Letter: Is Asheville only geared for the young and fit?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I promised myself to go see Pavarotti at the theater when it came out. The only theater showing it [earlier this summer was] the Fine Arts Theatre in Asheville. So I drove up just to see it there.

I’m 67 years old and partially disabled. I can walk short ways but was very grateful that the one handicapped spot was available to park in. So I buy a ticket for the show and am faced with a double set of stairs to climb to the theater upstairs. Using my cane, I managed to slowly get up there, determined now to see the movie. It was a special treat for me. I’m a huge Pavarotti fan.

Then I watched the other people climb up and fill the theater. The average age of this group had to be 60! Many canes were used. Some of the people were really struggling after being in 80-plus degrees heat to accomplish this climb. Many balked at the third set of steps to the seating.

After two hours … I made the climb back down, slowly. I spoke to the manager about this bad level of ageism and while he apologized, he said it’s the way the building was built and he couldn’t do anything about it. I think warning people about the stairs might have been a start! Only showing it downstairs would have been another good idea.

Is this the general attitude in Asheville nowadays, gearing everything to the younger and/or fitter set? Is mountain climbing a requirement for everything there? I’ve lived in this area for nearly 20 years. I avoid doing numerous things in Asheville for this very reason.

Grabbing the ice and pain pills [after the show]. Not a treat.

— Gail Nash

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted the Fine Arts Theatre with a summary of the letter writer’s points and received the following response from Neal Reed, the theater’s manager/programmer: “Our ‘Upstairs’ auditorium is the original balcony from 1947 when the theater opened. The balcony was used as segregated seating; all nonwhites had to climb the stairs to see the same films as whites were watching on the main floor. Unfortunately, the building just won’t accommodate an elevator.

“We always try to open films on the main floor, as we did for Pavarotti for the first week’s showings. Pavarotti moved upstairs for its second and last week, as we opened Yesterday, one of the biggest films for us this summer.

“We note each film’s auditorium on our website and on our phone message.

“When possible, we move films down during the week for those who can’t make it up the stairs. Go to fineartstheatre.com or call 828-232-1536 for auditorium information.

“The reality is not discriminatory ageism at the Fine Arts or elsewhere in Asheville’s beautiful old buildings.”


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8 thoughts on “Letter: Is Asheville only geared for the young and fit?

  1. Lou

    It’s called a lawsuit, once a couple or a few people file one, they will do something about it. Shame on anyone who still operates a business without accessibility measures in place. SHAME ON YOU.

  2. Bright

    Sorry you’re seeing Asheville’s ugly underbelly, Gail. Reed’s “preservation “ excuse doesn’t cut it. The real excuse is money. There are so many unobtrusive helps for the “handicapped “ available in 2019 that it is inexcusable to cause someone (with an appreciation for real culture) to have a difficult evening. Sorry Gail…they’ll all grow older, too. Time is a great leveler.

    • Big Al

      Funny how the rights of the non-disabled, even those who do try their best to overcome their own limitations (as expressed in the theatrer’s response) are dispensed with when the disabled become inconvenienced.

      Where is their “progressive” value of empathy now? I guess it is OK to destroy a local business, even one that serves the liberal community by showing the arts films that the big boys (with their big, open parking lots, ramps and wheelchair accessible seats) don’t show.

      The left is like a barrel of crabs, the ones at the bottom will always pull down and tear apart the ones that try to rise up.

      • Godslayer

        Are you referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by that notorious leftist, George H.W. Bush?

        • Big Al

          The self-absorbed and self destructive Leftisits I am referring to are not the law’s founders, but the end-users like the letter-writer.

          It is my understanding that the ADA includes waivers for architecture built prior to certain years in order to protect historically significant architecture and to limit the use of the ADA as a financial weapon against businesses that have limited options to provide access.

          The Fine Arts Theatre is a local asset that does its’ best to accommodate access to the disabled. It does not deserve such snarky criticism, especially from someone whose disability SHOULD have equipped them with more empathy.

  3. Enlightened Enigma

    geared for retirees here pretty much, Gail. the young hipsters might stay and they might not.

  4. Mike

    I grew up in AVL and so I wouldn’t go to the Fine Arts — might catch some leftover STD from the 70’s ;-). But I feel your pain. At a fairly healthy 73 now I USED to park at McCormick Field and walk up town — until they built that AWFUL ugly azz condo building in the parking lot. Now I don’t go downtown unless the weather is amenable to riding my motorcycle.. They have some MC spots in the Page St deck that are generally empty and can be accessed w/o going through the gate when the lot is full (but don’t tell anybody ;) My AVL motorcycle is small and gets 80 MPG.. Mopeds get over 100. One might think that a self proclaimed enviro sensitive city like AVL would promote efficient motor powered 2 wheel transport … but they seem to only care about pedal powered .

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