Buzzworm news briefs

Studying up on Hollywood

“We are in the motion-picture business at Western Carolina University,” declares Jack Sholder, professor of digital motion pictures and video at the university.

WCU has had a popular film-studies minor for years, but the university plans to expand its curriculum next fall to include a new major in the Communications Department and new concentration in the English Department. Plus, students will be able to take advantage of a state-of-the-art television studio and a new 1,000-seat theater.

Sholder is developing the motion-pictures program within the Communications Department. As part of the requirements for a BFA, students will create their own film. Meanwhile, a motion-pictures studies concentration in the English Department will focus on the academic study of film and screenwriting.

Sholder hopes that the new film program at WCU “will interface with the local film community, and the university’s services will help make film a viable economic opportunity for the region.” WCU Chancellor John Bardo has an inspiring vision of how the arts can be an economic force in the region and he’s working to boost WCU’s prominence in the arts, Sholder says.

WCU students aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of the film program. This spring, Sholder will teach “Films that Matter,” a course on prominent and meaningful films and the study of film from a filmmaker’s prospective. The class is open to the public (even those who may only attend a lecture or two).

And Terry Curtis Fox, a television screenwriter and visiting artist, will teach two new screenwriting courses. The intensive courses will meet two days a week, for four weeks: Jan. 10-14, Feb. 14-18, March 17-23, and April 18-22. The courses also are open to the public. There are no prerequisites for the classes, but those with a background in creative writing are encouraged to enroll, says Elizabeth Addison, head of the English Department.

Fox also will host public screenings and give talks on movies and television shows from a writer’s point of view.

Sholder joined WCU’s faculty in September. His background includes writing, directing, and editing for television and feature films; he directed Nightmare on Elm Street 2, The Hidden, and Renegades and he won an Emmy for his editing work on 3-2-1 Contact.

His goal is to bring in people like himself, who have had careers in the film and television business, to help students find success after graduation.

“If you can tell a story, and you can tell it visually, then you can go in all kinds of directions: from TV news to owning a video production company,” suggests Sholder.

For more information about the screenwriting courses, contact the English Department at (828) 227-7264. For more information about the motion-pictures studies program and “Films That Matter,” contact Sholder at (828) 227-2324.

— Megan Shepherd

Making college affordable

Students at UNCA and Montreat College soon will have increased scholarship opportunities thanks to the newly established J. Alfred Miller and Berenice M. Miller Scholarship. Miller, a prominent Asheville civic and business leader who died last year, established a trust for the scholarship that will be funded with about $3 million dollars in assets. The trust will provide needs-based scholarships for students from Buncombe and immediately adjoining counties who attend the two colleges. Scholarship grants will begin immediately, and in fact, the first recipients have already been selected.

“Mr. Miller’s gift is one of the largest commitments the university has ever received,” says UNCA Chancellor Jim Mullen. “That the Miller Scholarship will provide substantial scholarship support for students at both colleges for many years to come is a wonderful legacy to the values that Mr. and Mrs. Miller represented in this community.”

Miller served on the Asheville-Biltmore College Board of Trustees from 1958 to 1963 and helped the college become the four-year institution that is now UNCA. He received the university’s highest honor, the Chancellor’s Medallion, in 1990. Miller also served on the Montreat College Board of Trustees from 1961 to 1969, and was named Trustee Emeritus of Montreat College in 1995.

“Alfred Miller was committed to the city of Asheville and Buncombe County. This is evident in his selfless acts of service and gifts of time and finances,” says Montreat College President Dan Struble. “The J. Alfred Miller and Berenice M. Miller Scholarship will continue this lifelong commitment to quality higher education in our county.”

For 41 years, Miller served as president of Miller Printing Co., a company founded by his father. The business was sold in 1969 and became Daniels Graphics.

Miller served as director of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Asheville Redevelopment Commission for nine years. In addition, he held leadership positions for a number of organizations, including the Blue Ridge Parkway Association, Northwestern Bank, First Presbyterian Church Board of Deacons, American Business Club, Greater Asheville Council, Country Club of Asheville and Printing Industries of the Carolinas.

For more information about the scholarship, call UNCA at (828) 251-6535 or Montreat College at (828) 350-6011.

— Cecil Bothwell

Stream damage? Help is on the way

September’s floods did extensive damage to streams in our region and the work required to restore such waterways can be expensive and labor intensive. The Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District has announced that the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the state of North Carolina, and Buncombe County are providing funds to do flood restoration work on private lands in the county.

Restoration funds are available through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Citizens who have stream damage from the hurricanes should contact the district office at (828) 250-4785 by Jan. 5 to receive consideration for restoration work. Such work may include removing woody debris blocking stream channels, removing gravel and sand bars blocking or filling stream channels, and repairing damages to stream banks.

By conducting stream surveys, the district has identified 130 sites so far that qualify for funding. Citizens can call the district office to ascertain if their site has been included. If not, the district will dispatch a representative to survey the damage.

For more information, contact District Director Gary Higgins at (828) 250-4785 or

— Cecil Bothwell

Buncombe County e-zine

Buncombe County is launching “a new, creative way to reach out to our citizens and keep them informed,” reports Rhett Langston, an administrative officer with Buncombe County Parks and Recreation Services.

Beginning Jan. 3, the weekly electronic newsletter Buncombe eGov will go out to subscribers every Monday afternoon. The e-zine is free and will contain information about Parks and Recreation events, tax information, health alerts and more.

“We’re real excited about it,” says Langston, “and so far people are signing up.”

To subscribe to Buncombe eGov, visit

— Lisa Watters

Closed for the holidays

There’s nothing more frustrating than to arrive at your destination — the bank, the post office, city hall — only to find it closed. To save everyone a few headaches, here’s a roundup of holiday closings:

• Asheville city offices — closed Thursday and Friday, Dec. 23-24, Monday, Dec. 27 and Friday, Dec. 31.

• A-B Tech offices — closed Wednesday, Dec. 22, through Monday, Jan. 3.

• Ashton Park Tennis Center — closed until spring.

• Banks — many branches will close at 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 24.

• Buncombe County Golf Course — closed Saturday, Dec. 25.

• Buncombe County offices — closed Friday, Dec. 24, Monday, Dec. 27, and Friday, Dec. 31.

• Lake Julian — closed Friday and Saturday, Dec. 24-25, and Saturday, Jan. 1.

• Post offices — closed Saturday, Dec. 25, and Saturday, Jan. 1.

• Trash and recycling pick-ups won’t be affected by the holidays. However, Household Hazardous Waste Day and Electronics Recycling Day at the Buncombe County Landfill on Friday, Dec. 24, and Friday, Dec. 31, have been cancelled.

• UNCA offices — closed Thursday, Dec. 23, through Monday, Jan. 3. Some offices will be open on a limited basis Wednesday through Friday, Dec. 29-31.

• WNC Nature Center — closed Friday and Saturday, Dec. 24-25, and Saturday, Jan. 1.

— Lisa Watters

Downsizing your tax bill

How much is your car worth? Is it as valuable as the county tax office thinks it is? Have you averaged more than 15,000 miles per year over the life of the car?

The answers to these questions could save you a tidy chunk of change if you take the time to challenge the valuation of your vehicle. State law requires that North Carolina counties make adjustments on the assessed value of vehicles if a verified request is submitted by the owner.

To make a successful appeal, the Buncombe County Tax Department says that you need to have an appraisal stating the average retail value of your model as of the Jan. 1 preceding the tax bill due date, and an odometer reading from the most recent automobile inspection receipt, a service record or bill of sale. If the vehicle was wrecked, an appraisal indicating the extent of damage and repair estimate, date of the accident and a photo of the damage could also qualify you for a reduction. You will need to apply within 30 days of the billing date.

A recent investigation by The News and Observer of Raleigh indicated that about a third of vehicles in the Triangle were overvalued and that owners could typically save “from a few dollars to 50 or more per year.”

— Cecil Bothwell

11th hour hope for Vincent’s Ear

Vincent’s Ear, it seems, has yet to be completely severed. Mere days before it was slated to shut its doors for good, things are looking much brighter for the downtown countercultural landmark.

According to Rick Morris, a bartender at Vincent’s, property manager Renee Lantzius has entered into mediated discussions with club owner Joan Morris concerning the nightspot’s future in the North Lexington Avenue space it has occupied for more than 11 years. The cafe and bar was expected to close on Dec. 17 after losing its lease, but discussions with Lantzius the day before appear to have bought Vincent’s some time, said Rick Morris (who is Joan Morris’ former husband). As of this writing, no definitive agreement had been reached about the lease, but further discussions were planned, he said.

It was the first time the two had talked since Nov. 4, he said, when Joan Morris received a letter informing her that the business’s lease would not be renewed.

The Lantzius family, which owns several buildings on Lexington, recently announced plans to build a new apartment complex at the north end of the street. The move sparked concerns in the community that the family might be seeking to aggressively “clean up” the area by clearing out unconventional businesses like Vincent’s Ear.

In recent weeks, the situation has generated a wealth of both public comment and media attention. Some, including downtown investor Mack Pearsall, have called Vincent’s a vital part of the “creative economy” that is crucial to the city’s future development.

One of the loudest voices in the chorus to save the cafe is that of West Asheville businessman and artist David McConville, whom several sources credited with persuading Lantzius to enter into a dialogue with the club owner.

At press time, Renee Lantzius had not returned phone calls concerning these developments.

— Steve Shanafelt

Community weighs in on Chancellor Mullen’s replacement

As UNCA prepares to appoint a search committee to find a replacement for outgoing Chancellor Jim Mullen (who steps down in May), Mountain Xpress asked various folks in the community what attributes they’d like to see in a new chancellor and what, if anything, a change in leadership might mean for the future of the school and its relationship to the larger community.

Many of the people we talked to echoed A-B Tech President K. Ray Bailey, who spoke of wanting “to replicate Jim Mullen, who I think is just an outstanding chancellor. If we had someone who could continue the work he has outlined with the same vim and vigor and the same warm, genuine personality, we’d all be very happy.”

Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Cliff Dodson says he’d like to see somebody “who would continue to reach out to the community while at the same time maintaining the high standards that the university has already achieved. … [Mullen] made it clear that he thinks it’s a good idea for the community and the university to engage — and it would be my hope that whoever follows Jim would have that same feeling and philosophy.”

“Jim Mullen’s been a real cheerleader for the campus, not only on campus but also out in the community,” notes Kathy Whatley, associate vice chancellor for natural sciences and a UNCA physics professor. “He’s established us on a really great path. We’re developing new programs for students and … programs that have connections with the community and … programs for faculty enhancement. And I think … we should be able to go onward and upward from here.”

Richard Lutovsky, president of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, said: “We appreciated Jim’s relationship with the Chamber, his knowledge and interest in providing talent for the business community and building the multimedia aspect of the university to meet our needs. We expect to continue that type of relationship with the university.”

And with funding now approved for the proposed North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness Promotion, he noted, “The new chancellor will have to be comfortable and familiar with significant construction ongoing on campus. … There will need to be a close working relationship between the new chancellor, the health community … and Western Carolina University.”

One of the characteristics Asheville City Schools Superintendent Robert Logan would like to see in a new chancellor is “the know-how to assist not only in the preparation of students … but also to help build within them a sense of … civic responsibility.”

Logan also noted UNCA’s growing involvement in the local community through “community service … [and] many major initiatives right here in the school system that’s providing direct assistance to the children … and teachers of Asheville.”


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