Ahh, Spring is in the air! The tourists are buzzing around downtown and the lovely smell of Bradford pear trees is wafting on the breeze….which means we’re probably in for a heavy frost or one more freak snow shower in the coming weeks.
Anyway, here’s some feature stories from the past week, if you’re looking for something to cozy up with this weekend. From the pages of Xpress to your computer screen. Happy Sunday!
South Asheville residents decry congestion, overdevelopment
by Virginia Daffron
When retired educator Pat Deck attended a meeting of the city’s Neighborhood Advisory Committee last September, she remembers, “A light bulb came on.” Deck has lived at Givens Estates off Sweeten Creek Road for the last 10 years, but it was only then that she realized “We don’t have a voice in city government.”
Former Asheville Mayor Ken Michalove, who was running for City Council at the time, made the same point at the meeting, saying South Asheville is underrepresented both in terms of elected officials and appointees to boards and commissions.
According to Marsha Stickford, the city’s neighborhood coordinator, South Asheville encompasses those parts of the city lying south of Interstate 40. A look at the map helps explain why the area has been overlooked and has lacked a cohesive identity: The city boundaries snake irregularly south along major arteries, and the resulting patchwork of diverse communities ranges from Shiloh to Givens to Biltmore Park.
Despite wide variations in income levels, however, many residents are prosperous. Heidi Reiber, director of research for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, says that while she can’t isolate the stats for South Asheville, South Buncombe’s average household income is $74,805, compared with $61,829 for the city as a whole.
And Deck, a longtime political activist who serves on the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County, says she left the September meeting with a new mission: organizing South Asheville residents to call attention to concerns facing the rapidly growing area. (continue reading)
Zaniac brings innovative STEM education to Asheville
by Max Hunt
A recent Forbes magazine article asked whether Asheville could be “an emerging Silicon Valley.” And while some locals might wonder where the jobs that one might expect to come with such a claim are to be found, there’s little debate about the importance of getting young students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — commonly referred to as STEM — education to foster a brighter future both for them and for this city.
That’s the driving force behind an innovative learning center that’s coming to Asheville. On April 19, Zaniac Asheville, an immersive STEM facility offering after-school programs, summer camps and educational support for students, will hold a grand opening celebration at 1 Town Square Blvd. in Biltmore Park.
Using “game-based learning” featuring popular video games like Minecraft; an interactive, hands-on learning environment; and passionate young instructors, Zaniac aims to break down traditional stereotypes about STEM learning and foster a curriculum and atmosphere that excites, engages and, most importantly, delivers results to students and the wider community. (continue reading)
Buncombe County holds public input session for possible Bent Creek Greenway
by Megan Archer
When they’re ready to hit the trails, many Asheville cyclists load their bikes on roof racks and drive out to the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, which encompasses almost 6,000 acres of the Pisgah National Forest and boasts nearly 30 miles of biking tracks.
It’s a nice enough car ride. The route passes near the French Broad River, the Biltmore Estate, the WNC Farmer’s Market and the Asheville Outlets on the way to the forest. But what if bikers could skip the car trip altogether and safely cycle all the way to Bent Creek? And what if walkers could use the same route?
That’s the vision the Buncombe County Parks and Recreation department is exploring through a feasibility study for the Bent Creek Greenway, a path that would connect to the existing Hominy Creek greenway on its northern end and then travel along Brevard Road to the Asheville Outlet Mall. From there, another greenway segment studied last year (the Bent Creek to Lake Julian Greenway) would continue the route to Bent Creek. (continue reading)
Third annual LGBT conference offers strong health component
by Leslie Boyd
As dozens of people gathered around tables in the gymnasium at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in Asheville, Ivy Gibson-Hill reflected on why a pop-up clinic was created for the third annual LGBT in the South conference, held March 18-20.
Last year, a young man who was having suicidal thoughts came to the conference, and he wanted someone to talk to. Gibson-Hill was able to find some chaplains and social workers who were also attending the event. This year, she wanted to do more.
“We wanted to be really intentional about it,” she says. “When we look at the statistics for LGBT folks, we see a lot of disparity, so we wanted to be able to connect people directly to services while they’re here.”
The Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality sponsored this year’s third annual conference. The first conference, held in the Friendship Hall of the United Church of Christ, brought about 150 people. The second, held at Pack Place, drew about 500. This year, registration closed at 653 people — full capacity for the new A-B Tech Event Center.
Tables around the pop-up clinic are staffed by people from a variety of agencies and services, from HIV/AIDS testing, services and education to help with advance care directives and information about care for transgender people. (continue reading)
Fonta Flora Brewery expands to a historic farm site
by Scott Douglas
Fonta Flora Brewery of Morganton has just secured a unique expansion property in partnership with the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and Lake James State Park. With the purchase of a historic 49-acre dairy farm, Fonta Flora will become the first true farmhouse brewery in Western North Carolina.
Situated on the old Whippoorwill Dairy Farm just outside Nebo, the future brewery sits 3 miles from a late-19th-century agricultural settlement, also known as Fonta Flora that provided the brewery with its name. The Fonta Flora community was comprised of roughly 100 predominantly African-American sharecroppers who were displaced in 1916 when the village was flooded during the creation of Lake James.
The descendants of the original Fonta Flora inhabitants have taken notice of the brewery’s attention to their history. “They come in here and see everything with Fonta Flora written on it, and it just brings tears to their eyes,” says head brewer and co-owner Todd Boera. It was important to Boera and fellow co-owners Mark and David Bennett to memorialize the historic lost community. (continue reading)
Breathing room: Asheville’s ABC Board expands capacity
by Jonathan Ammons
There’s been a buzz around town, whispers that the Asheville Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s warehouse has been expanded. To the average person that might not be a very big deal, but to bartenders and restaurateurs, it could mean increased availability of and dependable access to some spirits that can be hard to acquire.
North Carolina is a control state, which means the sale of alcohol is state-regulated. The entire supply flows through a central warehouse in Raleigh before being distributed throughout the Tar Heel State, and that pipeline often leaves bartenders wondering what happened to specific brands and labels they requested when their orders arrive. There have been months of drought for brands like Buffalo Trace bourbon, for example. So rumors of the warehouse expansion have triggered hopes that help is on the way. (continue reading)
Third annual Asheville Food Truck Showdown set for April 2
by Cindy Kunst
A flotilla of food trucks will converge on the Masonic Temple downtown on Saturday, April 2, for the third annual Asheville Food Truck Showdown. This year promises the largest contest yet, with 15 food trucks revving up for the event, which serves as a kickoff to Asheville’s food truck season.
A wide range of cuisines will be brought to the table this year, including Peruvian fusion from Out of the Blue and Southern gourmet from Appalachian Chic, both trucks that are new to the competition. Asheville food truck fans will also find perennial favorites such as Gypsy Queen Cuisine, Farm to Fender and Taste & See. And Root Down, two-time winner of the Best Food Truck award, will return to defend its title. (continue reading)
Arts & Entertainment
Cross-disciplinary festival photo+craft launches in Asheville
by Alli Marshall
Craft, from pottery and quilting to woodwork and basketry, has long been part of Western North Carolina’s history. And while those traditions are revered and preserved, Eric Baden, the director of craft programming and professor of photography at Warren Wilson College, offers another perspective. Those who come out of the education environment are “around a number of young people who borrow much more freely from different areas and disciplines,” says Baden. “It’s a really exciting thing to work with.” Out of that spirit of experimentation evolved the idea for photo+craft, a community arts event held in Asheville from Thursday, March 31, to Sunday, April 3.
As its name suggests, photo+craft examines the two disciplines individually and where they intersect. Among those junctions, Baden lists the issue of craft and craftsmanship in the production of material objects, and issues around craft and industry, or photography and industry. “The broad fields of photography and craft have been outliers to the field of fine art throughout the 20th century,” he says. “They’ve both fed fine art and have ultimately had incredible influence in what was considered fine art.”
Baden adds, “We’re not really pushing a point of view. It’s to hold up some things together and see what happens.” (continue reading)
NYC native Zach Cooper’s music flourishes in Black Mountain
by Edwin Arnaudin
In late 2013, Zach Cooper and his wife left Harlem for a three- to four-month road trip in search of a new place to live. Their list of criteria included warmer temperatures than in New York, the ability to ride their bikes to work, a lower cost of living and enough of a musical scene to keep Cooper interested and afloat as an instrumentalist and composer. Black Mountain came the closest to checking off all the boxes on that list and, two years later, the couple feel confident that they made the right decision. They’re enjoying the slower pace of life, the surrounding natural beauty and the tightknit community of neighbors committed to one another’s well-being.
Among the connections in Cooper’s new hometown is Jordon Glover, in whose latest Glass Floor arts initiative — a pop-up gallery opening, dance performance and live music showcase on Friday, April 1, in Black Mountain — Cooper will be featured. The composer, his laptop armed with Ableton Live music software and flanked by gadgets including synths and a modified tape recorder, will team up with Kiah Abendroth (trumpet/loop pedal) and Victor DiMotsis (drums/percussion) to perform his new album The Sentence, which debuted at PULP in early March. (continue reading)
Music and food: Frank Solivan’s recipe for camaraderie
by Bill Kopp
“It’s like the old saying, ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,’” says mandolin player Frank Solivan. “If you have a good meal, everybody’s just a little more at ease. And when you hear them say, ‘Oh! Mmm, this is good,’ that’s just a whole ‘nother layer of the connective tissue between artist and fan.” Solivan will combine his bluegrass with menu selections from his upcoming cookbook when he and his band Dirty Kitchen play at Isis Music Hall & Restaurant on Thursday, March 31.
Solivan’s latest album, Family, Friends & Heroes, showcases his spontaneous approach to making music. Many of the tracks were recorded live in the studio. On those tracks, the musicians were “all in the same room, microphones are set up, and we’re able to see each other,” Solivan says. “There’s something to be said, something honest that comes across with things that aren’t totally polished. In the studio, you can fix just about anything.” (continue reading)