Event makes for good company, good birding

This past Saturday, May 7, was (I believe) the 12th-annual “Birding for the Arts” fundraiser for the Haywood County Arts Council. I can’t remember exactly how many Saturdays we’ve done it, but I do know it’s become one of my favorite Saturdays.

Joe Sam and Kate Queen are always the most gracious and enthusiastic hosts, and there is always a mix of first-timers and returnees. And I had a more visceral connection to the Arts Council and some of their wonderful community work this year because Director Kay Miller assisted Central Elementary’s PTO in securing grants to bring two cool educational performing arts programs to Central this year.

We began, as always, at the Performing Arts Center on Pigeon Street, but this time we had a little competition for space. The place was bustling, as vendors for Haywood’s Farmers Market were busy setting up and displaying their wares. Native plants, artisan breads and handmade arts and crafts were impossible to ignore as we did a quick turn around the parking area looking for birds.

We started out at the Performing Arts Center with a Mimidae trifecta. All three of our eastern mimics – northern mocking bird, gray catbird and brown thrasher – were present and loosening up their vocal chords.

Our next stop was Lake Junaluska. We began our tour of the lake at the newly enhanced wetlands behind the cafeteria. A spotted sandpiper was there enjoying the banks of Suzy’s Branch where it has been released from an underground culvert and allowed to meander across the wetlands. Two green herons were at home, on their nests, along the narrow, brushy island between the wetlands and the lake. Yellow-rumped warblers, who winter with us but are now preparing to depart for their northern nesting grounds, were common in the larger trees around the wetlands. Also present, singing loudly and persistently but somehow managing to stay hidden in the foliage, was a blackpoll warbler. We did, however, get great views of a yellow warbler at the edge of the wetlands.

After the wetlands we made a quick stop at the large parking lot on the lake near Stuart Auditorium. There we got good  (comparative) looks at tree swallows, northern rough-winged swallows, barn swallows and purple martins.

We proceeded to the cross where, after minutes and minutes of searching, a loudly singing Cape May warbler finally popped out of the deep cover of a spruce and provided great looks. We were teased again by singing blackpolls in the large oaks near the cross and a couple of people got quick glances, but we never got good looks. We also found a couple of lingering waterfowl – a ruddy duck and a female lesser scaup – to go with the dwindling population of American coots.

We headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway from the lake, which turned out, to our chagrin, to be quite windy. Despite the wind, we got great looks at chestnut-sided warblers, indigo buntings and rose-breasted grosbeaks.

It was also a great day for raptors and other soaring birds. A sharp-shinned hawk, carrying breakfast in its talons, buzzed us at one overlook and we got great looks at a red-tailed hawk that stooped at 100 mph from a gazillion feet up into the woods across the parkway from us to chase an apparent interloper out of its territory. We also saw ravens, turkey vultures and broad-winged hawks riding the bumpy thermals.

And what better way to end an all-day birding quest than standing at the edge of a wetlands in Bethel, out of the wind, and watching three Baltimore orioles within 50 feet of each other. We wound up with 74 species seen or heard for the day.

Whether you’re an arts aficionado looking for a cool and fun way to support the Haywood County Arts Council, a beginning birder looking for tips, an experienced birder willing to share tips and promote your hobby, or a community member who enjoys the outdoors and enjoys communing with like-minded souls, “Birding for the Arts” is an event you should attend. See ya next year!

Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Art as spectator sport

Great art isn’t often associated with speed – the Mona Lisa wasn’t painted in an hour. Michelangelo took more than four years to perfect the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

But for the last 10 years, a special event has laid out a challenge to local artists: create a finished piece, ready for sale, all in under an hour. It’s not a simple task, but Quick Draw has proven a popular challenge for artists, whose pieces are auctioned off at the end of the hour to support the arts education in Haywood County.

Now in its 10th year, Quick Draw is a fast-paced event that provides a new environment for people to experience art and for artists to create it, while providing funds to support the next generation of artists.

For the artists themselves, the event supplies a challenge and a chance to interact with the public that the studio just can’t provide. And with space for only around 50 artists, Jo Ridge Kelley — artist, owner of Ridge Runner Naturals in Waynesville and Quick Draw committee member — said they’ve now had to make it an invitation-only event.

“You know, it’s become so popular that we have to say that it’s by invitation only,” said Ridge Kelley. “Now we work with the ones that have been faithful to Quick Draw all these years.”

One of those artists is Ann Vasilik. Vasilik is a Western North Carolina native whose watercolor paintings can be seen in galleries and public spaces around the region. For her, the challenge, the crowd and the buzz of artistic creation make the event a unique experience every year.

“I enjoy the challenge and then just adding the time element on top of that just makes it even more exciting for me,” said Vasilik. “I certainly love doing watercolor, and this is an opportunity to show the medium at it’s best.”

Not all of the artists at Quick Draw can work against the clock, of course. Some art, by its very nature, takes a lot longer than an hour to come together. But around half will race the time limit to get their creations completed before auction time.

With a bustling and interested crowd milling around, working for an audience can be vastly different to creating solo.

While strategies for withstanding the pressure from both audience and deadline vary, Vasilik said her preferred method is blocking them out completely.

“What happens at Quick Draw is I totally block out the audience in front of me — the sounds and what they’re saying — because I’m so focused on the painting,” said Vasilik. “I have a little sign on my board that says ‘right brain at work, speech impaired.’”

For the spectators, even if the artists are too busy to chat with them about their work, just watching so much creativity burst forth in one place is an exciting experience.

Ridge Kelley said she hears art lovers singing the event’s praises all year long.

“I have people come into our gallery and say it’s their favorite event of the year, they wouldn’t miss it,” she said. “The creative energy is what I hear the most about. It’s just so amazing to see that many artists all in one place.”

While an event like this is fun for both participants and onlookers, the point, of course, goes beyond simple art appreciation.

Quick Draw raised $13,000 last year to fund art in local schools, as well as funding two scholarships for students studying the arts at a collegiate level.

This year, according to Ridge Kelley, they’re shooting for the $20,000 mark and trying to fund three scholarships.

But in addition to the funds generated by ticket sales and auction proceeds, Vasilik sees the event itself as an opportunity to turn more and more people on to arts education.

“I think the journey through the painting is the exciting part, seeing it come together,” said Vasilik. “I think you gain appreciation for what the artist puts into it, and a large part of it is entertainment, so you want to educate and entertain at the same time.”


WHEN: Saturday, April 30 • 4:30-9:30

WHERE: Laurel Ridge Country Club • 788 Eagle Nest Rd., Waynesville

HOW MUCH: $50 in advance

MORE INFO: www.wncquickdraw.com

Art and love collide at SweetheART Gallery Show

Celebrate art and love during the Haywood County Arts Council’s February “SweetheART” Show featuring artist couples from Haywood County. The show will run Wednesday, Feb. 2 through Saturday, Feb. 26.

A Valentine-themed artist reception will be held on Friday, Feb. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. in Waynesville’s Gallery 86.

The exhibit includes painting, photography, pottery, woodworking, textile art, drawing, and quilting. Alongside the artwork will be photos of each couple and the story of how they met.

Love stories range from chance meetings at college and artist residencies at Penland, to a car accident where destiny intervened. For each couple, their love has grown and endured the test of time — as has their artwork.


Fire out of Ice: Artist wins ice-carving competition with fire-breathing dragon

While ice carving may seem like a delicate enterprise — a patient art form executed with a well-aimed chisel and a gentle tap from a tack hammer — it’s anything but.

When six ice carvers faced off at the Fire and Ice winter festival in Waynesville last weekend, they came bearing chainsaws, zip saws, industrial sanders and rotary tools with case upon case of special drill attachments. Their attire alone was a giveaway to the heavy duty nature of their work: full length rubber aprons and safety glasses to guard against flying ice chips and ear muffs to block out the noise from their saws.

Carvers had just three hours to transform a giant block of ice to a sculpture. First place went to Travis Dale, who traveled from Charlotte to compete at the Fire and Ice festival, for his crowd-pleasing, fire breathing dragon.

Professional ice carvers such as Dale revel in free-form competitions where they can afford to get creative. An ice carving displayed at a wedding or banquet has to hold up for hours, retaining its basic form even as it melts, and thus calls for more blockish forms. But in competition, carvers can push the limits of their art form, like the thin towering wings and soaring arched tail of Dale’s dragon.

“This is for the minute. It is built for the spectator,” Dale said.

There’s risk involved when going for the gold, however, and as a result the evening wasn’t without casualties. Gravity got the best of one carver attempting to sculpt a penguin. Both wings ended up in a slushy heap at the base of the statue before it could be judged.

Any ice carver worth his salt has been in similar shoes, Dale said. Sometimes, a broken piece can be reattached by blasting it with “freeze spray” while holding it in place. Ice carvers buy the aerosol cans by the case load.

Dale used the stuff to attach the plume of fire coming out of his dragon’s mouth. As the statue began to melt, the joint would thaw and it would be the first thing to fall, he said.

The festival was Dale’s first crack at a dragon. He came with a life-sized blue print and traced it onto the ice before he started.

Dale was a country club chef by trade when he got into ice carving.

“Working at a country club, we did a lot of weddings and banquets and parties, and you start watching other people do it,” he said.

Renowned historian and storyteller to give presentation in Haywood Jan. 16

The Haywood County Arts Council is proud to present Master Cherokee storyteller and historian Lloyd Arneach will perform at the Haywood County Arts Council’s Sunday Concert Series at 3 p.m. on Jan. 16 at the Haywood County Library in Waynesville.

An enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Arneach was born and reared on the Cherokee Reservation in Cherokee. He learned his first legends from two storytelling Uncles on the reservation.

His father was vice chief of the Eastern Band and his mother was the first woman ever elected to the Tribal Council. From 1970 to 1990, Lloyd traveled throughout the state of Georgia lecturing on Cherokee history and culture. This was done in his spare time while working for AT&T. In 1990, he added storytelling to his presentations on culture and history, and in 1993 began a full-time career as both storyteller and historian.

Arneach  presents his stories in a style that is humorous, informative and extremely moving. Lloyd’s stories range from the “old stories” of the Cherokee to contemporary stories he has collected, from creation stories to behind the scenes of “Dances with Wolves.” He tells stories of different Native Americans like Floyd Red Crow Westerman; Billy Mills, an Olympic champion; a young Cree Indian girl with no stories to tell; and a postmaster on the Papago Reservation.

He shares historical stories from a variety of Native American tribes. Some of these stories are difficult for Arneach to tell because of the strong feelings associated with his experiences as a Native American. Arneach will also have a number of Native American artifacts to show and demonstrate on Jan. 16.

Arneach has told stories at the Kennedy Center, National Folklife Festival (Washington, D.C.), the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, D.C.), the Winnepeg International Storytelling Festival (Canada), festivals, schools, universities, pow-wows, theaters, and other venues throughout the United States. He has also told stories on the Discovery Channel. His CD Can You Hear the Smoke? features stories and legends adapted by Arneach. In 1992, Children’s Press published his book, The Animal’s Ballgame, based on one of Lloyd’s favorite Cherokee animal stories. During the summer of 2006 and 2008, Arneach performed in the Cherokee outdoor drama “Unto These Hills - A Retelling.” Lloyd finished a book of Cherokee stories, Long-Ago Stories of the Eastern Cherokee, that was released in early 2008. Lloyd now resides in Cherokee.

The Sunday Concert Series is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Haywood County Library. The concert is free and the public is cordially invited to attend.

For more information about the Sunday Concert Series, as well as other programs or events, visit the Haywood County Arts Council website at www.haywoodarts.org or call 828.452.0593.


Who: Haywood County Arts Council’s Sunday Concert Series

What: Native American Storyteller Lloyd Arneach

When: Sunday, January 16, 2011 @ 3pm

Where: Haywood County Public Library, 678 S. Haywood Street, Waynesville

More than 100 artists represented in ‘It’s A Small, Small Work 2010’

The Haywood County Arts Council’s Gallery 86 will hold its third annual small works show titled, ”It’s a Small, Small Work 2010” beginning Nov. 17 through Friday, Dec. 31. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The show provides a unique opportunity to purchase original art at very modest prices. Most artwork is priced between $20 and $80. No work is priced over $300. Artwork is sold off the wall in a “pay and walk away” style.

Artist participation in the annual small works continues to grow each year from 68 participating artists in 2008, 96 artists in 2009 to over 100 artists in 2010 with over 500 pieces of art from which to choose.

Artists were sought from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area which encompasses the 25 westernmost counties in North Carolina. The show challenges artists to create works smaller than 12 inches in every dimension, including base, matting and frame. Participating artists include emerging artists, mid-career artists and established artists who have been producing work for a number of years. It’s a Small, Small Work 2010 features a variety of mediums including: painting, printmaking, drawing, ceramics, mixed media, collage, fiber, sculpture, gouache, woodworking, metal, jewelry and photography.

The small works show is a win-win situation for customers, artists and the Arts Council. The customer purchases small pieces of original art for a smaller price, artists receive a better than average commission on the sale, and the Arts Council retains a small commission to help support the organization and its programs and events.

For more information about It’s a Small, Small Work 2010 visit the Haywood County Arts Council website at www.haywoodarts.org. This project received support from the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Cultural Resources, and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Who: Presented by Haywood County Arts Council’s Gallery 86.

What: It’s A Small, Small Work featuring artwork 12 or smaller by more than 100 artists from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area in North Carolina.

When: Wednesday, Nov. 17, through Friday, Dec. 31. Opening reception will be held on Sunday, Nov. 21, from noon to 5 p.m. in conjunction with Downtown Waynesville’s Holiday Open House. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Where: Haywood County Arts Council’s Gallery 86 located at 86 North Main Street, Waynesville.

Admission: Free and open to the public. All artwork is for sale.

Sign up for 10th Annual Wine for the Arts

Two FUNd Parties will be held in August to help raise money for the Haywood County Arts Council’s Arts in Schools program.

Join in on an evening under the stars at the 10th Annual Wine for the Arts, starting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 24, at the home of Kay and Ron Isserman.

Co-hosted by the Classic Wineseller, Inc, guests will enjoy spacious decks that draw them outside and cozy overstuffed sofas to keep them comfy inside. Enjoy the fun of a “blind” wine tasting and partake in the fruit of the vine alongside culinary delights to completely satisfy the palate. $40 per participant and the ticket purchase deadline is Monday, Aug. 16.

On Wednesday, Aug. 25, it is Bridge and Lunch with a View from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The sky-high experience is offered for foursomes to provide another excuse to play Bridge and enjoy a delicious lunch while experiencing the breathtaking view of Haywood County from high above on Bottoms Way. Paid reservations must be made for tables of four, $180 per table. Deadline to purchase tickets is Monday, Aug. 2.

Call Karen for more information at 828.235.9219; for tickets, call 828.452.0593.

Art as a spectator sport

More than 40 artists will race against the clock this weekend, crafting a piece of art from scratch in just one hour during the annual Quick Draw event in Waynesville.

Quick Draw will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at the Waynesville Inn and Golf Resort (formerly Waynesville Country Club.)

The event is insanely popular with audiences, who get a sneak peak into the creative process. Nothing brings art to life quite like peering over an artist’s shoulder while they work. Participating artists run the gamut: wood carving, porcelain, wet felting, fiber art, basketry, metal sculpture and painters of all mediums.

Artists set up their personal workstations throughout a sprawling banquet room where spectators can roam at will.

While a few artists give off an air of “don’t talk to me, I’m busy,” most are prone to chat it up with spectators as they prowl from station to station. The artists’ mini-studios for the night are interesting to see in their own right, containing all their tricks of the trades, whether it’s a welder’s soldering iron or a painter’s arsenal of brushes.

The event can be a little nerve-racking for artists, who typically mold and remold their artwork to perfection over days. Whether the Quick Draw painters forgo mixing just the right hue of green or potters declare “good enough” on the curvature of a sugar bowl, it is usually lost of the spectators who fawn over the pieces. Although artists are forced to succumb to the pressures of the clock, the artwork they produce is one-of-a-kind and stacks up well against any piece found in a store-front gallery.

When the bell rings signaling the close of the hour-long art session, a social hour affords spectators one last chance to check out the finished products and scope out their favorites pieces before a live auction begins.

The auction raises thousands of dollars each year to promote arts in the county. The money is used to min-grants to art teachers in the schools.

Tickets are $35. For more information, go to www.wncquickdraw.com or call 828.456.6584.

Page 2 of 2
Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.