Xpress writers pick top stories of 2017

Graphic by Hillary Edgin

A mystery in-deed: Who owns Pack Square?

maxhunt“It’s not every day that one stumbles upon a genuine mystery smack dab in the middle of the city, but locating the historic records around Pack Square’s ownership led me down a rabbit hole that revealed much more about Asheville’s development and cultural evolution than I anticipated. I chased this story from the archives of Pack Memorial Library to the high deserts of New Mexico in search of an answer to a seemingly simple question; in the process, I gained a greater appreciation of how complex Asheville’s history truly is (and how complicated real estate law can be).”

— Max Hunt, staff writer

Attitude of gratitude: Asheville residents from around the globe dish about Thanksgiving

ginasmith“In 2017, my coverage explored everything from local efforts to reduce food waste to the intersection of Asheville’s ceramic arts and restaurant communities. But I’d have to say my favorite story is the Thanksgiving article, ‘Attitude of Gratitude,’ because I was able to meet with local immigrants from all over the world and learn their thoughts about gratitude and American holiday traditions.”

— Gina Smith, Food section editor and writer

All through the night: Shedding light on Asheville’s third shift

thomascalder“My article on third-shift workers stands out as a personal favorite. It gave me (and hopefully our readers) a view of the city we might not otherwise have seen.”

— Thomas Calder, staff writer 

Changing course: Asheville City Schools take aim at racial disparities

virginiadaffron“As a parent of a child in the Asheville City Schools and a former substitute teacher in the system, I have plenty of reasons to be interested in what goes on in our city’s classrooms. Public schools sit at the nexus of virtually every social issue in our society, so how these institutions grapple with a legacy of marginalization of students of color and students with disabilities is profoundly consequential for individual children and our community as a whole.”

“In addition to the main focus of this story, I particularly enjoyed observing Isaac Dickson kindergarten teachers using mindfulness techniques in their classrooms and afterward discussing those approaches with them. Jack Sorokin’s wonderful photography also contributed a lot to the piece.”

— Virginia Daffron, managing editor and writer

Asheville architect Scott Huebner wins prestigious Matsumoto Prize

edwinarnaudin“My father, Steve Arnaudin, is an architect and long ago instilled in me an appreciation for quality design. Speaking with Scott Huebner and getting a glimpse at his creative process provided a long-awaited opportunity to combine my profession with my dad’s while sidestepping nepotism. I look forward to writing about local architecture more in the coming year.”

— Edwin Arnaudin, staff writer

Abstract art in human form

alimarshall“This story looked at the intersection of visual art, performance art, music and storytelling, which came together in the collaborative Kibwe: A Marionette Puppet Performance.”

— Alli Marshall, Arts and Entertainment section editor and writer

Power to the pebble: Rock shops embrace Earth’s aesthetic and energy

CLKS2140 (1)“My first job, while still in high school, was as a tour guide at a natural limestone cavern. Beyond rattling off handy ways to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites, I developed a deep love of geology. I still feel a fondness for fluorite and an affection for amethyst, so I was excited to spend time with the proprietors of Asheville’s rock shops to hear what makes the minerals business so special. I wanted to uncover the elements of rock shops that are different from other types of retail — the stories of how parents bring their kids to wonder at the fossils, how energy workers get connected with crystals they find useful, how the owners travel the globe seeking the most striking stones.

“Remarkably, all three interviewees told me they have the best job in the world — a refreshing workplace joy in today’s jaded world.”

— Carolyn Morrisroe, news editor and writer

Where there’s smoke: How local fire departments keep residents safe in changing times

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 8.35.58 AM“Growing up in the hamlet of Brasstown, I found the local volunteer fire department to be part of the cast of characters that make the community worth living in. I worked with them for several years. They selflessly offer help to the people who, as my fire chief used to say, were ‘having a really bad day’ — sometimes the worst day of their lives. The fire service is one of the places I learned the value of showing up and pitching in to help.

“I was attracted to writing this story because the nature of the fire service in Buncombe County — with the pressures of high-dollar development — has clearly been changing for some time to a much more professional and qualified service. In general, the shift is positively affecting the quality of service. At the same time, a lot more public money changes hands through these independent, quasi-governmental organizations with very limited oversight or obligation for transparency, which can cause problems. That issue is outlined in an accompanying story, ‘Focus on the fire family,’ about Chief Dennis Presley of Skyland Fire and Rescue retiring amid accusations of nepotism.”

— Able Allen, office manager and staff writer

See also:

2017 Xpress year in review

Who’s counting? Xpress by the numbers in 2017


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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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