturalists and biologists.

The workshops will take place at the gardens on Friday, Oct. 15. The 9 a.m.-to-noon session is for professional land managers. The 1-to-3:30 p.m session is aimed at home gardeners and small-scale property owners.

Fall is a particularly good time to initiate a control program, it seems: The plants still carry their leaves, and fruits are easy to identify; specific control measures, including tools and timing, can be planned for the coming year.

To learn more about the two workshops, call Donald Dossey at 258-1001.

Kindness lasts

It’s always a good time to celebrate animals. Accordingly, Kids for Kindness is sponsoring the Third Annual Autumn Animal Fest, which will take place behind St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Saturday, Oct. 16, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (The local group also sponsorsKIND News, a national K-through-sixth-grade newspaper devoted to animal and environmental compassion.)

With such whimsical contests and activities as the “Best Tail-Waggin’ Dog,” “Cutest Mutt” and “Owner/Pet Dress-a-Like,” the Animal Fest promises to focus gentle attention on the very serious problem of animal abuse. There’ll be educational exhibits (including a rescue-dog demo and obedience training) and even a blessing of the animals. But the real point of the event is to remind children of all ages that, by treating animals — and each other — with kindness, they will make the world a better place for everyone. It’s a lesson we can all stand to learn.

For more information about the Autumn Animal Fest, contact Linda Morgan at 258-2593. For information on how to order KIND News, write Kids for Kindness at P.O. Box 1134, Weaverville, NC 28787.

— chronically compiled by Paul Schattel

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