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LOCAL BRIEFS: 'Looking at Appalachia,' new Playhouse seats, Stand TALL

Speaker will be 'Looking at Appalachia'


Roger May, whose photographic portraits of Appalachia and its people have been featured in national and international media, will display some of his work and discuss the issues involved in depicting Appalachia, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28, in UNC Asheville’s Karpen Hall, Laurel Forum. The program is free and open to everyone.

Born in the Tug River Valley on the West Virginia and Kentucky border — “in the heart of Hatfield and McCoy country,” as he says— May has worked to broaden and diversify the images and perceptions Americans have of his home region. His “Looking at Appalachia” project, an ongoing crowdsourced archive and traveling exhibit now in its fifth year, moves to the Massillon Museum in Massillon, Ohio, on March 23.
May began Looking at Appalachia during the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s announced War on Poverty, which became associated with images of Johnson together with white, rural poor folk on run-down Appalachian porches — images that, according to May, helped cement stereotypes of the region.
“In an attempt to explore the diversity of Appalachia and establish a visual counter point, this project looks at Appalachia fifty years after the declaration of the War on Poverty,” May wrote. “Drawing from a diverse population of photographers within the region, this new crowdsourced image archive will serve as a reference that is defined by its people as opposed to political legislation.”
May’s own photographs have been published by the New York Times, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera America, National Geographic, ESPN, HuffPost, Oxford American, Le Monde diplomatique, and other media.
His writings include “Looking Without Fear,” a 2014 essay in the Oxford American’s series Portraying Appalachia. “In looking at Appalachia — not just from the outside, but from within as well — we reveal more about ourselves as observers than the region objectively,” he says. “The subjects show us shades of our own individuality. That’s not easy to unpack, or even admit to, but I think it is why some depictions of Appalachia make us uncomfortable.”
May’s presentation is sponsored by UNC Asheville’s Department of English and other university programs and offices. For more information, contact professor Erica Abrams Locklear at

Playhouse patrons welcome new seating

The Flat Rock Playhouse audience will enjoy a historic Homecoming season this year thanks to significant theatre upgrades to the Leiman Mainstage that debuted Friday night with the opening of "The Jungle Book."

The upgrades include new seating, floor lighting, new carpet and a state-of-the-art hearing loop. The improvements stem from a 2018 patron survey, which outlined a “wish list” from the audience’s point of view, noted Artistic Associate Matthew Glover.
“As a theater with a reputation for providing Broadway-quality productions onstage, it is really important to us to provide the same, top-of-the-line quality experience offstage too,” he said, adding that the new improvements catapult FRP into a modern, comfortable, and singular space for audiences. Blue and black seats in lettered rows, rather than numbered, along with in-floor aisle lighting, make it easier than ever to navigate the space. Brand new carpeting completes FRP’s slick new look.
The Playhouse first broke ground in 1952 when The Vagabond Players built a theater to replace the circus tent that had previously housed performances. Founder Robroy Farquhar said at the time, “It has been so wonderful to enjoy this new and permanent structure, and to gain relief from the uncertainties and trials of the tent theater.” Much like the Vagabonds that came before, the theatre’s current staff and community stand with the same excitement to be able to make much-needed upgrades to the historic and well-loved Leiman Mainstage.
Through a corporate sponsorship, Asheville Head, Neck, and Ear was an instrumental partner in bringing the hearing loop to the theatre’s list of new amenities. “FRP has been bringing the community together through the arts since 1940.
The special system installed by American Hearing Loop will dramatically impact the experience of patrons. The loop works within an individual’s hearing device. This function, designed specifically for the spoken word, dampens ambient noise. According to James Stowell at American Hearing Loop, who is hearing impaired himself, “It changes your life, improves your health, and doubles the functionality of the device. This hearing loop gives the hearing impaired listener a one-to-one signal so they can understand every word without any background noise.”
“We tested it twice because we couldn’t believe how perfect it sounded after the first test,” Stowell said.
That is music to the ears of Beverly Zwahlen, a resident of The Cliffs, who championed the adoption of the hearing loop at Flat Rock Playhouse.
“With the hearing loop,” she said, “I can often understand what is being said better than those that hear well. The hearing loop opens up a world of opportunities for those with hearing loss to better understand speech and sound.”
Tickets to The Jungle Book are on sale now through the box office at 828.693.0731 or online at Season subscriptions are also on sale through the Box Office until Mothers Day. Flat Rock Playhouse worked on the project with Rock Creek Containers, American Hearing Loop, and Leicester Flooring.


Agency to cut ribbon 
for renovated space

The Children & Family Resource Center, which is celebrating 20 years of serving children and families in Henderson County, will host an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday, April 1, at its newly remodeled space at its headquarters, 851 Case St.
Grants from the Duke Endowment, the Cannon Foundation and the James H. Cummings Foundation helped the center remodel and renovate its space. Included in the renovations are a new Parent-Child Interaction Therapy suite and new meeting room. The celebration will include a ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. and tours of the renovated facility where people can learn about current programming.
Created in November 1998 as a result of a Children’s Initiative of the Community Foundation of Henderson County, the Children & Family Resource Center merged three separate non-profit agencies, adopted the “best practices” of the agencies and began operation in April 1999 as a stronger, more efficient agency.

Stand TALL buys
 campus patrol bikes

Blue Ridge Community College police recently contacted Stand TALL to request financial help with the purchase of two bicycles for campus patrols.
“The bicycle patrol will bring our officers into more direct contact with many students that access the grounds and provide a higher level of visibility throughout the college’s large campus,” Police Chief Daran Dodd said. “Our problem is that the bicycles we need cost over $1300 and there was no allocation for our request in the current department budget.”
BRCCBikesBRCC police officers Jason Hutchins and Shawn Metcalf and Mike Hicks joined Chief Daran Dodd in thanking Stand TALL president Ron Kauffman and vice president Sharon Hanson for new bikes for the campus bicycle patrol. Stand TALL president Ron Kauffman took the request directly to the nonprofit’s Board of Directors, which endorsed the purchase. Collaborating with the management of Sycamore Cycles in Hendersonville and with the help of local donations, Stand TALL was able to raise the funds to purchase the bikes, which are uniquely outfitted with special equipment like racks and hitches required to fully implement the Bike Patrol.
of the designated bicycle patrol team were on hand to receive the bikes. Chief Dodd, “On behalf of our department, I want to thank STAND T.A.L.L. for their continuing support and generosity.”
Stand TALL (Thanks a Local Lawman) is a collaborative enterprise of the Sentinel Patriot Club of North Carolina, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Current programs for youth include the “Kids & Cops” program now in its second year working with the Boys & Girls Club, and the “Books & Badges” reading program at Hands On! Children’s Museum where off-duty officers read and interact with the children as well as provide opportunities like meeting the K-9 officers their dogs, giving parents fingerprint records of their children and presenting “Stranger Danger” programs to teach children about staying safe.

Bullington Gardens sets
 plant sale April 25-27

Bullington Gardens, a horticultural education center and public botanical garden, will hold its annual spring plant sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 25-27. The sale features a wide variety of native and non-native perennials, more than 20 varieties of tomatoes plus other vegetable starts, herbs, unusual annuals, and small trees and shrubs.
Back by popular demand are the Pollinator Packs, a collection of native plant seedlings nurtured from seed at Bullington Gardens. These “Instant Pollinator Gardens” include three plugs each of four native plants chosen specifically for the Western North Carolina habitat. This year, customers can choose specific plant plugs to customize their Pollinator Packs. Information sheets about the plants are provided. Extension Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions.
Growing plants and maintaining Bullington’s 12 acres of gardens and grounds is managed by a team of almost 90 volunteers. “We call this special place a ‘garden with a heart’,” says Joellen Johnson, volunteer coordinator.
“This event is our single largest fundraiser for the year,” added John Murphy, Bullington Gardens director. “All proceeds benefit our mission to educate and inspire children and adults in horticulture, the natural sciences and integrated disciplines.”
Bullington Gardens is located at 95 Upper Red Oak Trail in Hendersonville. For more information, call Bullington Gardens at 828-698-6104 or visit

Asheville Outlets hosts
 Kids Day on April 13


Asheville Outlets will join forces with area nonprofits to host a Kids Day (And Then Some!) from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 13. Kids Day will feature interactive booths and displays, live music, games, strolling magic, crafts, balloon art, face painting and a wide variety of other family-focused events in the center and parking lot. All Kids Day weekend events are free and open to the public. Additional activities will include:
• During the event, Asheville Outlets will team up with Give to the Music and host a Summer Camp Expo. The expo will provide an opportunity for parents to learn about area camps. A donation will be made to Give to the Music, a local nonprofit that funds music lessons and provides instruments to children who might otherwise not be able to afford them.
• The 10th Annual Asheville Book Fest will be held throughout the center and will feature 25+ local authors. Families will enjoy author meet & greet sessions, presentations and book signings throughout the day. A portion of Book Fest proceeds will benefit Grateful Steps, a nonprofit publisher.
• In the lot outside the Food Court, Asheville Parks and Recreation will host the 2nd Annual Truck City AVL event. Local representatives and their vehicles from emergency, construction, transportation and more will be on-site. Children can touch, climb and ask questions about their favorite trucks and cars in a safe and supervised environment. Mission hospital’s MAMA medical helicopter is scheduled to land during the event.
• The North Carolina Highway Patrol will display vehicles from motorcycles to the famous GHOST (marked vehicle that cannot be detected until it is in close proximity) during the 1st annual State Highway Patrol Safety Day. The event is scheduled in the parking lot in front of Field & Stream.
• From Friday, April 12, through Sunday, April 14, Buncombe County sheriff’s deputies will be stationed around-the-clock on the rooftop of Asheville Outlets to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Trail Blaze Challenge.