Asheville natives to hike Appalachian Trail to raise money, awareness for local gallery

After planning for more than a year, Asheville natives E.J. Horrocks and Alex Manfred will make their Appalachian Trail dreams come true while raising money to help Lori Greenberg make Aurora Studio & Gallery a reality.

“Art has always been an important part of my own mental health,” Horrocks shares. “Aurora Studio is something that we believe suits Asheville and Asheville desperately needs. I can’t see a better place than the River Arts District for such a project, and I think Lori has what it takes to make it happen, which is why, after meeting her and hearing her story, we couldn’t help but jump on board.”

Last May, Greenberg founded the Aurora Studio & Gallery for artists struggling with mental illness, addiction and homelessness. “I’ve seen so many people come through that are marginalized in our culture. They’re homeless, they don’t have the right insurance, they can’t get their medications, they’re dealing with addiction problems,” she told Xpress last year (see Beautiful Minds: Aurora envisions new dawn for artists in recovery). “But they’re brilliant minds. They’re brilliant, creative individuals that are just having a hard time getting a leg up.”

Greenberg says she hopes the facility will give artists in recovery the encouragement and support they need — providing both a space to create and a place to heal.

Though no brick-and-mortar establishment exists yet, Aurora is operating under the umbrella of local nonprofit Arts2People until the studio/gallery can get its own 501(c)(3) certification.  When Greenberg spoke to Xpress last year, she estimated that the group needs to raise about $120,000 to cover startup and overhead costs.

With this in mind, fundraising efforts for the Hike for Aurora are underway. Horrocks and Manfred have created fliers that details their mission and fundraising information. They will start emailing and mailing fliers to hostels they will visit along the way, meet with people in towns and spread information about the studio through word of mouth.

“We don’t know what to expect until we get out there. Maybe people will be open to it, maybe they won’t, so we’re prepared to be flexible and work with who we meet,” Horrocks says.

In the meantime, the duo is prepping for the journey. Manfred, who hiked on the trail last summer as a ridge runner, says he has been cycling and hiking daily. Horrocks has been hiking and running. The pair will also complete their second “shake-down backpacking” trip in mid-February to finalize gear. This preparation will be necessary when they start their hike in March.

“After a little debate, we have decided to go the traditional North-bound (NOBO) route starting March 1 from Springer Mountain, Ga. to Katahdin, Maine.  We want the full experience of an AT thru-hiker and the camaraderie that goes along with hiking with the same group of people from start to finish,” Manfred explains.

With cell reception permitting, Manfred and Horrocks will be updating blogs regularly to track their journey (Manfred’s blog can be found here, Horrocks’ blog can be found here).

The public is invited on a hike to Rattlesnake Lodge on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 1:30 p.m. The hike acts as a sendoff for the pair before they take on the Appalachian Trail in March. More details can be found at the Facebook event page.


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