New summer swarm: The Beehive Collective lands in Asheville

The Beehive Collective, a grass-roots arts and education group with origins in rural Maine, and a local “hive” they call “Wezeltown” in Old Fort, is celebrating its latest campaign, employing an elaborate story-telling and illustration project, in a release party at Firestorm Café & Books (at 48 Commerce St.) on Friday, August 6, from 6 to 10 p.m.

Two years in the making, “The True Cost of Coal” is an elaborate graphical narrative that explores the story of mountaintop removal mining and its impacts in Appalachia and beyond, using a 30’x16’ banner.  The party will feature music from local artists and traditional Appalachian ballad singing.

The project is the culmination of a highly collaborative research process, as first-hand story collecting is central to the Beehive methodology. The project begins with extensive touring and field research, during which worker “bees” interview hundreds of community members about the effects of surface mining on society.

“We feel it’s extremely important to gather our information from those who are most impacted on a daily basis,” according to Beatriz Mendoza, a Beehive illustrator who has been living and working on the banner with a team of Beehive Collective members in Old Fort for the last year. “They are the experts on this issue.” The Bees then weave visual metaphors into a graphical “patchwork quilt” based on the collected personal stories.

The Aug. 6 release party will feature live music, including traditional Appalachian ballad singer Sara Lynch-Thomason, who will provide coal mining ballads old and new.


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