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Asheville "a real mosaic of the arts."

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(An editorial from the Asheville Citizen-Times 10/25/03, celebrating the kick-off of the city's first major art festival, the Urban Trail Arts Festival :D )

Discover the power of art and history at festival

By Asheville Citizen-Times

Art is all around us. It's in the movies that entertain us. It's in the music we sing in church every Sunday. It's in the design of the building where we work. It's in the sculpture in a downtown park. It's in the jewelry we wear. It's in the photographs that grace our walls.

Art can even be created from the trash we throw away.

That's one of the major themes of the Urban Trail Arts Festival being held today and Sunday in downtown Asheville. It's Asheville's first major arts festival and it promises to be a memorable event.

The Asheville Area Arts Council wanted to bring attention to the Urban Trail, a trail along which public art tells the city's history, according to Steve Steinert, the outgoing director of the Asheville Area Arts Council. The council also wanted to hold a downtown arts festival, so it decided to do both at the same time.

"The Urban Trail can give to an arts festival a uniquely Asheville identity," says Steinert.

One of the highlights of the festival will be the Urban Trail Radio Show, an original stage production done in the style of an old-time broadcast. Writer Deborah Austin, well respected as one of the city's long-standing arts leaders, has created a two-hour salute to local history that will star about three dozen of the city's top singers, dancers and actors. The original production, to be staged at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. today in City-County Plaza, will take an imaginary trip along the Urban Trail. Along the way, the audience will be treated to a range of music from Appalachian ballads to tunes from the '20s, with regular updates on news of the day.

The trail begins just up the hill at Pack Place Education, Arts, and Science Center. Guided tours will be leaving Pack Square every hour between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The architecture and sculpture along the Urban Trail are visual delights that promise to be enhanced by the 170 painters, sculptors, jewelers and other fine artists who will be displaying their work on the streets of downtown. The award-winning artists come from all over the country and include about 12 from the Asheville area.

Another weekend highlight will be a sacred concert hosted at one of the city's architectural gems, St. Lawrence Basilica, at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Eleven local choirs, vocal ensembles and bell choirs will perform a variety of sacred music from spirituals to Hispanic folk music.

"The arts can take us places we cannot go on our own," Steinert said. "The Arts Council doesn't say you have to go to the ballet or the symphony. We would like you to. We're very interested in audience development, but we believe going to church is an artful experience. Any of these things can transform you."

Art can transform both the artist and the audience, but common place items, even trash, can also be transformed in to art. Recycled art expert Jeff Menzer will demonstrate how during a workshop from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in Pritchard Park, sponsored by Quality Forward. Also in Pritchard Park, from 1 to 2 p.m., the Asheville Lyric Opera will present excerpts from its upcoming "ALO Gala." The full production will take place in November. Expect music from Puccini's "Tosca," Bizet's "Carmen," and Mascagni's ""Cavalleria Rusticana." Saturday's events will also include a Magdaddy's concert from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at City-County Plaza.

Besides these headliner events, there will be many other opportunities to experience art in Asheville this weekend. To name just a few, on Saturday and Sunday there will be live music and craftspeople demonstrating basket-weaving, jewelry-making, hand painting pottery and spinning wool in the Grove Arcade. On Saturday afternoon from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Fletcher School of Dance, the Asheville Ballet will be demonstrating the creation of a work in progress by local choreographer Ann Dunn. And on Saturday evening, the Highland Repertory Theatre will present "Dracula" at the Diana Wortham Theatre.

As all of these activities demonstrate, Steinert is right when he says Asheville is a "real mosaic of the arts."

"We don't have one theatre group, we have over 40 theatre groups. We have something we believe is creative.... I believe this festival is the culmination of all the people, all the groups, all the artists and artisans that make Asheville one of the top arts destinations in the country."

Arts not only enrich our lives by giving us the opportunity to express our uniqueness as individuals and as a region and by giving us a way to communicate emotions and ideas that might not otherwise be expressible, for us in Western North Carolina, they contribute mightily to our economy.

Don't miss this opportunity to enjoy and celebrate Asheville and Western North Carolina's rich arts heritage and vibrant arts culture -- and experience a bit of nostalgia and learn a bit of Asheville history in the bargain.

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