HeardTell: The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library

Where Research is a Delight!

The 1980s: A Vibrant Decade for the Arts in Asheville

slidesA packed house in Lord Auditorium was the scene for the fourth program in the library’s series on Asheville in the 1980s.  Sponsored by the Friends of the North Carolina Room, the July 27 event was a lively retrospective on the vibrant art world in 1980s Asheville.

Phyllis Lang

Phyllis Lang

Deborah Austin

Deborah Austin

Phyllis Lang, former editor of The Arts Journal, and Deborah Austin who was head of the Arts Council in the ’80s, co-moderated the event.

The moderators kicked off the program with a visual sprint through art and artists of 1980s Asheville:  a lively slide presentation of Asheville’s rich artistic environment covering dance, crafts, theater, photography, literature, poetry and musicians.

A panel of key players from the era — Dick Kowal, Ann Dunn, Connie Bostic and Ralph Redpath — shared their insights into why and how the arts not only survived, but thrived in Asheville during the ’80s.

Interdisciplinary collaboration was a recurring theme throughout the evening.

Left to right: Ann Dunn, Dick Kowal, Connie Bostic, Ralph Redpath.

Left to right: Ann Dunn, Dick Kowal, Connie Bostic, Ralph Redpath.

WCQS veteran Dick Kowal reminisced on his early days with Howard Hanger’s jazz ensemble before joining the radio station as classical music host.  Later in the evening Kowal was joined by WCQS colleagues Chip Kaufmann and Barbara Sayer.

Howard Hanger

Howard Hanger

Chip Kaufmann, Dick Kowal

Chip Kaufmann, Dick Kowal

Kaufmann, who was in theater before joining WCQS in 1983, recalled how his scene in  “Catch 22” at Bele Chere with Blue Plate Special took an unexpected turn.   Barbara Sayer and Deborah Austin looked back to the third week in July, precisely 30 years ago, when WCQS broadcast live from Bele Chere the Billy Taylor Trio.  With the stage at the S & W building on Patton, they looked down Haywood Street and Patton Avenue and watched as the crowds filled the streets as far as the eye could see.

Sayer summed up the collaborative spirit:  “I’m standing up here with people who actually create.  They are makers of all kinds of things, and I’m not.  I just simply work somewhere that cares about the fact that they do.”

Sayer

Barbara Sayer

Dunn

Ann Dunn

Dancer Ann Dunn noted that there was a healthy dose of dance criticism in the ’80s which pushed the art to refinement.  Dunn’s work with the Community Arts Council – a huge outreach program — brought dance to factories, tobacco barns, and dancers downtown on fire trucks. She worked with schools to bring dance to children.  She also recalled that local businesses became involved, assisting with promotional tools and in some cases materials for production.

Tony Kiss

Tony Kiss

Tony Kiss, reporter and critic with Asheville Citizen-Times for over 30 years, recalled his brief experience as actor rather than reporter, as an extra in the movie “Bull Durham.”

Ralph Redpath

Ralph Redpath

Ralph Redpath reminisced on the challenges of casting “A Raisin in the Sun,” and his delight when Becky Stone walked onto the stage.

Connie Bostic

Connie Bostic

Connie Bostic, who brought works by Robert Mapplethorpe and Keith Haring to Asheville in her World Gallery, commented on the positive role of art criticism at the Citizen-Times, and the influence of Porge and Lewis Buck and others.

Ann Whisenhunt

Ann Whisenhunt

Ann Whisenhunt, who worked in Asheville’s Parks and Recreations Department in the ’80s and ’90s,  said that for her the richness of the ’80s was indeed the “wonderful collaborative spirit that was evident among everybody; among all of the arts organizations, and particularly the City of Asheville’s Parks and Recreation Department that had a very strong focus on the arts, and making sure that it reached all of the neighborhoods.”  Through programs such as Quality Forward’s Sunday in the Park, local artists were brought together with local audiences, in venues that provided large gatherings.

Andrea Clark

Andrea Clark

Acclaimed photographer Andrea Clark, whose sensitive and powerful photos chronicled the effects of urban renewal in the ’70s, entertained the audience with an account of her 1980s acting experience with the Montford Park Players.

Dan Lewis

Dan Lewis

According to musician Dan Lewis, “there are a lot of amazing people here tonight, but at the core of it all:  Deborah Austin.  Without her, it wouldn’t have happened.”

So many participants, and so little space in this blog.  We recommend that you grab a cool beverage,  settle into a comfortable chair, and enjoy the entertaining, first-hand accounts in the video below.

–Post by Ione Whitlock, NC Room Staff

3 comments on “The 1980s: A Vibrant Decade for the Arts in Asheville

  1. Deborah Austin
    August 11, 2016

    The closing of the Asheville Arts in the 1980s lacks an epilogue which I should have delivered. I can only claim as excuses for its absence my surprise at Dan Lewis’ remarks and my extreme joy that the program had been successful and it was over. I belatedly add the following.

    It took a village to make the Community Arts Council successful in the many avenues of the arts it supported, produced, and heralded in the 1970s and 80s. It took a small, but always dedicated staff that as described by Byron Ballard in her “frozen moment” could be called warriors for the arts, and dozens of volunteers, many of whom served in what could have been full-time staff positions. Byron and Ann Dunn are two of these. I share with them and the many, many villagers of Buncombe County the accolades given by Dan Lewis. Deborah Austin

  2. Pingback: “Uptown, Downtown, No Town” by David Mallett | HeardTell: Pack Memorial Library's North Carolina Room

  3. Pingback: Artists’ Archives and Local History: Working with Connie Bostic in Western NC | Artists' Studio Archives

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

HeardTell Stats

  • 279,312 views
%d bloggers like this: