Art that begins in the landscape: Local artists build their palette from nature

For local artist Jacqueline Maloney there are no walls separating her studio from her living space and no doors between her home and the natural world. In her kitchen, bouquets of herbs hang in the windows. Shelf mushrooms are glued to the walls creating a little ladder of fungi. Tall turkey feathers fill the corners, and books upon books about art in nature swallow the coffee table.

“My artistic process is healthiest when it is almost seamlessly folded into my daily life,” Maloney says. “If I’m painting a portrait of a plant, I want to be consuming the plant, conversing with it, noticing it in the woods.”

art from nature asheville

“Midnight,” by Jacqueline Maloney utilizes ink made from black walnut hulls to achieve its rich brown hues. Image courtesy of the artist

Maloney’s work is inspired by the cycles and seasons: by medicinal plants that grow wild in the forests; by bugs, birds, water, wind, fire and stone. Many of her pieces are drawn with black walnut ink, a deep-brown hue that weaves through her work. It’s ink that she creates herself, spending the better part of a day tending a fire and boiling the hulls down into a concentrated decoction.

“I am seeking and learning ways to surrender more deeply to the task of respecting the environment [that] supports my existence, learning about all the life around me, honoring it by finding ways to describe it to others,” Maloney says.

The care Maloney pours into each batch of ink infuses her art with something unique — a richness that comes from her own personal experience with her surroundings. Though her creations are distinct, Maloney isn’t alone in this pursuit. Many artists in Asheville are turning to the earth beneath their own feet to fuel their artistic expression. They are alchemists who add rusted nails soaked in vinegar to a batch of boiling rainwater to yield mordant to dye clothes or blend clay with egg whites and crushed stone to make paint.


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Proposed mural to honor history of Shindig on the Green


Artist Doreyl Ammons’ mock-up of the 24-foot mural she hopes to paint in Pack Square. Photo courtesy of the artist

Doreyl Ammons Cain, a visual artist and co-founder of the local nonprofit organization Catch the Spirit of Appalachia, has volunteered to paint a 24-foot mural in Pack Square called “Golden Threads” to honor Shindig on the Green’s equally enormous history.

Since the mural project will cost $10,000, local groups Folkmoot USA and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area have joined Catch the Spirit to hold a fundraiser, Passing the Music On, featuring performers who focus on mountain heritage.

Cain and her sister, mountain storyteller Amy Ammons Garza, started Catch the Spirit to preserve Western North Carolina history. “We realized what a precious treasure it is here, and how it should be honored,” Cain says. “That’s our mission of Catch the Spirit of Appalachia — to show the great creativity and traditions that we have here.”

After painting murals for the town of Dillsboro, the Jackson County Public Library and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Cain decided to focus her sights on giving Shindig its own permanent corner of Asheville.
The outdoor concert series has been a summer staple in Pack Square since 1967, highlighting the region’s heritage with traditional mountain music, dancing and storytelling. For three months Cain interviewed prominent performers like David Hope and Bryan Sutton to prepare for “Golden Threads,” which she says will be a year-round reminder of Shindig.

“I like making public art where people can see what we have here in the mountains,” Cain says. “I think it’s something that changes the whole community when there’s art that honors the area. I think it’s one of the most important things I can do.”

Cain has attended Shindig for 15 years with her husband, drawing inspiration from acts like the J. Creek Cloggers and fiddlist Carley Arrowood. Now she plans to paint these performers and more in her mural. However, completion relies on how much money can be raised through donations. “It’s a long, hard road on this one,” Cain says.

Folkmoot USA, an annual international arts festival, will lend its Waynesville-based center to the Passing the Music On fundraiser on Sunday, June 14, from 2-5 p.m. The event will feature regular Shindig acts like the J. Creek Cloggers, The Ross Brothers, Carley Arrowood and ballad singer Betty Brown.

Garza will tell a story about growing up in the mountains while Cain will paint a spontaneous 8-by-6 interpretation of the story. A pottery and artwork auction and a cake walk will also take place at the fundraiser.

Tickets for Passing the Music On are $10 for adults and $3 for children under nine, and all proceeds will benefit the project. If you’re unable to make it to the fundraiser, you can donate funds through the North Carolina Arts Council’s crowdfunding initiative as well.


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Pollinator Week with Bees on the Roof

Photo by Sarah Whelan

Photo by Sarah Whelan

Brightly colored wooden hives full of bees now sit on top of the 12-story roof of the Renaissance Asheville Hotel as part of a program to encourage pollinator activity in downtown.

The initiative was announced at the launch party for Pollination Celebration, a week of pollinator-centric events that kicked off at the Renaissance on Thursday, June 11. At the event the hotel announced that it is now the first Asheville hotel to house bees on its roof.

“We’re hoping to put cameras up here so guests can watch the bees from their room,” says Drew Walls, operations manager at the Renaissance. The hotel also plans to add more wooden hives to accommodate the growing bee population on the roof.

The Renaissance is partnering with the Center for Honey Bee Research as the pilot site for a program to host hives on downtown roofs. Carl Chesick, director of the Center for Honey Bee Research, says he is excited to see how the rooftop housing will do at the Renaissance and hopes to see other businesses allow hives on their roofs. The French Broad Food Co-Op was the first business to have rooftop hives in downtown, though the Renaissance is the first business partnering with the Center for Honey Bee Research.

The launch party also included vendors such as Asheville Bee Charmer and Twin Leaf Brewery and environmental nonprofits including Bee City U.S.A. and Monarch Rescue. Asheville Bee Charmer held a honey tasting of honey supplied in the store. Twin Leaf Brewery offered samples of their new yunnan tea and honey infused beer, the Beeast Meets West, and Monarch Rescue led an activity where participants created seed bombs — bundles of Milkweed seeds and soil — to help create a more pollinator-friendly community.

The launch party starts a series of Pollination Celebration events that run from Saturday, June 13 through Sunday, June 21. More information of upcoming pollinator week events can be found through Bee City U.S.A. or through Mountain Xpress.


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“Escape the Gallery and Make Art for the Earth”

Crowdfunding platforms make it possible for individuals and organizations of any size to harness social networks and raise startup capital for projects that might otherwise fail due to lack of funding. Each week, Xpress highlights notable Western North Carolina crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-03-at-12.26.57-PMNeil Goss’ medicinal art tour

Kansas-based art professional Neil Goss is setting out an a trip across the country to “escape the gallery and make art for the earth, made from the earth, installed in the earth.” During the eight-stop tour, he and Ashevilleans Patty Urrutia and Clint Jackson will install art pieces made of “Earth materials” and colored with natural dyes boasting medicinal properties. “Upon the art being installed, the earth will begin reclaiming the fiber and dye through processes of weathering and degradation. In essence, the earth will begin to consume the dyes/medicine,” Goss explains. “This is how the healing space will be created.”

Goss and his crew will also hold an educational workshop in each city, documenting the journey as they go. Their Asheville visit includes a four-hour indigo dyeing lesson at Villagers on Sunday, June 28, from 5-9 p.m., for $35 per person.

Goss’ nomadic art team aims to raise $7,700 by Wednesday, June 17, to cover travel expenses, workshop and documentation costs, as well as Kickstarter rewards and fees.


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UNCA’s Concerts on the Quad return after four-year hiatus

WHAT: Concerts on the Quad featuring Sirius.B
WHERE: UNC Asheville,
WHEN: Monday, June 15 at 7 p.m. Free2015-Sirius.B-High-Res-web-1100x590

The nemesis of Garfield and weekday warriors across the globe, Mondays weren’t always such a drag. For 28 years, UNC Asheville’s free Concerts on the Quad series brought happiness to thousands of local residents and summer visitors, transforming the start of the business week into a day of great anticipation.

“[They] had a wonderful picnic-like atmosphere that was very family-friendly,” says Holly Beveridge, the University’s director of cultural events and special academic programs, who began attending the concerts as a student in the early 1990s. “Throughout the years, this became a summertime tradition that my children really enjoyed. It was always nice to run into friends and neighbors, and meet other parents and children playing on the quad. It was a highlight of the week and really extended the summer weekends.”

Throughout this run, Concerts on the Quad maintained its informal, friendly feel with a variety of of musical acts, including Asheville multi-instrumentalist Billy Jonas, Canadian fiddler April Verch, Asheville gypsy jazz group One Leg Up and South Carolina guitarist Cool John Ferguson. Following the summer 2010 installment, however, the series abruptly stopped due to a loss of funding. Shortly thereafter, several community members engaged in a grassroots effort to raise enough funds to restart the series but were ultimately unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, outdoor concerts endured on campus during the academic year. Part of the university’s cultural events series, a September 2012 show by New Orleans’ Lagniappe Brass Band drew a large evening crowd reminiscent of the former summer series. In its wake, conversations began about bringing the series back to UNCA, and in the past year the support of presenting sponsors Mission Health and the Asheville Citizen-Times has made its Monday, June 15, return possible.
Choosing acts for the 2015 season, UNCA staff looked at multiple groups in a range of genres. Factors that went into the selection process included quality and variety of music, stage presence, budget and performer availability to fit into the series’ calendar. “Working out a concert series schedule can sometimes be like fitting together pieces of a complex puzzle, but this year’s lineup came together quite nicely,” Beveridge says.

The organizers also wanted to highlight a mix of of local and regional musicians. They were reminded of the memorable September 2012 performance by self-described “absurdist gypsy folk funk punk” locals Sirius.B, who kicked off the university’s academic year REAL Events series. “These folks are seriously high-energy, a quintessential Asheville experience,” Beveridge says. “We are extremely excited to welcome them back to campus and think they are the perfect group to introduce the return of UNC Asheville’s Concerts on the Quad series.”

Fellow locals stephaniesĭd brings an eclectic mix of pop-noir, jazz and rock to the stage on July 6. The scarcity of bluegrass and Americana music in the REAL Events series helped inspire the booking of Goldsboro country duo The Malpass Brothers (June 29) and Raleigh bluegrass quartet Chatham County Line (July 13). Also hailing from North Carolina is The Ulali Project featuring Pura Fé (June 22), an a capella group known for fusing First Nations music with elements of bluegrass, jazz, soul and folk.

Attendees are invited to bring blankets, chairs and picnic baskets for the 90-minute shows but should leave pets and alcohol at home. The layout of the stage and audience on the quad will be nearly identical to that of the former series, though the addition of two local food trucks at each event will be a new sight. In the case of light rain, Beveridge says the concert will likely continue outdoors, but if severe weather is in the forecast, a call to move the music into Lipinsky Auditorium will be made before noon on the day of the event. Any such changes will be published on the series’ Web page.

Thrilled for the series’ return, UNCA Chancellor Mary K. Grant sees Concerts on the Quad as “one more way to share the campus with the community, offering the beauty and comfort of the grassy quad as a place for families to gather and enjoy great music on summer evenings.” She and the university staff hope to continue the concerts for many years to come and to sustain it through community partnerships and sponsorships.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the vibrant Asheville music scene, showcase local musicians, introduce new bands from a variety of musical genres and welcome the community to the heart of campus,” Grant says. “I invite our neighbors, friends, families and area visitors to come to campus for any of the performances this summer or one of the many cultural events and academic programs that we offer throughout the year.”

Mountain Xpress

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Carnivorous plants draw in new crowds at the N.C. Arboretum

18433223256_0afc5a88fc_k-1100x733The nationally traveling exhibit Savage Gardens, the newest attraction at The North Carolina Arboretum, opened up on Memorial Day weekend and has been inviting visitors to explore an up-close view of carnivorous plants.

“It gives the opportunity to draw in people who may not always be interested in plants,” saysWhitney Rigsbee, marketing and public relations manager for the Arboretum.

The exhibit includes interactive learning experiences such as a twist on the game Operator, a spinning wheel of plant information and two mechanical Venus flytraps. Outside the main exhibit, a small greenhouse holds some of the carnivorous plants that the exhibit features.

One of the most popular aspects of the exhibit is the statue of the North American pitcher plant that sits out in the lawn, Rigsbee says. She adds that the statue and the exhibit’s other interactive features are especially popular with kids.

Attendees may also request a tour of the Arboretum’s main greenhouse, which includes a larger selection of carnivorous plants. Carnivorous plants are native to the North America region, Rigsbee says, so this exhibit will help people be able to identify these plants when out in nature.

Savage Gardens was created by Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio, and Tork, Inc. The exhibit runs at the Arboretum, located at 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, until Sept. 7, and is free with admission.

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Haas Kowert Tice at the Altamont Theatre

WHO: Haas Kowert Tice
WHERE: The Altamont Theatre,
WHEN: Friday, June 5, 8 p.m. $15

HKT_PRESS1-1100x1100Acoustic trio Haas Kowert Tice recorded debut album You Got This in Brooklyn, where two-thirds of the band then lived. But the group’s latest effort is currently being composed in Nashville — where two-thirds of the band has relocated. “I think a lot of the new music isn’t going to be as loud. It’s going to be more chill,” says guitarist Jordan Tice. “The mindset of living in New York — that constant kind of buzzing … I feel a huge shift. I’m sure it affects the music.”

Another change for Haas Kowert Tice — performing at The Altamont Theatre on Friday, June 5 — is that the new album is much more collaborative. You Got This, released almost a year ago, features five songs by Tice and two each by his bandmates Paul Kowert (upright bass) and Brittany Haas (fiddle). While all three contribute to each track, the debut — a smart and exploratory jaunt through strings arrangements (including, but not limited to, progressive bluegrass) and musical camaraderie.

The three players met at various music festivals as college students and found they liked jamming and hanging out. The friendship endured even as they moved in various directions careerwise. Kowert now plays with The Punch Brothers, Haas with Crooked Still and Tice with Tony Trischka. Reconvening in Nashville and sharing equally in the creation of new material, “everything comes off of our individual instruments more,” says Tice. “The guitar part is a little more guitarish, the fiddle parts are a little more fiddly as opposed to centering around an idea that came off of one of our instruments.”

There’s a tried-and-true chemistry among the musicians. After all, even though Haas Kowert Tice didn’t formally take shape until 2013, the artists had contributed to each other’s projects over the years. And their association with each other predates their involvement in their high-profile day jobs. So how much does the Haas Kowert Tice style influence, say, The Punch Brothers (or vice versa)? “It goes both ways and all ways,” says Tice. “I would say [there are] influences at large, including the groups we play with. Sometimes advice from a musician we’ve played with rings true for a situation we’re working through in the trio.”
He adds, “By nature of trying to learn more about music and playing with different people, you’re building a set of experiences to draw from. Anything that goes into that situation helps in any other situation.”

Within the trio, the musicians are blessed not just with a plethora of outside sources of advice, but with a variety of educational backgrounds. Kowert and Tice both studied music — the former focusing on classical bass performance, the latter on music composition. “But it wasn’t like I was looking for ‘help wanted’ signs on composer buildings,” says Tice. “I didn’t know how it would play out.”

Haas didn’t major in music, “but she’s been just as active in music as us,” says Tice. And many musicians with whom the trio have played, together or separately, “come from the alternative school that is bluegrass,” he says. It’s the acoustic instrument version of the school of life.

Those experiences and circuitous routes that led to Haas Kowert Tice result in “a rich and varied sound and a strong presence from each individual,” writes the bassist on the band’s bio. As well-rounded as that sounds, “This story leaves out a lot of beer drunk, bass cases slept on, late drives from Boston to NYC and general goofing off,” Kowert adds.

Fans, however, seem instinctively drawn to both the heady classical training and the proclivity toward riotous fun. Listeners come out thanks to fiddle session connections or because they’re Punch Brothers fans (surely the Crooked Still and Tony Trischka nods have pull, too). And even if it’s hard to find an exact slot — bluegrass/acoustic/instrumental/experimental/progressive — in which to fit Haas Kowert Tice, “The whole idea is that we want to make a good, captivating sounds,” says the guitarist.

Expect that at The Altamont Theatre the group will offer — just maybe, Tice says — a first listen of new material.

Mountain Xpress

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