Thursdays at the gallery

By Kristen Davis • Contributing Writer

If a painter were to illustrate a Thursday morning at the Uptown Gallery in Franklin, she might depict this scene: a silver-haired woman painting a watercolor landscape chatting with a young man who has sketched a portrait of his Golden Retriever.

For the past 10 years, members of the Macon County Art Association have convened every Thursday at the gallery to critique one another’s work, offer encouragement and foster a sense of community. The “Thursday Painters’ Group” usually consists of about 10 to 12 people, a mixture of member artists and people of the general public who wish to improve their skills. The meetings are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Anybody who wants to join is invited,” said Pat Mennenger, a member of MCAA who regularly attends the sessions, teaches art classes at the Uptown Gallery and serves on the gallery’s Board of Directors.

The painters in the group work with several different mediums and techniques, Mennenger explained. Currently, she is using oil to paint still life, but the gathering includes creators of landscapes, portraits and folk art.

“Every once in awhile, someone will bring something they’re knitting or crocheting,” she said. “Sometimes someone will show up with no intention of painting.”

As a long time member of the group, Mennenger added that the “close-knit” community of artists has given her valuable feedback over the years.

“For some of us, it’s the only day of the week that we paint,” she said. “It’s good for discipline.”

Elsie Spriggle, a Thursday regular and member of MCAA, said the group is often joined by a retired professor who offers free critiques from a highly skilled perspective.

But the group is not all work and no play.

“We have an awful lot of fun,” Spriggle added. “When it’s your birthday, you bring the cake, and you share it with us.”

The social atmosphere draws in Jim Smythe, a member artist who trained as an abstract artist in college but now paints realism, primarily landscapes. He said he looks forward to Thursdays as a welcome change from painting by himself at home. He has come to rely on the creative input of his fellow artists.

The regular Thursday meetings contribute to the community aspect of MCAA and draw in newcomers from the public, said Ruth Goodier, director-elect of the Uptown Gallery.

Most of the MCAA members have retired from full time careers and now paint primarily for the pure pleasure of sharing their passion for art with their peers and younger generations.  

Mennenger describes herself as “happily retired,” which allows her to spend more time painting during the day. A former commercial art teacher who trained as a graphic artist, she now teaches art lessons to children at the gallery once a month, and she insists that all aspiring artists, no matter their skill level, can gain helpful assistance at the gallery.

Like Mennenger, Goodier has been painting all her life. She graduated from art school several decades ago. Now, she is retired and devotes her time to developing her artistic outlet, which is painting folk art with a variety of different mediums. She has been a member of MCAA for eight years.

Goodier added that a diverse range of ages can be found in the gallery on Thursdays and throughout the rest of the week. During the summer, an influx of college students frequents the gallery—a venue that connects the older and seasoned to the young and amateur.  

The goal of MCAA is simple: promote art in its Western North Carolina community. Similarly, the Thursday meetings aim specifically to promote MCAA’s artists in the community, said Stephen Clark, VP for Promotions of MCAA.

To further MCAA’s objective, Clark partners with local civic organizations, such as the Franklin Garden Club and the Wilderness Society. MCAA also reaches out to the youngest members of the community through children’s workshops and holding events at the Fun Factory — a popular family venue with arcade games and go-carts.

The paintings of MCAA artists adorn the walls of the Macon County Airport, Southwest Community College and several local businesses, including Franniecakes Bakery.

“We’ll work with anyone who wants to hang our art in their business,” Clark said.

With so many creatively inclined folks concentrated in the Smoky Mountain region, it is no wonder that similar artistic collaboration groups exist. Mennenger said she also belongs to a Renaissance musicians group and has heard of several other visual artists’ groups that meet in community members’ homes, though the groups are not organized under an umbrella organization such as the MCAA.

This past Saturday, the Uptown Gallery held its Pumpkinfest event, which attracted a crowd of autumn-enthusiasts from the community. The artists demonstrated their techniques, sold their art along the street, and performed balloon making and face painting for the children. Every week, the gallery holds classes that are open to members and non-members alike.


More info:

For a detailed class schedule, visit MCAA’s website at

Franklin commercial corridors facing future controls

Sam Greenwood has been around the governmental block a few times. He twice served as Macon County’s manager, and after retiring he promptly returned to the ranks of bureaucracy again, this time as the town of Franklin’s manager.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that Greenwood, that grizzled veteran of local government, has been working to position Franklin ahead of a probable state change that would complicate how towns annex. Which would mean the creation of new hurdles for towns seeking to broaden their tax bases. And that could result in less money for towns to provide services to its residents.

This is more or less why Franklin in July annexed more land and businesses, in preparation for this next phase: to extend its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), or the area of land — the urban-rural fringe, as it has been called — in which town leaders can plan and regulate development. State law allows towns that are Franklin’s size a one-mile ETJ. With the latest annexation, Franklin extended where the ETJ could go, because the one-mile measurement starts at the town’s official borders.

Those being placed in a new ETJ don’t have to pay town taxes. That’s a point Franklin Town Planner Michael Grubberman takes great pains to emphasize. Additionally, it is those future businesses — some perhaps not yet even envisioned — that will be expected to adhere to the same appearance standards as businesses built in town.

This extension of the ETJ, in large part, is also intended to knit together the disparate parts of Franklin. Pockets of annexation have taken place over the years. A business — the Ford dealership on U.S. 441 north of town is a good example — would ask the town to annex, and of course, provide it town services. Franklin would oblige. In doing so, gaps were left between the official borders and these newer additions.

“The town grew in dribs and drabs,” Greenwood said.

(An involuntary annexation of 88 land parcels is also under way in Franklin. An information meeting is scheduled for Nov. 22 at 5:30 p.m., and a public hearing will be held the following month. In a memo, Grubberman noted to the town board that the annexation involves “commercially developed parcels that are contiguous to the main body of town as well as parcels that we already surround that are not annexed, or that are partially annexed.”)

The ETJ, as proposed, does not a tidy one-mile circle make. Greenwood, Grubberman, and the town’s elected officials are focusing on controlling the commercial corridors: U.S. 441 south; U.S. 441 north; along the upper reaches of Highlands Road; out U.S. 64, and so on.

“We’re pretty much looking to shoot one mile out down the corridors,” Greenwood said.

At least one business owner, Debbie Drake (no kin to the other Drake family in Macon County) of Carolina Motel south of Franklin, believes this is a good idea. A native of Pennsylvania, she moved to Macon County after a layover in Florida. Uncontrolled, unfettered growth, Drake said, is a blight on a town’s beauty.

“If you don’t take steps to control zoning and the people moving in, you have the masses of people doing whatever they want to do,” she said. “And this is such a beautiful, quaint town.”


Want to know more?

A public hearing on the proposed extraterritorial jurisdiction for Franklin is scheduled for Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. at town hall.

Spine Center coming to Angel Medical

Spine care for residents of Macon and adjoining counties will be available in Franklin beginning Tuesday, Sept. 7 with the opening of Mission Outpatient Spine Center at Angel Medical Center. A grand opening celebration will be held at noon on Sept. 7 in the Outpatient Medicine Department where the service will be provided.

The center will be staffed by three board-certified Surgeons from Carolina Spine and Neurosurgery Center in Asheville who specialize in the treatment of spinal conditions.

Services will initially be provided on Tuesdays and Fridays. These include physician evaluations, MRI and CT diagnostic testing, treatments, and physical therapy provided by Angel physical therapists under the clinical direction of the surgeons., or

Life-sized whale helps kids learn about art and the environment

“Cool!” was the typical response from kids as Fun Factory visitors walked in to find a colorful, life-sized killer whale on display just inside the Fun Factory’s entrance. It’s the centerpiece of a free August and September arts and crafts program hosted by the Macon County Arts Association and the Fun Factory.

The MCAA is a nonprofit that regularly conducts children’s art classes at its gallery, so the Fun Factory approached them to help create a fun program for kids based around its giant, fiberglass killer whale that just happened to need a new paint job.

The arts and crafts sessions will be from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. on both Saturday, Aug. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 11, inside the Fun Factory in Franklin. These are open sessions, so kids can drop in at any time to create a sea creature craft adn visit the “Art the Whale” display.

“We want them to develop an appreciation for the arts, but this promotion also teaches them about the environment, marine life and even has a recycling component,” said Stephen Clark, MCAA marketing director.  

In addition to helping to put the finishing touches on the whale itself, children who participate also get to recycle empty milk jugs, plastic bottles and more, into craft sea creatures. Clark developed about five different craft creatures including various fish made from recycled bottles, a milk jug whale, and even a crab made out of pasta and pipe cleaners.

Registration is encouraged. All kids who register in advance or on site will be eligible to win prizes. All participants will receive a coupon for a free $5 Fun Card plus a pass to see the Shark Tales movie Friday, Sept. 24, at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.

“We want the kids and parents to bring their own empty plastic milk jugs and bottles to decorate,” said Clark. “But we’ll have plenty of extras on hand if someone forgets.” The MCAA will provide instructors to assist the children at each session, and the Fun Factory is providing all paint and craft supplies.

Many of the craft sea creatures take only about 15 minutes to create. When complete, children can place their sea creatures on display with Art the Whale for future pickup, or they are welcome to leave with their finished crafts.

Registration forms are available inside the Fun Factory, at or at the Macon County Arts Association/Uptown Gallery on Main Street. or 828.349.4607.

Quilters present 2010 show in Franklin Aug. 19-21

The Smoky Mountain Quilters Guild will present its 2010 quilt show, “Quilting New Trails” Aug. 19-21 at the Community Facilities building in Franklin.

Established in 1983, the guild is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to stimulate an intelligent interest in the art of quilting in the community and to provide opportunities for the exchange of ideas, instruction and the presentation of pertinent information among members of the guild.

Every two years the guild sponsors a quilt show featuring local and national quilts, judged by an NQA (National Quilter’s Association ) accredited judge. There will be cash prizes and ribbons awarded. There is a silent auction featuring small wall hangings made by members of the guild, vendors booths, a Member’s Boutique where items made by guild members can be bought, and raffle tickets for the guild’s scholarship fund.

The dates are Aug. 19, 20, and 21. Thursday and Friday hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per day or $10 unlimited access. For more information call 828.369.2125 or visit

Super Wal-Mart sails into Franklin despite opposition

“I’ll tell you what this is, and I’ll tell you what it’s not,” said Franklin Mayor Joe Collins, opening a public hearing on a special use permit for a proposed Wal-mart Supercenter just outside the town limits.

Collins had anticipated that the capacity crowd gathered in the town hall on Monday night had come to express their opinions about whether they wanted a new Wal-Mart. But he was keen to limit the discussion to a very narrow topic: the size of the building’s footprint and a request for larger signs.

“This is not the time or the place to have a general discussion about whether you do or do not want to have a Wal-mart,” Collins said.

Developers Bright-Meyers, LLC, appeared on behalf of Wal-Mart to secure a necessary special use permit to proceed with the new store.

According to Collins, the public hearing was a carefully proscribed step in a process that began on May 21, when the application was first submitted.

The project’s special use permit application was vetted in a neighborhood compatibility meeting on June 8 in which nearby property owners voiced their opinions, and it was stamped for approval by the town’s planning board on June 15 after a thorough fact-finding process.

At the end of Monday night’s hearing, which was full of opinions from opponents and supporters of the project, the town board voted 6 to 0 to approve the special use permit and open the way for the store. But the vote didn’t do anything to dispel the idea that Wal-Marts are still controversial. The hearing was boisterous and at times contentious, as supporters and critics of the project shouted back and forth.

The proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter would be located at the corner of Wells Grove and Dowdle Mountain roads just off of the N.C. 441 bypass. The 33-acre site is outside the town limits, but within its zoning district and adjacent to the site of a recently constructed middle school.

The town’s unified development ordinance, created in 2007, requires any building over 30,000 square feet to go through a special use permit process.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter will measure 120,000 square feet and include two additional outbuildings of 32,000 square feet and nearly 800 parking places. Wal-Mart also wanted larger signs than are allowed under the town’s ordinance — one on the side of the building and one at the development’s entrance.

Town Planner Mike Grubermann, who has overseen the application process, said the developer’s proposal met the standards of the town’s universal development ordinance in all respects except the two conditions outlined in the special use permit application. He said the roads that provide access to the site are overseen by N.C. Department of Transportation and would require their approval, but traffic counts provided by the developers met his department’s standards.

Franklin developer Marty Kimsey summed up the case for those in support of the special use permit, saying that in a down economy, the new store offered jobs and a boost for the private sector.

“The bottom line is that this site will not be used as a Wal-Mart unless the special use permit is given,” Kimsey said.

Opponents of the project questioned whether Wal-Mart would bring new jobs or hurt existing businesses. They pointed out the potential environmental impact of its placement on the banks of the Little Tennessee River and raised concerns about its effect on traffic patterns in close proximity to the new school.

“I don’t think you could choose a worse area to build something that big,” said Mike Kegan, a resident of Dowdle Mountain Road.

Collins, presiding over the hearing, policed the comments closely at first, but as the hearing wore on, the speakers increasingly used the microphone to talk about their general views on having a new Wal-Mart in town.

John Cantrell, a former high school teacher who was against the permit, was exasperated when Collins cut him off. Cantrell complained about the proximity of the giant commercial complex to the nearby middle school, but Collins deemed them unrelated to the permit application.

“Well, who is it, who is supposed to hear these concerns?” Cantrell asked.

“I don’t know. It’s not us. Not here,” Collins said.

After the hearing was closed, Collins explained the guidelines for public hearings on special use permits are governed by state statutes and that, at the advice of Henning, he attempted to keep the discussion focused on the issue of exceeding square footage requirements.

“It may be that there are [towns] that take a looser approach than this, but I think that’s risky,” Henning said, adding that the developers could appeal the vote of the board if they felt the hearing was stilted.

Kim Hibbard, general counsel for the N.C. League of Municipalities, agreed that quasi-judicial hearings must be held to a different standard from other types of public hearings.

“If it was a quasi-judicial hearing, there are different rules. It would need to be relevant to the situation,” Hibbard said.

However, exactly how much of the comments should have been reined in is subjective.

In the end, in spite of Collins’ best efforts, the meeting did provide a forum for the public to express their opinions about the proposed Wal-mart. While more members of the public spoke in opposition to the project than in support of it, the decision rested with the board and it chose to grant the application without requiring any additional measures from the developers.

Should the survey have disqualified Alderman Scott?

Franklin Alderman Bob Scott recused himself from the vote on a special use permit for a Wal-Mart Supercenter this week after conducting an online survey on the issue. Town Attorney John Henning said he believed the survey compromised Scott’s impartiality, citing state statutes that govern the procedures for quasi-judicial public hearings.

The pertinent passage in G.S. 160A-388 says that “impermissible conflicts include, but are not limited to, a member having a fixed opinion prior to hearing the matter that is not susceptible to change.”

Kim Hibbard, general counsel for the N.C. League of Municipalities, said determining whether Scott had compromised his impartiality was ultimately a judgment call.

“Are they really impartial? Have they fixed their opinion already? Have they been getting communications from one side or the other?” Hibbard said. “That’s where you would need to make your judgment, whether the actions fall into that category.”

Scott said his survey was an attempt to gain perspective on the public’s opinion.

View the results of Scott's survey

“All I was trying to do before all this came up was just find out how people felt. I wasn’t trying to make a determination of whether it was a pro or con, I was trying to feel what the feeling of the public was,” Scott said.

Scott also questioned whether the other aldermen were impartial, adding that it seemed they all had their minds made up which way they were going to vote prior to the meeting.

He did confirm that he would have voted against granting the special use permit had he been allowed to vote.

“I am concerned. If we have this ordinance then allow variances because it is Wal-Mart, is that fair? Why do we have the ordinance if we are going to grant exceptions?” Scott said.

Scott’s public survey had 329 respondents. Over 75 percent of them were in favor of the Wal-Mart. Over 80 percent had a favorable opinion of the company. Perhaps the most interesting response to the survey showed that 40 percent of the respondents thought the public should have a say in the store’s design scheme.

Catch film with WCU ties

The feature film “Wesley” will be screened at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 13, at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin.

“Wesley” is based closely on the actual events of John Wesley’s life, a story that already reads much like a Hollywood screenplay.

Arledge Armenaki, WCU associate professor of cinematography, was the director of photography for the movie.

Sixteen Western Carolina University students got hands-on experience as crew for “Wesley” during filming on locations in and around Winston-Salem and Morganton for two months in 2007 and two weeks in 2008, including a sold-out red carpet premiere. WCU students and faculty also were cast in the movie.

Wesley is a compelling and controversial main character that women found intensely attractive; there is adventure on the high seas, a terrible storm and near-shipwreck. In the newly settled Savannah, Ga., there is an incredibly romantic but star-crossed love affair that ends tragically. Wesley is crushed, and on his return to England, we experience his spiritual struggle and finally renewal. We are then swept away with his preaching in the fields and his efforts to help the lowest classes of society. His ministry is controversial, there is mob violence, confrontation, and tension followed by his victorious preaching to thousands in his hometown.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the center box office at 1028 Georgia Road in Franklin, at Dalton’s Christian Bookstore in Franklin and Waynesville, and online at, or call 866.273.4615.

Franklin to decide whether to allow Super Wal-Mart to proceed

Franklin Alderman Bob Scott wants to know what people think about a proposed Super Wal-Mart on the edge of town.

Instead of stumping on the street corners, Scott has posted a survey on the web using an online polling tool.

“I like to get some kind of a sample of what people are thinking when there’s an important vote coming up,” Scott said.

The Franklin Town Board will hold a public hearing on a special use permit for the project at 7 p.m. on Aug. 2. The new Wal-Mart would be located at the corner of Wells Grove and Dowdle Mountain roads just off of the N.C. 441 bypass. It is just outside the town limits, but within the town’s zoning boundary.

Scott said the blind survey would help him cast an informed vote on the issue.

“The sole purpose of the survey is that I really want to get a handle on how people feel about this project, particularly in the business community,” said Scott.

The survey will close July 20. To participate, visit


Raffle to benefit Roy Rickman Scholarship

A raffle drawing and silent auction will be held on 6 p.m. Saturday, July 24, at Mountain View Intermediate School in Franklin with proceeds going to the Roy Rickman Scholarship.

The Rickman Scholarship is Macon County’s largest local private scholarship. Each year the Franklin Rotary Club awards a $10,000 scholarship and several $1,000 scholarships to deserving Franklin High School graduating seniors based on demonstrated academic achievements, civic involvement and financial status.

The winner of this year’s vehicle raffle grand prize can choose either $15,000 in cash or one of three automobiles: a Ford Focus from Franklin Ford, a Chevy Malibu LS from Smoky Mountain Chevrolet or a Dodge Caliber from Jim Brown Chrysler.

A ticket entitles the purchaser to admission for two to the silent auction and drawing for the grand prize as well as dinner during the event. Cost $100. For more information, call Ashley Vinson at 828.534.3321.

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