Probiotics: What Are They and What Do They Do?
By: Maureen McDonnell
There’s quite a buzz these days about probiotics and for good reason. These ”friendly” bacteria that live in our gut do amazing things for our health. In our intestinal tract, we house trillions of bacteria… some good, some not so good. As long as these organisms live in harmony… meaning the good ones keep the bad ones in check, we have balance and a healthy gut. However, when that delicate balance is disturbed (referred to as dysbiosis) as a result of taking oral antibiotics, from stress, consuming excess sugar, and eating processed or pesticide-laden food, our gut health, and therefore our overall health suffers.
What do probiotics do?
It is estimated that probiotics have over 30 positive actions in the body including: crowding out bad organisms such as yeast and bad bacteria, supporting immune function (since 80% of the immune system is headquartered in the gut), assisting in the absorption of nutrients and the elimination of toxins (including heavy metals), protecting against food poisoning, synthesizing B vitamins, regulating bowel movements and limiting bacteria that produce cancer-causing nitrates. Also, since 90% of the mood- stabilizing neurotransmitter Serotonin is manufactured in the gut, they are also involved in our mood and sleep patterns. You can find over 200 published studies highlighting the benefits of probiotics at GreenMedInfo.com
How do we initially get probiotics in our GI system?
When a baby passes through the birth canal, it is exposed to mom’s bacteria at which time it begins to lay down colonies of its own good bacteria in the intestinal tract. This in turn sets the stage for a healthy immune system. Recent studies (1) confirmed that babies born via C section (32% of all births) have higher incidences of allergies, eczema and asthma… all conditions of a dysregulated immune system. Regardless of the method of delivery, all children who consume breast milk will receive an inoculation of probiotics. It is estimated that colostrum has 40% probiotic content.
Sources of probiotics:
Although I still consider a high quality capsule of probiotics to be a wonderful option, it turns out there are many food sources that provide very high levels of these friendly organisms. Most people immediately think of yogurt as a source. However, when tested, commercially prepared yogurt and Kefir often contain very few living organisms. Luckily, Donna Gates, author of Body Ecology, and others have simple recipes for making homemade yogurt and cultured vegetables as well as other items that can help repopulate our gut with good flora. Recipes and videos for making some of these foods can be found at: www.bodyecology.com/recipes/recipes.php. Additionally, most local health food stores carry organic and often locally made yogurt, kefir, Miso, Kimchi, natto, Tempeh and Kombucha all of which are great sources of good friendly bacteria.
Here’s what to look for if purchasing probiotics in a capsule form. Make sure it is a high potency formula with at least 25 billion CFUs (colony forming units). A good brand usually contains multiple species (not just one, such as Acidophilus). A wonderful brand I recommend is by ProThera. You can find it at www.protherainc.com and it contains all of these and more: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus saivarius, Lactobacillus casei, Planarum bifidobacterium, Bifidobacterium breve and much more.
Usually, the best formulas require refrigeration to keep the organisms alive.
When to take Probiotic Capsules?
During the 30 plus years I’ve been taking and recommending to my clients that they take probiotics (especially if they are on antibiotics), I’ve witnessed many “experts” debate about the best time of the day to ingest them. Should they be taken at the end of a meal since the PH of the stomach is somewhat lower and less likely to kill off the good bacteria? Another argument for this option is that most bacteria (good and bad) that normally enter our system do so with food. Or, should they be taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach with a big glass of water as Dr. Mercola recommends? Currently, I am going with the empty stomach first thing in the morning option. I’m not sure I’m 100% correct or if anyone has solved this riddle with complete certainty, but what I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that it is not recommended to take probiotics at the same time as an antibiotic or the antibiotic will destroy all the good friendly organisms.
Prebiotics? Prebiotics mostly come from carbohydrate fibers called oligosacchariedes and they are non-digestible. Basically they serve as food for the friendly bacteria as they help them grow and flourish. Sources include root vegetables, such as chicory root and wild yams and garlic, plus kale and bananas. Fructooligosaccarides can also be taken as a supplement but you have to be careful… too much too quickly and you’ll develop gas. Studies in adults have shown prebiotics can help increase calcium and magnesium and in infants they’ve shown they can positively affect immune function. Due to this synergistic effect, some probiotic formulas now contain prebiotics.
Because of their wide range of positive effects on symptoms such as GI disturbances, depression and immune disorders (to name only a few), many experts in the bowel ecology field such as Dr. Valery and Dr. Smirnov feel probiotics should be considered a priority supplement for those seeking optimal health. The following prediction, found on www.Probiotics.org seems noteworthy: “probiotics will be the antibiotics of the 21st century. This is because their effective medical implementation will revolutionize our perspectives on disease in the way antibiotics did before.”
Kalliomaki, M., & Isolauri, E. (2003). Role of intestinal flora in the development of allergy. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol, 3(1), 15-20.
Bager, P., Wohlfahrt, J., & Westergaard, T. (2008). Caesarean delivery and risk of atopy and allergic disease: meta-analyses. Clin Exp Allergy, 38(4), 634-642
Grölund, M.-M. L., Olli-Pekka; Eerola, Erkki; Kero, Pentti. (1999). Fecal Microflora in Healthy Infants Born by Different Methods of Delivery: Permanent Changes in Intestinal Flora After Cesarean Delivery. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, 28(1), 19-25.
Maureen McDonnell has been a registered nurse for 35 years (in the fields of childbirth education, labor and delivery, clinical nutrition, and pediatrics.) She is the former national coordinator of the Defeat Autism Now Conferences, and the co-founder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet. Maureen lectures widely on the role the environment and nutrition play in children’s health. She is the health editor of WNC Woman Magazine and owner of Nutritionist’s Choice Inc. Presently, Maureen serves as the Medical Coordinator for the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer. She and her husband have five grandkids and feel blessed to be living in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.
The author, Chloe Kemp, wrote another piece about the homeless in Asheville last September: Home is Where the Heart is; it announced a multi-media show (Living on the Edge) sponsored by Pisgah Legal Services and Asheville Arts Council.
Chloe later decided to explore the idea of the power of kindness and in the process ran into a homeless man, Happy, whom she had interviewed for the “Edge” project.
Happy told her that he not only had extensive cancer but that he was still waiting for his Social Security disability to come through. As people walked by and many ignored him, Chloe lamented the lack of compassion she saw.
Within days of publication of the Kindness article, I received an email from a reader taking exception to the story. She knew and often helped the man and had a friend who had driven him home one day, only to find that he had a “very nice house.”
They both felt that he misrepresented his plight and were frustrated that he garnered attention that could have been aimed at more needy folks.
Then a couple days ago I received a phone call from the VA; the caller said he also knew Happy and that he receives VA benefits in an amount that is well above the poverty line. He also mentioned, as the emailer had, that Happy has a prosthesis but didn’t want to wear it as it was uncomfortable or difficult to use.
I plan to talk with the public relations officer from the VA to learn more about not only this particular situation, but about the programs available to help homeless vets. Stay tuned in June for that discussion.
What I want to bring up right now is the dilemma of helping people on the street; how can we (can we?) know that they are truly in need (and how do we define that)? What if we suspect they are merely going to use the money we hand over to buy alcohol or drugs? Or, in the apparent case of Happy, are actually financially stable and not homeless.
For 14 years (beginning in 1991) I was in the retail business on Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville. In those earlier years prostitutes still hung out at the end of the street under the I-240 overpass; homeless men (mostly) trudged from Montford up Lexington asking for handouts, some on their way to the Mission on Patton Avenue.
I often offered one or two of the “regulars” a bit of work in return for some cash; or offered to feed them at a local cafe. Those offers usually sorted out who was legitimately hungry.
One thing Chloe said in her earlier article is that often what these folks want most is to be seen. I wonder if that is not part of Happy’s motivation. Not necessarily wanting pity, but wanting the rest of us to “know” them, their loss, their pain, and fear perhaps.
This must be especially strong for vets who have given so much of themselves (literally) for the rest of us only to feel tossed aside, forgotten, unappreciated.
Maybe taking a good look instead of passing by without a glance is one key; and seeing through to their humanity? And supporting programs in our community such as ABCCM’s soup kitchen or the Salvation Army or Manna FoodBank.
By: Jennine Hough
I have always based my life on plans, ideas, accomplishments, and finishing projects. My friends, I think, would describe me as a perfectionist, a Type A-minus, strong, resilient, logical, motivated, and light-hearted, but impatient and filling every moment of the day with a self-created goals (not without spontaneous interludes triggered by my ADD).
But in March of 2011 I heard a sermon by The Reverend Luis Leon at the President’s Church in Washington, DC. He addressed NOW. He talked about the freedom that is possible when you forget fear and doubt and relinquish control—and follow hope. I realized what I hate to admit, but know—I need to listen, and to allow the messages of God and his son, Jesus Christ, in my case, to be the voice that I hear.
Timing is everything, we all know.
The topic of “journey” appealed to me even more because for the past three years I had been “open,” waiting for an epiphany, wondering if I was the creator of the path in my mind, like the realities in my paintings, or if I was not in control at all. I had a stone in my Aspen studio that said FAITH, reminding me of the St. Augustine quote “Faith is to believe what you do not yet see. The reward for faith is to see what you believe.” What I believed and wanted to see was myself in Asheville. And after this sermon I began to see God’s signs to “go,” one after another.
I am not impulsive or adventurous. I knew Asheville from growing up in North Carolina and visiting on vacations as a child and an adult. Three years ago I started coming to Asheville from my home in Aspen, where I have lived for eleven years, looking at the geography because I love the (DIVINE) mountains, and looking at the arts because painting and teaching are what I do. I was not looking to relocate. I was looking to BE here for the rest of my life. Asheville would be only the third place that I have lived as an adult, following Atlanta and Aspen, staying on the A-list.
An only child with deceased parents, I was growing more restless and feeling more isolated in beautiful Aspen, wanting to get back to my roots, my cousins, their children; the East coast of beaches, Washington, DC, New York, the art scene, and lots of friends. I was still recovering from the death of my first dog, my Standard Poodle, Harvey. Asheville was the only place that I considered living.
However, as I started packing boxes, I kept questioning how I would move my massive amount of stuff, including my studio and my animals, deal with the expense, and find a house to rent. Was I crazy to move to a place where I knew only two people, wonderful though they were, but knowing each of them only through my looking for and renting houses? But by the end of September, when the moving truck pulled up in front of my house in Aspen, I was ecstatically happy and had no worries or doubts about my decision to move.
The three glorious fall days spent traveling on Eisenhower’s great vision that slices through America are definitely one of the summits of my life, higher than the 7,908’ elevation that I was leaving. A loyal friend from Atlanta flew to Aspen and rode with me (qualifying her for sainthood). The hours sped by, filled with conversation, music, fast food, plans, dreams, and confessions, while constantly marveling at the color of fall following us. It felt like January 1st—the New Year—full of hope, creativity and resolutions… “the sky is the limit.” My future could only be a 10.
The trip and the move went perfectly —no flat tires, nothing broken, nothing lost.
Now, as I am counting my many blessings I am looking for another, in the form of employment. I have never, ever seen myself as “unemployed.” When inquiring about teaching at an art center here, I was recently told that “there are more people here who want to teach than want to take.” I am listening—every day my ears are growing. And my heart is opening. Unfortunately most of the calls to my land line are for the three previous owners of my phone number who are being stalked by debt collectors. The calls to my cell are from friends who are inquiring if I have gotten a job.
I continue daily to search on-line and to follow the newspaper for job openings at the small colleges (my past experience), private schools, art centers, and for studios where I could give workshops. My diligent diet of cover letters, applications, resumes, proposals, and re-calls is preoccupying my thoughts and seeming like a motivational, narcissistic self-promotion that I am finding uncomfortable. I am waiting for a message, listening for the voice and some direction. Some days it is hard to separate my enormous personal happiness from my inability to land a job. Then my funky self-doubt asks, “Am I wanting more than I deserve?” Humility begins to replace my self-focused ambition.
My blanket of comfort is filled with many, many serendipitous experiences of people, portraits, houses, dogs and luck. Yesterday I literally ran into an Asheville artist that I have wanted to meet for four months. Every person that I have met has connected me with someone else, a business, or an idea. I am diving into new subjects in my paintings, and into new materials. In these new awarenesses, as my mind flickers with hard economic truths, I am finally enjoying surrendering to the unknown, relishing what comes, letting the day flow through me, nourishing my passions, enjoying and being creative with the uncertainty, and trashing what does not fit. The evening comfort of bedtime is filled with recognizing the numerous blessings of the day (including my new dog, Dallas) and realizing what an amazing and embracing community that I am living in, and in knowing that I listened and I am HERE.
Jennine’s paintings (and her resume and teaching experience) can be seen on her website, www. JennineHoughArtist.com
The Feldenkrais Method ®
By: Lavinia Plonka
If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want. ~Moshe Feldenkrais
While most WNC Woman readers know me as the leaping lunatic who writes the monthly CosmiComedy column (See page 10), I do have a day job as a Feldenkrais practitioner. The confluence of this issue’s theme with the May events celebrating National Feldenkrais Week prompted editor Sandi Tomlin-Sutker to invite me to step up to the plate and write a second article about this profound Method.
I was in my late 30’s, at the height of my performing career, but my body felt like I was ready for the junk heap. My back hurt almost all the time. I was going to the chiropractor, massage therapist and acupuncturist just to be able to keep getting on the stage. I was convinced that I had something terribly wrong with me. One time, I peeked at the chiropractor’s chart to see my diagnosis. It said “Lumbago.” Wow. I was impressed. Then I looked it up. Lumbago means lower back pain. That’s it? Ugh.
One day, while sitting in yet another doctor’s office, I came across an excerpt from a book called The Elusive Obvious. I loved the title. It was written by some guy named Moshe Feldenkrais. I’d never heard of him, but as I read, light bulbs were exploding in my head. The excerpt talked about habit. Feldenkrais explained that most of our actions are governed by habits we’ve developed over the course of our lives. From the moment we learn to move as babies, we are creating habits that help us turn, reach, walk, drive, make coffee, fall in love, everything. In his new book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg says that when we are learning something new, all different parts of the brain light up. Once it becomes a habit, the brain doesn’t work anymore. Instead, the basal ganglia, like some incredibly efficient secretary, delegates the way we accomplish our tasks, based on the habits that have developed. My brain lit up. What if my back pain was a habit?
I went running to the nearest bookstore and ordered The Elusive Obvious, devouring it like it was manna from heaven. Feldenkrais spoke about how we develop an anxiety pattern that results in tension and holding that affect our posture. Oh my god, did I ever have an anxiety pattern. Could that be the reason I was in pain? I went to a Feldenkrais class in New York. It seemed like we were doing virtually nothing. I raised and lowered my head. I breathed. I lay down. It was very relaxing, but really? After the class was over, I was chatting with someone as I bent to tie my shoes. I froze. Stood up. Bent back down. Stood up. “My, my, my back doesn’t hurt!” I blurted.
By the fourth year of my Feldenkrais Professional Training, my performing ability had improved so that I was more flexible and elegant than I had been in my twenties. Funny thing though. I was so in love with this work, I no longer wanted to be in show business. I wanted to share Feldenkrais with as many people as I could.
I tell this story because it is a common thread among many practitioners. Either it helped them, or someone close to them. John Robson, a practitioner in Black Mountain, first saw how the Feldenkrais Method radically improved the lives of some brain-damaged children. Lara Gillease, a popular Feldenkrais teacher at the YMCA who specializes in working one on one with people who have scoliosis, as well as with children, also came to Feldenkrais because of her back. Colleen Lang, a recent graduate in Barnardsville, began because she wanted to dance again.
It’s not flexible bodies, but flexible brains I’m after. ~Moshe Feldenkrais
So how does it work? People ask me all the time, “If there’s no stretching, and no strain, how can we possibly improve?” I love that question. We have been totally indoctrinated into a culture that says, “No pain, no gain.” This “harder is better” principle operates on the assumption that the body is just a stupid machine that must be subjugated by the “mind.” Feldenkrais was one of the first people to propose that the body itself is intelligent. The French neuroscientist, Alain Bertholz, says in his book The Brain’s Sense of Movement, that we have forgotten our sixth sense: the kinesthetic sense. Without a kinesthetic sense, I wouldn’t know I’m touching the keyboard, exactly how far to reach to my tea cup, or even where I am in the room. Our kinesthetic sense surrounds us so totally, it’s invisible, like asking a fish about water.
Feldenkrais said, “I believe that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality. They are not just parts somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole while functioning. A brain without a body could not think.” So he developed a system using movement alongside the thinking mind and the kinesthetic sense. He called his lessons
Awareness Through Movement®
These lessons, often done lying down, but also standing and sitting, use small, precise movements to help direct students’ attention to the way they move in order to discover easier, more functional options.
How you move is how you move through life. Your body/mind is completely governed by your nervous system’s response: to stress, pleasure, shock and your environment. The gentle movements of the Feldenkrais Method allow you to learn to develop new habits that can reduce pain, improve flexibility and as Feldenkrais put it, “…restore human dignity.”
How It Works
The Feldenkrais Method is not a magical mystery. It’s actually based on a very precise study of how the nervous system learns. When a baby is learning how to lift her head, or roll over, she doesn’t have a manual, a coach or even an idea about how to do it. The process becomes one of trial and error, experimentation and discovery. Every baby is unique. While one baby will roll over onto the stomach and be amazed and delighted, another will be so shocked she starts crying. This too is part of the learning process. When we learn, we are at the threshold of the unknown. After all, if you already know, then there’s nothing to learn.
Because our first learning experience, and all the attendant ways we approach life and think about things come from this original organic learning experience of movement, Feldenkrais lessons use movement to help us learn about ourselves. Many of the movements come from infant development patterns. Others are subtle investigations into function: how does the shoulder move, how does it relate to the muscles of the back, how does it interfere with easy breathing? Every one of the thousands of lessons comes complete with many questions for the nervous system to investigate. The process of paying attention to the movement is actually more important than the movement itself.
What makes Awareness Through Movement lessons unique is that there is no goal except your personal awareness and experience. The teacher does not demonstrate. Instead, the instructions are precise verbal directions that allow each person to explore according to her interest and ability. There is no “best” person in the class. There is no “wrong.” If someone has misinterpreted the movement instruction, the instructor assumes that that person has a different learning process. The suggestion is re-phrased, developed and clarified. This helps people break the habit of thinking they have to be told “what is right.” Each person discovers how the movement is right for her.
Awareness Through Movement lessons can be done by anyone, because the work is with the brain. If a person has limitations (“We move according to our perceived self-image,” said Feldenkrais), he can work with the instructor to find greater ease, or simply imagine the movement. It’s now standard practice among athletes, musicians and others to “visualize” executing a movement. Research has shown that athletic performance actually improves more through use of imagery than physical drills. Feldenkrais introduced the process of imagining movement over forty years ago, stating that the nervous system interprets intention as action. This is why the work is so effective for people who have neurological damage, either through birth trauma, stroke or other illness.
Because each of us has a unique learning style, as well as personal goals and needs, The Feldenkrais Method is not just taught in groups. The one-on-one experience is called a Functional Integration lesson. Feldenkrais believed it was more important to be functional than to “look right.” And if your functions are integrated, then that means all the parts are communicating in an effective way.
A person might choose a private lesson for a number of reasons. He feels more comfortable when not in a group setting, or has a specific goal, like improving his golf stroke or violin playing. She may be recovering from an injury or a trauma that requires individual attention. He wants to work with how an emotional issue has impacted on his posture and feels safer one on one.
A tennis player can learn a lot from a tennis clinic with many other people. But spending individual time with a coach can tailor the learning process. The same thing happens in a private Feldenkrais lesson. The big difference between Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration is the approach. Instead of merely verbal instructions, the practitioner actually guides movement through touch. This profoundly increases the student’s sensitivity to holdings and habits that may be interfering with her optimal functioning.
Students remain fully clothed and often lie or sit on a Feldenkrais table that is lower and wider than a traditional massage table. This allows freedom of movement while affording a relaxing environment. Even though this experience has a therapeutic effect, it is still a lesson, an educational process. Feldenkrais believed that no one has the power to “fix” anyone. All a Feldenkrais practitioner does is teach a person how to pay attention in a way that allows him to live the life he wants.
I don’t teach movement, I teach learning. ~Moshe Feldenkrais
There are many opportunities to find your learning style in Western North Carolina. From classes at the College for Seniors (Jacquie Wollins) to working with physical therapists who integrate Feldenkrais in their work (Linda Emerick and Cliff Shulman) to generalists like myself, it’s an adventure waiting to happen.
Feldenkrais Week May 4 -11
All over the world, people will be celebrating Feldenkrais Week with parties, free classes and special events. Asheville Movement Center will not only offer free group classes to all newbies, but there is a very special event. On Thursday, May 10, 6-9 PM, Feldenkrais Trainer Jeremy Krauss will teach a workshop called The Magic of Learning. Jeremy, who currently resides in Germany, was one of Feldenkrais’ original US students. He went on to assist him in future trainings and worked closely with him in Tel Aviv until Feldenkrais’ death. His experience and teaching style makes him one of the most popular trainers in the world. The workshop space is limited, so register early: ashevillemovementcenter.com
Want to know more?
www.feldenkrais.com – information, lessons, articles, events, and directory of practitioners
www.thefeldenkraisstore.com – books, cds and more
www.laviniaplonka.com – free audio downloads, products, information and definitions, articles
www.honestevolution.com – John Robson and his work with children
www.blackmountainphysicaltherapy.com – Cliff Shulman, a physical therapist who utilizes Feldenkrais.
www.integrativemovement.com – Lara Gillease
A Mini Feldenkrais Lesson
You can do this lesson right where you are sitting. Sitting on the front of your chair, with your feet flat on the floor, sense your sit bones at the bottom of your pelvis. Slowly begin to roll your pelvis as if you were slumping. Your tailbone moves forward and your lower back moves backward. You may feel your heels wanting to lift, that’s OK. Return to neutral and repeat several times. As you tilt, notice your breath. Can you exhale as you round your back, and inhale as you return? What do you feel in head and neck? Try gently lowering your head as you tilt your pelvis. Take a short rest by sitting back in your chair.
Return to the front of your chair and try the opposite movement. Tilt your pelvis so that your lower back arches slightly and your tailbone moves back. Does your chest move? As you tilt your pelvis, let your head look up toward the ceiling. Imagine your whole spine participating in this movement.
After a short rest, return to the front of the chair, and begin alternating the movement of the pelvis – rolling it forward and back. As you arch your back, your head looks up, as you round your back, your head looks down. Make the movement smaller and smaller, till someone walking by wouldn’t even see that you are moving. As you return to your work, notice your posture and even your vision may have changed.
By: Beth Browne
If you followed the Pay-It-Forward Room Makeover Project that began in October 2011, you know that there were so many wonderful nominees who, while they didn’t win the Makeover, did win our hearts. Following is the nominating letter from Mrs. Laura Lee Jordan and a profile of Emily Dill.
It is my pleasure to nominate Mrs. Emily Dill for this Room Makeover. For the past 18 years Emily has taught children with special needs, in particular behavior disorders. These challenged children often have teachers who are mainly focused on behavior control, yet Emily focuses on teaching them self-control and meeting the same high educational standards as other children. Teaching regular middle school students is difficult enough; her career is twice as demanding. In order to meet her own high standards, she often spends hours at the school on weekends preparing individual lesson plans and ways to meet individual student goals.
Emily and her husband have also accepted a Foreign Exchange student to share their lives this year, and had 3 foreign students for a summer experience. That takes space in both one’s home as well as a great deal of nurturing.
Finally, Emily is a wonderful neighbor, and keeps a watchful eye on my 83-year-old mother when my husband and I travel.
Emily lives in a lovely home with a view of our magnificent mountains. A room makeover would brighten the space, enabling the family to enjoy the view and appreciate their family time even more.
This lady who has given so much to others, deserves this free Room Makeover!
Remember summer camp? Sing-a-longs by the campfire, pillow fights in the bunkhouse, making key chains with plastic lacing? Emily Dill does. In fact, Emily credits her experience at summer camp with much of her success in life. And Emily has succeeded at one of the most difficult jobs: Teaching students with special needs.
Emily grew up in Ohio and went to camp for the first time when she was eight. At YMCA Storer Camps in Michigan, she says, the staff made sure everybody counted and no one was left out. She says her experience at camp was magical. Spending so much time with people at camp formed relationships that have lasted her entire life. Emily will be forty-three in June and she and her husband often vacation with and are going on spring break with people they knew from camp twenty-five years ago. She even met her husband at camp. She says, “Camp was a big anchor in my life.”
At camp there was a lot of singing, both in chapel and around the campfires and Emily had always loved to sing. The counselors encouraged her to sing and her abilities blossomed. She learned how to play the guitar and eventually learned to lead others in singing. Today she volunteers to help organize musicals at her school, has worked in community theatre and sings in her church’s praise band. Emily says music is “a whole different language.”
When she got old enough, Emily became a camp counselor and worked her way up to directing the other counselors. She was studying journalism in college and spending her summers at camp, when one of the other counselors, Michele, mentioned her experience working with children with learning disabilities. She told Emily about the kids she was working with and how they had high IQ’s but just couldn’t learn the way everyone else did. Michele was so excited about getting inside the minds of these kids and figuring out a way to teach them. The excitement led her back to school with a new major in special education, focusing on learning disabilities.
After graduation, Emily was teaching in a high school in Michigan when she discovered she had a knack for working with kids who had emotional problems. The other teachers in the school started sending Emily any kids who had emotional or behavior problems. “I just seemed to work naturally with them,” she says.
Emily thinks two factors influenced her ability to work with this special population. One of them stems from her own mother being an alcoholic who got sober when Emily was in the eighth grade. The other was camp. Being at camp and living so closely with people in a supportive environment taught her how to accept and work with people and build relationships. “I learned that people are different and deal with things differently but they’re just people and there’s a reason they’re acting like they’re acting. I seem to be able to quickly form relationships with kids and they’ll talk to me and tell me things pretty easily. Really, it’s a gift from God.”
Faith is a huge part of Emily’s life that was also fostered in her camp experience where they went to chapel every day. She was raised going to church, but says it didn’t really “click” for her until later in life. As an adult, she went through a difficult three years in which she got married, got pregnant, lost her father and learned her mother and her mother-in-law had cancer. Her husband’s mother moved in with them and lived with them until she passed away when their daughter Acadia was just a year old. Emily’s mother passed away a year later. At the time the losses were devastating, but now Emily says, “I can honestly say that I’m grateful for the trials that we’ve been through, because I feel much stronger. I wouldn’t be who I am today, if I didn’t have to go through all that stuff.”
During this difficult time, Emily worked at an alternative school. One of her colleagues, Mont, asked Emily to join him at his church. But Emily’s mother had lead Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meetings at that same church for years and now that her mother was gone, Emily couldn’t bear to go near the place that held so many memories of her mother. “I couldn’t bring myself to walk through those doors. I had been there listening to her speak and it was just too close to the time after she had died.” But Mont was insistent and kept asking her to join him and eventually Emily and her husband decided to go. When they got out of the car in the church parking lot, they could hear the music coming from inside. As she walked in the door, “it all melted away.” Five days later, the church caught on fire and they had to meet in a different building while the fire damage was repaired. Emily says, “That was no mistake,” because it enabled her to attend the church without hurting every time she walked in the door. Three weeks later she became a Christian, which she says totally changed her life. Emily and her husband were baptized at the same time and shortly thereafter Emily’s sister, Leslie, also came to Christ. Before this, they didn’t think there was any hope for Leslie because she was deeply into some serious drug use. But the transformation turned her life around.
At that time, Emily’s husband was a stay-at-home dad and after a few years of being out of the recreation field, he asked Emily out of the blue how she would feel about him starting to look for a camp job, which was his first love. Emily laughs and says she immediately agreed, fully knowing through their previous experiences that good camp jobs were hard to come by with decent family housing. But she knew in her heart that this would be a good move for the family.
Michael got a job at YMCA Camp Greenville (SC) and they moved to North Carolina. For two years, Emily home schooled Acadia for first and second grade until she eventually felt led to go back to work. She says working with kids and building relationships with them was where her heart was and at the same time she was coming to realize that their daughter was very social and would benefit from the school environment.
While Mike transitioned to working at Bonclarken Conference Center, Emily went back to working in the school system and now works at Rugby Middle School doing resource work and inclusion of kids with disabilities in the regular classroom. She’s found one of her strengths in working with kids in very small groups or even one-on-one. “I really believe that when I look back over my career and over my life, it’s when I was working with small groups, like at camp, where I know that I’ve made a difference in some kids’ lives. The smaller the group, the more I can reach them.”
In one of the first schools she worked in, she pioneered another one of her strengths and something she loves—inclusion—and she’s seen it evolve over the years. She says it’s a really great concept and when both teachers (the regular teacher and the exceptional-children teacher) are willing and want to learn from each other and have input it can be a great thing for both students with special needs and for the other students. She says it’s important for the teaching team to have time to plan and build their own relationship so they can better serve the kids. “When you put two minds together, you have so many more possibilities of how to teach and reach kids with many differing abilities.” Emily says she knows it might not be realistic, but she thinks it would be great if every class had two teachers because there are so many learning styles and it’s hard for just one teacher to reach every child.
The benefits of inclusion extend to every child in the classroom. Sometimes students might not relate to just one adult in the classroom. “I think relationships are the basis for education, and if there are two teachers in the room there’s a much greater chance that the child will be able to relate to one of them.” In addition, Emily says, “Inclusion gives kids a chance to know that there are other ways of doing things and that it’s ok to be different as long as you grow and you learn.” Emily Dill is out to make sure the kids in her classroom do just that.
Beth Browne writes because she just can’t help herself. Her two kids wish she liked cooking as much as writing. In her spare time she enjoys sailing with her salty mate, Eric, and blogging about it at: http://bbwomenswrites.blogspot.com.
By: Peggy Ratusz
For the past 38 years, Asheville Greenworks, our local non-profit environmental organization, has worked tirelessly to encourage our community to be and stay “clean and green.” The first annual Green Swan Festival (GSF) celebrates and encourages their work.
Throughout the year, Asheville Greenworks engages the community via grassroots projects such as tree planting, clean-ups, anti-litter and recycling programs, creation and maintenance of green spaces, playground enhancements, neighborhood beautification, as well as care and preservation of Asheville’s trees. Your patronage at the festival, which takes place on Saturday, June 2nd from 11am to 10pm on the campus of Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, will offer you an opportunity to give back to their causes, and help them continue their vital work in keeping Asheville clean and green.
Danny’s Dumpsters and Curbside Management will be managing the event to ensure zero waste. There will be recycling and composting stations where volunteers will be “trash talking” to keep this a landfill-free event. Also on hand will be local food trucks, local brews, a kid zone, and of course a wide range of music acts.
The performers include local, regional, nationally and internationally known female artists. I’m honored to be included in the entertainment lineup. I will be performing with my dear friend and exceptionally gifted guitar player, Duane Simpson. I wrote a song inspired in part by my stint as a volunteer for Asheville Greenworks entitled “All for One.” Along with it, Duane and I will be playing a mix of original and cover Blues and Jazz. It’s been five years since Duane and I started playing together in band situations as well as this acoustic style duo. Our chemistry as friends translates effectively and effortlessly into the music we generate and the originals we’ve written together reflect the generations between us in a genuine and gracious way, allowing the difference in our ages to be a mute point by the time it’s all said and done. For those of you not familiar with Duane’s uncanny and superior guitar skills, what an extraordinary treat you’re in for! www.reverbnation.com/peggyratusz
WNCW Disc Jockey, Laura Blackley who hosts radio shows such as Local Color and Southern Sirens will be performing solo at the festival. She’s an unsung hero to our area’s established and emerging musicians as her promotional support helps grow fan bases, boost CD sales as well as attendance at shows. A self-taught banjo and guitar player this singer-songwriter and composer’s projects and collaborations reflect her versatility. Influences range from Bach to Pete Townsend. Whether its instrumental banjo music or murder ballads, it’s obvious that Laura’s compositions evolve from her deep center. Her loyal followers can attest to her unique, incomparable vocal style and in conjunction with her savory melodies and lyrics, her songs are tangible life lines to the listener. She’s a wife, mother, mentor, musician and overall Renaissance woman representing WNC in the finest way possible. www.myspace.com/laurablackley
South Carolinian, Angela Easterling has accolades a-plenty. Described as a singer who “boasts a crystal-clear voice” as well as “a golden glowing voice,” she paints pictures with original songs covering a myriad of subjects ranging from epic stories about power and corruption to elegant vignettes about heartache. She’s compared to Lucinda Williams, Tift Merrit and Shelby Lynn. And her sound has been represented as Jazzy-Folk, Pop and Alt Country. “Tradition meets youthful exuberance”…. “Innocence and clarity so fresh as to be dangerous”…. “Her gentle balladry is boundless like a field and as clear as country skies” are just a few of the quotes made by reviewers far and wide. Will Kimbrough, Emmy Lou Harris’s lead guitarist, produced two of her records that contain a sundry of Gospel, Southern Folk Rock and Country missives. Her exceptional songwriting is a true art, evidenced by her two-time Kerrville New Folk Festival Finalist status. Touring in 2011 allowed this songstress to charm new audiences with her mix of personal and political, disarming and provocative music and lyrics. www.angelaeasterling.com
Amy White will be appearing with her Grammy-winning husband Al Petteway. This astoundingly compelling husband and wife duo perform a blend of contemporary, Celtic and Appalachian-influenced original and traditional music. Amy is a masterful multi-instrumentalist and songwriter; supporting her husband she plays piano, mandolin, guitar, Celtic harp, mountain dulcimer and percussion. Her solo piano CD, Bittersweet: An American Romance has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Together they’ve garnered 50 awards from the Washington Area Music Association. The Washington Post describes Amy’s prowess like this: “transporting music and beauty, shaped not only by a keen sense of lyricism and dynamics, but also a quiet soulfulness that continually draws in the listener.” And Jazztimes says: “White continues to paint sumptuous portraits of life situations with a remarkable measure of clarity and color.” Women Today magazine gushes: “White guides the listener from the profound to the whimsical and back again with all the ease of a brilliant conversationalist.” www.alandamy.com
Friction Farm is another duo that will be featured at GSF and consists of Christine Stay on bass and vocals with Aidan Quinn on guitar and vocals. They first met in college where he was a guitar-playing geologist and she was an engineer. After graduating, Stay learned to play bass just to join in with Quinn. She soon discovered a love for performing and writing. Together they make a formidable team with a yin and yang approach to music, lyrics, melody and harmony. They blend Country, Folk and Pop and bring a freshness and spontaneity to the stage. Notable 2011 Kerrville New Folk Finalists and Falcon Ridge Emerging Artists, they’ve also been songwriter winners at the South Florida Folk Festival, Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival and were finalists for an official showcase at Southeast Regional Folk Alliance. Their CD Every Mile Is a Memory is the result of a project in which the duo wrote a song a week and invited fans to comment on and contribute to the songs. Their writings have been described as “folk nuggets that couple pretty harmonies with a contemplative simplicity.” Christine has a vocal and lyrical intensity that conveys a wide range of expression, intimate and vulnerable in one song, powerful and angst ridden in the next; her vocal confidence and melodic tone never waiver. www.frictionfarm.com
If you’ve never seen Caroline Pond, Fiddle/Ukulele and vocalist in action and on stage, the Green Swan Festival will provide you the opportunity to remedy that! Delightful is the best way to describe this precious Asheville darling. Unrestrained front woman of the renowned Snake Oil Medicine Show, she’s also one third of the Old Time Acoustic trio, The Tater Diggers. In early autumn of 2008, fate brought together Caroline and singer-songwriter-guitarist, Ben Scales when they were vacationing at the same time on a horse farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Behind the farm was a potato patch where they spent nearly a day digging out “taters.” When the sun went down that evening and the instruments came out, they both agreed that the chemistry they’d just experienced together was too big to ignore. Banjo player and singer Kevin Scanlon, a long time collaborator of Scales, was called in to complete the line-up. Caroline’s exuberant fiddle playing and beautiful voice turned the trio into a powerhouse of musical excitement. The blend of Old Time and Maritime rewards the Tater Diggers’ listeners with “a mari-old-time.” www.taterdiggers.com
Described as a powerful crooner, Lorraine Conard experienced an epiphany years ago and took to defining who she is in this world, when she decided to call herself a musician first and web designer, second. So she sought out like-minded players and put together a collection of tunes of Bluesy Folk Americana with Jazz undertones and released Riding on Your Wings in the fall of 2009. These pared down, mostly original songs allow her sultry pipes to take center stage, cradled in the safe arms of bass and mandolin. Conard’s influences are a vast and varied mix of artists whom she honors with her toe-tapping, country-fried, folk-tinged blues sound. She anchors this patchwork of roots with rich and earthy vocal interpretations that are equally capable of soothing as electrifying the audience. Slated to perform at this year’s Southeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference in May as well as Green Swan Festival on June 2nd, her incremental and deliberate steps to be a musician first, are paying off. Grasping the concept that audiences come to her shows to be entertained and transported, this ingénue knows just what to do. www.lorraineconard.com
World Folk Americana Singer Songwriter, Miriam Allen is not only a bilingual multi-instrumentalist and dancer; she’s a passionate activist too. Motivated by harsh realities that result from neglect, apathy and greed, she’s taken on her share of causes that impact our environment both land and sea, from her native South Carolina all the way to Cobscook Bay, Maine. She even helped spearhead a group of Folly Beach, SC residents to petition and then incorporate a much needed bike lane on a deadly stretch of road that had taken the life of fellow cyclist and musician, Hawke Morfii back in 2009. Her musical influences and motivations stem from living, traveling and performing throughout parts of South America, Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador and Mexico. She pays her traveling expenses by performing on the streets and cantinas of the towns and cities of these beautiful countries. This cabaret, gypsy-style minstrel’s sound is compelling, “effortlessly cool,” warm and fun, and blends her gritty “southern soul” roots with the Latin flavors she savors. www.miriamallen.com
First Annual Green Swan Festival will feature a savory feast of female music artists! (and some tasty male artist too!)
Everybody’s honey, songstress Lyndsay Wojcik, comes back to WNC to play at Green Swan Festival. We’ve missed you, Lyndsay! And if you don’t know her, then what a wonderful thing it is for you that she’s on the roster for the festival on June 2nd! A review I read on her website, describes her to a T: “A self-made woman, survival trained, au-natural. She is a free-spirited soul who writes bluesy melodies with colorful, vibrant lyrics. Her voice has that character that makes you want to meet her…” I can add that she’s a veritable songwriter and a sincere performer who possesses a flair for works in both comedy and tragedy. The songs dictate the voice, which can be mystifying and cryptic as well as frisky and torrid but also jovial or sorrowful. A beautiful person, Lyndsay is the genuine article. www.lyndsaywojcik.wordpress.com
And last but certainly not least, the line up of male artists gracing the Green Swan Festival stage is as savory as the female: Dave Desmelik, Aaron LaFalce, Michael Reno-Harrell, Ray Chesna, Jon Vezner, Pierce Pettis, Jay Allen Whitham and Todd Hoke.
For more information about The First Annual Green Swan Festival, please visit their webpage at www.greenswanfest.org or
Peggy Ratusz is a singer, a writer, a mentor, and vocal coach firstname.lastname@example.org
Ballet Inspired Paintings in Support of Breast Cancer
By: Roya June
Asheville artist, Adrienne van Dooren began a series of dance-inspired paintings to increase awareness of breast cancer and raise funds for research. Several original oil paintings are currently on display at the Grand Bohemian Gallery. I interviewed Adrienne for this article to find out more about the project:
Roya: I read about you in the Washington Post and MORE magazine and was impressed that you’ve managed to raise over $250,000 through art. How did you do it?
Adrienne: I didn’t do it alone. I started Artists4Others almost ten years ago. Our first project was the House that Faux Built project and book to raise money for Katrina Victims. The book is titled The House that Faux Built: Transform Your Home with Paint, Plaster and Creativity. It is out of the bookstores now, but is still available in libraries and on Amazon. Folks can download free chapters at www.fauxhouse.com. 100% of the profits went to fund a Habitat for Humanity House in New Orleans.
Once the house was funded, Asheville artist Lyna Farkas led a team to New Orleans to work her magic and hand the family the key to their new home. The artists also painted murals for the kids’ rooms and did beautiful faux finishes throughout the home. (Sadly most of the murals had to be ripped out less than a year later due to defective Chinese drywall.)
Other projects by Artists4Others involved community projects and auctions to benefit animal rescue, hospitals and hospice. The latest is Painting4theCure.
Roya: Painting4theCure is inspired by dance and most of your paintings depict ballet shoes and dancers. How does ballet relate to breast cancer?
Adrienne: I see very strong parallels between the feminine energy and strength found in dance and the type of strength needed to fight breast cancer. I also love that I can incorporate the crossed pink ribbon breast cancer symbol into the dancer’s shoes, dresses or hair in a way that isn’t too obvious but is still meaningful.
Roya: How exactly does this project benefit Breast Cancer Research?
Adrienne: It helps in two ways: My first intention is that the painting series increases awareness—both of the importance of self-checks/ mammograms and the need to donate to cancer research.
And, I donate 15% of my artist profits to Breast Cancer charities and donate art to charitable auctions.
Roya: Why this cause?
Adrienne: I survived cervical cancer, but find breast cancer particularly scary. I’ll never forget growing up—my best friend’s mother died of breast cancer when Lydia was only eight years old. It was even more tragic because her mom knew she had a lump but put off going to the doctor. More recently my own Mother and my best friend had to go through lumpectomies. I recently learned that while increasingly curable, breast cancer still kills more women in the US than any other cancer besides lung cancer.
Roya: Your work has been shown from Denmark to Dubai; for this project, are you concentrating on WNC dancers?
Adrienne: For the most part, yes. I have worked closely with Ann Dunn and am very impressed with the job she has done with the Asheville Ballet. She has allowed me full access to her dancers in rehearsal for this month’s Sleeping Beauty performance (May 18 and 19 at the Diana Wortham Theater).
Art Prints sold at the Ballet Studio and performances will help benefit the ballet, which is a non-profit. They need donations to continue to perform. I think WNC learned an important lesson when Bravo Productions recently went out of business after 80 years of bringing ballets and concerts to Asheville. If we want to continue enjoying the Arts, we must support them—both through donations and attendance.
Roya: Where can folks get your art?
Adrienne: Limited Giclées and prints are available through The Asheville Ballet or by contacting me directly through www.paint4thecure.com. However, the original oil paintings for this series are available exclusively through the Grand Bohemian Gallery (across from the entrance to the Biltmore). The gallery has scheduled the opening reception for the Paint4theCure collection for October 5th.
I recently completed a painting series of fifteen landscapes featuring cows painted in the style of the old masters. Those paintings benefit animal rescue. Folks can see examples at vandoorenart.com and can purchase originals either through the Grand Bohemian in Asheville or the Focal Point Gallery in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Naturally, I’m also available for special commissions, and I often work with designers to customize a piece to bring in elements of a room, include the family pet, etc.
Roya June is a freelance writer and Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing for H2RAD, the only truly green paint remover for even hard to remove paint such as graffiti, highway markings, etc. (For more information see H2Rad.com)
I am a dancer and poet, mother, scholar. I have always danced and written, mothered and thought. My first recollection is as a two-year-old, physically emoting in a beige living room to a scratchy LP of Caruso. My latest recollection is last night’s dream, in which I soared as beautifully as in the old days before the broken foot, the sprung and squashed discs, and the arthritis. In between ages 2 and 65 a lot of dancing happened: on major, international stages, in elementary school cafetoriums, in city squares, in salons, in churches, on rooftops, in art galleries, in barns, on university tours, at weddings and funerals, and even on a fire truck. The constants in my life have been dance, children, poetry, and scholarship. They sprang from the same source (boundless curiosity and receptiveness to mystery), they nurtured each other with the same rain and sun (love and inspiration), they required the same attention in order to mature (conscious and thoughtful research, study, and practice; an alert ear for the muse; and time), and they produced the same results (the arts of dance and poetry and the arts of spiritual and intellectual life).
The first half of my life was about pursuing those constants. In dance, becoming a professional included training and performing stops along the way, such as New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Martha Graham, Merce Cuningham, and my own company. In the children’s department, parenting began when I was twenty and continued through five children and now ten grandchildren. In poetry, I was fortunate to study with the greats (John Ashbery, John Gardner, Mark Strand, Ann Sexton, Richard Hughes, David Wagoner, Donald Justice, Marvin Bell, Robert Hass), including a full scholarship to Bread Loaf Writer’s Colony and three residencies at Weymouth, followed by publications and readings across the US and Europe. In scholarship, I fell in love with Shakespeare in high school and never looked back, although I glanced sideways at Milton, and the literature of the Italian Renaissance. My undergraduate work at NYU and IUSB, my Masters work at UNCA, and my PhD work at USC became like a trampoline for me, on which I continue to leap, bounce, fly and breathe the scary, invigorating air of ideas.
Not all of these details had occurred yet when I arrived in Asheville, but I get them out of the way early, in order to focus my narrative on dance in Asheville, and to sketch the character of just one person of the many who had an impact on the evolution of that scene over the last 32 years.
I pulled into Asheville in 1980 with one U-Haul, 3 children, a bad marriage, enough money for a down payment on a Montford House, and only one marketable skill—dance. I came from New York City via a thirteen-year hiatus in Indiana. I left because, at 33, I had lost myself in the bigness of the worlds I had created. All of those worlds, I am pleased to say, are going strong today. But I needed to start over. As a child, my favorite character was Daniel Boone, the pioneer who always needed to move on when things got crowded.
To my New York eyes, Asheville in 1980 looked like a hopelessly small but lovely, cultural desert. To my Indiana eyes, Asheville looked like a tabula rasa, if only I could find, or make, the magic words. I had learned long ago, however, that there is no find, there is only make, and as far as magic goes, if one wants a rabbit to emerge from a hat, one must put a rabbit in the hat before the show.
What was here 32 years ago? My initial scope-out discovered a new Arts Council; a new excellent arts publication (The Arts Journal); three competing dance organizations—two small and one huge (the old not-for-profit Asheville Ballet, the fledgling Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre, and the for-profit studio, Fletcher School of Dance); a small art museum; a small symphony; a community theater; a thriving producing organization (since called Bravo!) that brought art acts to town; individual visual artists hiding in outlying mountain towns with names like Weaverville; a few old-guard, loyal art patrons who seemed to make everything that happened happen; a vibrant State Arts Council in Raleigh; and The American Dance Festival, recently relocated to Durham. Downtown Asheville seemed to consist of pawn shops, a movie theater that smelled like urine and, of course, artists’ studios. Our home on Montford was bordered on both sides by houses of prostitution. Biltmore Forest and North Asheville did exist, but I did not immediately meet those folks.
Before I unpacked, I was on the phone. Appointments with all the above organizations yielded much, quickly. Before I knew it, I was teaching for The Asheville Ballet; choreographing for Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre; writing philosophical essays on art and art theory for The Arts Journal; running back and forth to Durham as the Western North Carolina official dance critic for The American Dance Festival; on the Board of Directors of The Arts Council; sharing good pre-show dinners with the director and staff at the North Carolina Arts Council, who became my enduring friends; booking Buncombe County school tours with my Indiana company; and founding the Blue Ridge Summer Dance Festival at Warren Wilson College. I began ballet and modern classes in my garage on Montford with four students. In the winter, when even the kerosene heater could not keep us warm, we moved into the dining room by the wood stove, using chairs and windowsills for barres. Grants were written and received, from local, state, national, international, and private funding sources. I co-founded The North Carolina Dance Alliance and served on its board. I became artist-in-residence for parts of North and all of South Carolina. My children who were not in school went with me. Sometimes I took them out of school, as when I had a residency on Daufuskie Island, only accessible by boat. We had to pack-in all our food for the week, sleep on the floor of the tiny schoolhouse beside the woodstove, and speak Gullah to the only 16 children on the island.
Visions require work and re-visioning. My vision for dance in Asheville was initially a big happy Eden where all dance groups worked together while maintaining their own autonomy. I soon learned that local rivalries and insecurities were strong. Finally, I threw my lot in with Art Fryar and the Asheville Ballet because we shared values and standards, and because he was not threatened by my parallel dream (about which I was honest) of growing my own business and dance opportunities. Thus, when Art decided to retire, he turned over The Asheville Ballet—with its Board, non-profit status, and all costumes—to me.
Meanwhile, my dance spaces gradually increased. From the garage, to a small studio on Wall Street, to a basement studio on Walnut Street. When my grandmother died and left me $20,000, I used it as a down payment on The Leader Building. Ah, a big space of my own.
My family moved in upstairs in the late 1980s. We were the only family in downtown Asheville for years—pioneers. The ballet and studio grew. Eight adult dancers performed a tour of northern venues such as New York City, Yale University, Keene State College. We were accepted into the Out-of-Town series in New York City. I performed my solo show Goddesses in Soho with five huge David Nelson pots, commissioned for the occasion, and then at The Asheville Art Museum with an actress reading my poetry and a live string quartet performing Beethoven’s Opus 131. Choreography poured out of The Asheville Ballet. We danced everywhere and all year in the Asheville area, reaching upwards of 20,000 people (mostly children) annually. Awareness for classical ballet, modern dance, and interdisciplinary performance rose. Our students went to Juilliard, Kirov, New York City Ballet, Martha Graham —on and on. We gained a national and international reputation as we erased boundaries and filled seats at home. The Diana Wortham Theatre opened and our central venue became focused, so we could offer a subscription season.
In 1996, The Fletcher School of Dance came up for sale, so I sold The Leader Building and bought it. But a rival undermined me and again stole students—I had to start over. Nothing new. I was happy, because I had finally been able to merge the two biggest studios in Asheville, and because I had access to The Nutcracker without being unethical by performing it when someone else local was already performing it. The Asheville Ballet’s Nutcracker became the glorious cornerstone of a three-event season, with the Fall Concert featuring original contemporary choreography with live music, and the Spring Concert featuring a full-length classical ballet. Always, the goal was excellence in community collaboration. We danced with The Asheville Symphony, The Asheville Choral Society, The Asheville Lyric Opera, Kat Williams, Stephanie’s Id, Chuck Lichtenberger, Matthew Richmond, poets, sculptors, and photographers.
Our decade in the Fletcher School of Dance building was another astounding time of creativity and teaching. Many dancers on international stages today trained there as children. The main thing is, and always has been, to make dance, to train dancers, and to love life in a deep sense—at breath level.
The Asheville Ballet made another change in 2007. Downtown got crowded. So Daniel Boone sold the FSD building and bought a lovely building in Woodfin. I lost my life savings as a result of a less than forthcoming real estate agent, but started over anyway. We continue to train dancers, collaborate with individual artists and arts organizations, and generate classical and contemporary work that garners rave reviews. Members of The Asheville Ballet are taking on more responsibility for choreography and other aspects of production. Community members are becoming more involved than ever in fund raising and promotion. The Asheville Ballet Guild will hold a Golf Tournament this summer, for example. There has never been more excitement in the air. The gig goes on.
Somewhere in the last 32 years I also managed family; school; poetry; academic publications; presentations at academic conferences in the United States, Italy and France;, and guest choreography for such places as The New York City Opera at Lincoln Center (Turandot); and The International Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rome, Italy (Macbeth). There was North Carolina Artist of the Year in 2004. There was the Distinguished Teacher Award in Humanities in 2007 from UNCA. There were five years of Little League. There were pilgrimages to Italy for Renaissance research, to Turkey and Israel for Crusades research, and to New York annually. I continue to write, teach a full load at UNCA in The Medieval and Renaissance World, take care of aging and ill parents, nurture children (grown and gone) and grandchildren, and take care of my baby—The Asheville Ballet. I have been single for 20 years. Why, when a 65-year-old looks back on life, does the vista look like a collection of lists? The events in these lists, professional and personal, generated much love and excitement, and were shared with wonderful people who became close friends. THAT is what makes the arts in Asheville function and continue to grow: people who do excellent work consistently in the face of all odds, people who endure, and people who bring joy, passion, and thoughtfulness to others through their joyous, passionate, and thoughtful labor. Such people are contagious.
And what does Asheville look like today? Too many dance, theater, music groups, galleries, and poetry readings to count. I credit what endures during hard economic times to those who have a generous vision for the arts, who commit to their community, and who persevere, often in the shadows. Many honorable names come to mind, mostly non-professional, self-less individuals who never had glory, power, money, or getting-ever-bigger on their minds. But that is their story.
The Asheville Ballet was incorporated on March 7, 1963. I have been Artistic Director for three decades. We are the oldest professional, non-profit ballet company in North Carolina, the only resident professional non-profit ballet company in Asheville, and the second oldest professional non-profit performing organization in Asheville (behind The Symphony, 1958). The 2011-2012 Season has been typical. In addition to out-of-town gigs, our Fall Concert featured an original work by a contemporary choreographer, a children’s ballet (Winnie the Pooh to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, the Pastoral). And a mesmerizing, full-length premier of a more classical work called Moonshine, sponsored by Troy & Sons Distillery—a pun on the effects of the moon on our spirits and the legendary healing spirits of our mountains. The choreography was a company effort, set to on-stage, live music by the Chapel Hill band, Kangaroo. Nutcracker was our most elaborate and fabulous production ever. And now we are preparing, for your pleasure, a full-length production of Tchaikovsky’s beautiful ballet, Sleeping Beauty, May 18 and 19 at Diana Wortham Theatre. Tickets are on sale. Our newest excitement is free-movement classes for victims of Parkinson’s Disease. Next year, Cinderella.
I long ago danced out of the beige living room and painted the world all the colors of love with my body and spirit. The colors will endure beyond me. ~Ann
By: Ann Vasilik
Kate Worm stands in front of her easel, a paint roller (brayer) in hand. She is giving a painting demonstration at the Hickory Museum of art. The model, a young girl, is posed in a chair ten feet in front of Kate with a spotlight casting her figure in strong light and shadow. Kate, motionless, gazes at the model as the minutes tick by. Suddenly she is all action. The brayer is energetically rolled on the plexi-glass palette picking up the paste-like consistency of the watercolor paint. She attacks the paper on the easel, rolling the paint in with seemingly random, long sweeping strokes. The energy is tangible in the room. No delicate, tentative washes for this watercolor artist!
According to Kate, brushes are overrated. The Hickory artist frequently uses no brush at all, choosing instead to apply the paint with printmaking rollers. Although her approach is a radical departure from the techniques associated with traditional watercolor, Kate finds it allows her to create breathtakingly bold paintings.
Kate holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree from Columbia University Teachers College, with minors in visual arts. She studied figure painting for four years with renowned painter and educator Andrew Martin at UNC-G. She paints landscape and still life with oil, but uses watercolor and gouache for figure work.
It was Kate’s expertise in special education that circuitously led her to discover the unique working methods behind the art she produces today. While employed in 2003 as an art consultant with disabled adults at Signature StudioX1, in Morganton, NC, she noticed one disabled woman who worked in gouache. Kate states, “It looked like so much fun that I decided to fool around with watercolor, splashing it, trying to work in a nontraditional way.” Having had printmaking experience, one day she picked up a printmaking roller and rolled the watercolor onto the paper.
Rolling several layers of paint sometimes before the first has dried, she tries to keep the process impulsive without setting rules. Then she uses a 1” brush to lay in smaller areas of color, but the figure really emerges from the environment and the paper when she comes back in with the edge of a roller, or with an eyedropper of drippy paint, and draws. She says that she spends more time looking than painting. She gathers visual impressions by gazing at the model until her eyes start to tire from the steady vision. She then uses the images in her peripheral vision to see elements that she would otherwise not see by looking directly.
Kate believes it’s good to have more warm or cool colors in a painting so that the finished work is clearly warm or cool, rather than hovering between the two temperatures. The pale tones of the figure are supported by blocks of vibrant colors in the props, furniture and backgrounds. A bright spot of complimentary color will often enhance the composition, drawing the eye but never distracting from the entirety of the piece.
Kate is a signature member of the Watercolor Society of NC and National Watercolor society. She has been published in American Artist Watercolor Magazine in 2006. She took 1st place in the WSNC Annual Juried Exhibition in 2010 and was featured on the cover of the Society’s 2011 calendar. Visit www.kateworm.com to see additional examples of her work.
The Watercolor Society of NC, Western Region, will feature Kate Worm at their event June 13 at the Governor’s Western Residence, Asheville. Also on the program, Erin Tapley from Western Carolina University is the speaker for the afternoon.
Reservations may be made by emailing email@example.com or calling (828) 693-6598.
Ann Vasilik is WSNC Western Region Director.
By: Kate O’Connor
photos: Naked Eye Graphics
Her t-shirt reads Junk and Disorderly in distressed black letters across the back. Patty Tracey chuckles impishly at the joke as she sets aside a box of vintage linens and welcomes you into her new enterprise, Marshall Junk Shop on Back Street in the County Seat of Madison County.
It’s a little bit yard sale: housed, in the back-end, riverfront garage of the former Bowman-Capps Funeral Home. It’s a little bit Curiosity Shop: packed to the rafters with this-and-that and many hey, my grandmother had one of these! moments. There’s great architectural salvage such as windows, doors, and tile. Yes, some of it is junk, but treasures lurk there as well. Customers quickly realize that it’s not really so disorderly.
What it also is not, Patty will tell you emphatically, is something out of a TV reality show. “The whole TV thing—American Pickers and Storage Wars—is not reality,” she declares. “But if someone wants to pay me $250,000 per episode to drive a Mercedes van to Arizona for a gumball machine, hey, I’ll sign up!”
Patty is nothing if not a realist—and a pragmatist. She’s well aware that opening a new business in the current volatile economic environment is certainly an act of faith; in Patty’s case, it’s faith in her own abilities and in her community. She has good reason to count on both.
Hard work and diligence come naturally to Patty. She undertook her first job at the tender age of 14, harvesting broad leaf tobacco in the Connecticut Valley to finance her college education in political science and economics at the University of New Haven.
Smart, savvy, and exceptionally well-organized, she embarked on an eclectic professional journey that ranged from managing a hardware store to owning a contracting business to operating and working fishing boats on Cape Cod. “I lobstered, I scalloped, I clammed,” she recalls. “You’ve got to be pretty handy, very practical, self-motivated, and able to think on your feet.”
Unusual undertakings for a young woman, but Patty remained undaunted. “When I was leaving the hardware store to go into business for myself as a contractor, my boss said, ‘never sell yourself short, Patty.’ I never have,” she notes in her characteristic, straightforward manner. “I don’t fail at things. I’m not being arrogant—I don’t have any romantic notions. When I set out to do something, I do it well. What else are you going to do?”
She achieved an enviable level of success at her endeavors, but wanderlust struck and in 2006 Patty moved to the mountains. “I was very settled in Cape Cod. I had tabs at all the local merchants, I knew just about everyone. I like the small-town atmosphere. I’m not really a city person so, instead of moving into town, we found a log cabin in Madison County and, with my contracting background, I took a job with the county doing field appraisals on property.”
The job put her one-on-one with residents in the most remote rural areas. “People would say to me, ‘I can’t believe you found my house,’” she laughs. “I got to know the cast of characters who make up this county.” Those introductions serve Patty well at the Junk Shop, a social center where folks stop in to scope out her inventory and share good conversation. “No one who comes into my store is average,” she says. “Everyone is special. Everyone’s a friend.”
Those friends are often the suppliers of the goods that move through her shop. Although she keeps her sources confidential, many of the items in her shop come from the farms and homesteads of the surrounding area. “We’ve got enough stuff in the world,” she observes. “Nobody needs anything NEW. People are purging themselves of things they don’t need any longer, but other people do need those things. If I don’t have it, you don’t need it. I keep it all moving back into the community. I’m just the intermediary.”
As she shepherds these items along their way, Patty makes small repairs and researches to certify that her price point suits the market. “I don’t have a background in antiques,” she explains, “but I do have a background in common sense. I may be one of the last people in the world with common sense. I know when something is quality—and I recognize value. My pricing is very affordable. I’m not upscale. I’m not up-cycling. I carry a ton of stuff and some is valuable. But I like the wheelin’ and dealin’ aspect.”
For Patty, the shop is a perfect blend of elements, allowing her to mingle with locals and visitors alike. “It’s all about the people—the community. Wherever I have lived, I’ve put my feet down and become part of the place,” Patty notes. “It’s not just being a participant. It’s cultivating relationships and working at them. Listening to people and meeting them where they are—whether they’re pulling up in a clunker or in a Cadillac.”
Demographics aren’t much of an issue for Patty, but weather is something of a consideration so she regularly posts her hours on a message board by the shop door and on Facebook (Marshall Junk Shop). Generally, the doors are open from 11:00-5:00 Thursday through Saturday.
She devotes the rest of the week to hunting for new merchandise and simply enjoying life. “I like the junk I get. I like the junk I sell,” Patty observes. “I like the deals that I give people. I know what’s important in life—making sure that I laugh every day, I work every day, I play every day, and I feel every day. Here at the shop, I’m doing all that at the same time. It’s not a bad life. Not at all.”
Stop in to say hello and check out Patty’s ever-changing merchandise at Marshall Junk Shop, 78 Back Street, Marshall, NC 28753. You can reach Patty at (508) 237-4022 or ‘like’ the shop on Facebook: Marshall Junk Shop.
Kate O’Connor is a writer, editor, artist and mischief-maker, loving life in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. She has contributed to WNC Woman in the past under her former name, Kate Reynolds.