PR Pros celebrate 2009 successes

Industry insiders in know the professional organization to watch in 2010 is the Public Relations Association of Western North Carolina. Founded in 1982, the group in 2009 came into its own, and the energetic buzz surrounding its embrace of cutting edge practice and exceptional networking opportunities for industry excellence continues to grow.

Though the year grows to a close, PRAWNC chooses to debut two innovations to its holiday observances. First, instead of a luncheon, the group hosts a festive gathering, “A Holiday Tasting” at the Wine Studio of Asheville at 169 Charlotte Street, Wednesday, Dec. 16, from 5-7 p.m. The $12 pricing includes a sparkling, a white, and three red wines, plus hors d’oevres.
The savvy cross-branding means five exceptional wines have been hand-picked by connoisseur and educator Jessica Gulano especially for review by public relations professionals. AskAsheville‘s literary and film aficionados already know her efforts due to the edgy Merlot pairing with the 2004 film Sideways, in which the hero refuses the varietal. Gulano proves him wrong, and gets the wine selection exactly right. One can only deduce this private tasting for PRAWNC will be worth every sip.
At the party, the 2010 slate of officers will be affirmed by attending members, and the focus will shift to the members themselves: event photos on the PRAWNC blog, and fun polls to vote on favorites. Find out more.
Another new initiative currently getting a push is a holiday gift membership option in which newcomers can get 15 months for the price of an annual membership, $50 for industry pros, and $25 for university students. Click here for information.
Sherri L. McLendon is a freelance writer, blogger, and communications consultant online at Email her at, or read her media blog at

December in Asheville

It’s one of those typical December days in Asheville, isn’t it?

Bright blue sun, a chill in the air with the promise of warmth later on… deep freeze and snow predicted for tomorrow; like everything else, the weather is unsure of itself and so it recreates itself too often in order to please everyone. And only in Asheville can you anthropomorphize weather like that and not have people look at you funny. Maybe. We’ll see.

The kids are after me to make good on my promise to take them to see the gingerbread creations at Grove Park, and I suppose eventually I will unwind my legs from the blankets, close the laptop and comply. I want more than anything to lie here and hate the cold until the house grows silent and still around me, but Asheville won’t allow it anymore than a restless child will. The energy here, the certain slant of sunlight through the window, make it impossible to be miserable for long, and before you know what’s happened you find yourself lifting your face toward the clouds and breathing in the scent of home. The streets seem to roll out in front of you as you drive, dipping and disappearing around a curve or behind a mountain so you feel a little thrill of adventure-or on bad days, fear of the unknown. The sun looks so close you can’t help but reach out as if you could grasp it through the windshield and bring it inside with you, skin untouched by fire, cheeks warmed by the heat. This is December in Asheville, tricky and sly and so charming you can’t help but love it.

photo by jackey bradbury, asheville nc

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YWCA MotherLove Giving Tree

The YWCA of Asheville’s Annual MotherLove Giving Tree will be on display in the lobby of the YWCA at 185 S. French Broad Avenue starting on November 11. The Giving Tree is made of stars, each bearing wishes from a local teen mother. The public is invited to come to the YWCA and pick out a star to help make someone’s holiday brighter by providing gifts for them and their children. The purpose of the Giving Tree is to assist with the holiday expenses of teen mothers in the YWCA MotherLove program.

For more information, call Tangela Ballard Bowman at 254-7206 x 116 or visit the YWCA website,

The YWCA MotherLove program is a mentoring program for pregnant and parenting teens. Participating teens are paired with a trained adult mentor who provides support, guidance, friendship and teaches parenting skills.

The mission of the YWCA is eliminating racism and empowering women.

8/14 – 8/29 Freaks of Asheville Calendar

Exhibit for LAAFF and the New Freaks of Asheville Calendar ~ Come meet the Freaks at Pack Place's Arts 2 People Opening August 14th ~ Pack Place Front Gallery

Education, Arts & Science Center - Opening Friday, August 14th 2009, 5-7pm. Exhibit runs through August 29th 828.257.4544

2 S. Pack Square Asheville, NC 28801 Event Contact: Kitty Love, Arts 2 People's Exec Director, LAAFF Co-Founder Interactive Arts Director, Freaks of Calendar Director

Please join us in celebration of Arts 2 People's first annual Freaks of Asheville Calendar and Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF) for the gallery exhibit's opening event on Friday, August 14th at Pack Place in downtown Asheville from 5-7pm. The exhibit runs through August 29th.  This entertaining show will feature photographs from the Freaks of Asheville Calendar as well as photographs from the LAAFF, which is ever so fun and just around the corner on Sunday September 6th! 

The Freaks of Asheville Calendar will capture the power and personality of Asheville eclectic and unbridled cultural creatives. Each month will feature a classic portrait of a noted Asheville "Freak" and tell the story behind their uniqueness. All photos were shot by Michael Traister, photographer for Sock Monkey Dreams and Faces of Izzy's.  Joining forces with Traister to bring the calendar to fruition are Kitty Love and Jon Elliston. 

Together, they are compiling these photos as well as a list of key dates in Asheville freak history: when did certain "freaky" establishments open and close? When did freakish things happen? Other milestones in local freak and counterculture history? The Freaks Calendar is calling for your input on this as well.  Please, come one, come all, and tell us which dates deserve a mention in the calendar! 

The Pack Place Gallery exhibit will also feature sorts of images from LAAFF's past. Photographers include Frank Merenda, JJ Jackson, Kitty Love, and many more…   The Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival, LAAFF, will take place on Sunday of Labor Day weekend, September 6th from 11am – 9pm between College Street and the I 240 overpass on N. Lexington downtown.  This free annual end-of-summer celebration of Asheville's artistic and musical communities brims three downtown blocks with all local art, food, beer, music, street performers, and random acts of creativity.   LAAFF has multiple stages and performance areas that include rock and roll, indie pop, funk, folk, ragtime, world beats, singer-songwriters, bluegrass, old time, African drummers, clowns, magicians, belly dancers, vaudeville acts, b-boys, hula hoopers, and more! 

Special to the exhibit is a display of Medieval Knievel's Bike Jousting Gear.  Bike Jousting is a fun and safe joust where contestants are armored up with foam and helmets.  They sit upon bikes with banana seats and wheels with elliptical hubs. The crazy wheels make the bike bounce up and down like riding on a horse. Each contestant holds a long pole with a boxing glove on the end. If they can reach each other, they try and knock the other off the bike into the bails of hay lining their arena.  It is extremely fun to watch and a great activity that Michael Moony, aka Medieval Knievel and Co-Founder of LAAFF, created as an event for LAAFF, but has also hosted elsewhere, including Snowshoe Ski Grounds. Come and see the gear… Maybe you will participate this year… 

For more about LAAFF visit

Both LAAFF and the Freaks of Asheville Calendar are fundraisers for Arts 2 People, a non-profit that is devoted to promoting the role of the arts as an integral part of our culture by serving the entire community through arts outreach, bringing the arts to those in need of the healing power of art, supporting the careers of artists, and through community cultural development. Arts 2 People is the umbrella organization for the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF), the REACH Programming series, the Asheville Mural Project (AMP), Moving Women, the Pritchard Park Cultural Arts Program 08, Faces of Asheville, and hosts numerous events and workshops and events throughout the year. To find out more, visit

Please come out and help celebrate this wonderful collaboration of creativity!

Maria Voisin – Asheville’s Latin Dance Queen and More!

Ask Asheville has had the great pleasure of meeting Maria Voisin, talking to her and seeing her in action. She is a wonderful person who contributes so much to her special niche in the Asheville Community. Thank you for everything Maria!

Who is Maria Voisin?

The simplest version of an answer to this: Maria is a simple messenger, una guajira, someone who is here to remind people to live fully, to enjoy the music, to take care of their bodies and souls, and to GET DOWN! Maria has soulpower and it is superbad (thanks James Brown!).

Where did Maria learn her talents?

My musical ear came from my parents – both musicians… piano and trumpet (makes sense why I love salsa). My parents were very strict about my education, and Excellent grades were required! I studied with some of the best Instructors. Some examples are Juan de Dios from Folklorico Nacional in Cuba, Frankie Martinez – NYC, Richard Gonzales – NYC, and countless others. Also, having faith in something bigger, something universal and connective, which was one more important thing I learned from my Grandfather, a career musician with profound respect for music and the creators of it! Oh, and I learned to loosen up in New Orleans where I got schooled by the Brass Band dancers.
What is Maria’s mission in Asheville and beyond?

First and foremost, I started teaching and forming performance groups in an attempt to create something unique and beneficial to the Asheville community here. Secondly, I wanted people outside of Asheville to know about our city and how friendly and creative we are up here. My hope was to keep the dance scene here very open to everyone and also to improve the standards of dance and the respect given towards the craft. Since my first classes and club events in 1999 we have really worked hard to create a safe and welcoming Latin dance community here in Asheville. I named my group Salseros 828 to represent the region in the best possible way. My hope is to travel more outside of Asheville and to teach workshops that empower people to move in ways that feel free in their bodies. I have been developing technique with my Afro-Cuban curriculums that are very unique and inspiring to my students. I look forward to sharing this with other dance communities. The long term goal for Asheville is a secret right now (in the works)… wait and see!! Siempre p’alante!
Where is Maria’s main works in Asheville?

Salseros 828 Dance School and Company. Founded as a company in 2002. Maria has brought “On1”, “On 2”, Afro-Cuban, and numerous other dances to the mountains. They have an extensive resume of Performances both here and outside of Asheville. She was voted Asheville’s #1 Dance Teacher in the Mountain Xpress 2007 “Best of” Reader’s Poll. Maria has worked with non-profit organizations such as LEAF in Schools and Streets, Arts to People, and Asheville Parks and Recreation teaching the youth Salsa in Asheville. She will be teaching as an adjunct faculty member of UNCA’s Dance department as a Latin Dance Instructor in Spring 2009. Maria has also helped to bring Asheville’s growing Salsa community into the national spotlight, with write-ups in the New York Times, Southern Living, and Verve magazine. She was chosen as one of five choreographers for Asheville’s First Annual 48 hour dance festival.
What does Maria want for the future?

For the near future – I am taking a 3 month trip to Europe, where some of the best Cuban dance instructors live now. I can study Flamenco and hopefully a few other new dance forms. I want to return with a treasure chest full of new ideas and as a better dancer of course. I also plan to develop some new approaches to teaching dance which will involve the ideas that are inspiring me right now. For the distant future… remember that secret? lol

How can Asheville support Maria and her work?

Well… keep it friendly, keep the integrity. Dancing is about connection… that means with your partner, the music, yourself. Performance is meant to inspire, not to intimidate… and we perform because it connects us to the crowd and to the group we have been working with to create this great work. It is the choice of the spectator to become a part of the dance. We have never turned anyone away who was interested in performing with us. We just hope that dance can change people in a positive way. I have seen my dancers become very strong and happy individuals as they get deeper into the process. So, support Maria by participating in a positive way… and by smiling as much as possible!
Maria, what would you like to say about yourself?

I am very grateful for everything in my life and feel very blessed for every day!
Please visit for more information