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by Rebecca Sulock in Vol. 16 / Iss. 6 on 09/02/2009 Mountain Xpress

www.mountainx.com

Here’s one for the annals: The first-ever Freaks of Asheville calendar, set to debut at LAAFF this year. Photographer Michael Traister (Sock Monkey Dreams, Faces of Izzy’s), known for his stunning portraiture, turns his deft lens to some of our town’s “cultural creatives,” creating portraits of some local eclectic personalities.

Sister Bad Habit, aka LaZoom Tours' Jim Lauzon. Photo by Michael Traister.

Sister Bad Habit, aka LaZoom Tours' Jim Lauzon. Photo by Michael Traister.

“Each month will feature a classic portrait of a noted Asheville ‘freak’ and tell the story behind their uniqueness,” writes Erin Scholze of Arts2People. Included in the calendar are some key milestones in local counter-culture history. Partners in the endeavor include LAAFF founder Kitty Love, Mountain Xpress managing editor Jon Elliston and Asheville Fringe Festival co-organizer Jim Julien. The project is a fundraiser for Arts2People. Here’s to all those with an abundance of creative energy, each month of the year.

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Carol Motsinger • August 14, 2009 12:15 AM
Asheville Citizen Times
www.citizen-times.com

A mermaid graces the cover of the  A mermaid graces the cover of the "Freaks of Asheville" calendar that's being celebrated in an exhibit starting Friday at Pack Place.

A mermaid graces the cover of the A mermaid graces the cover of the "Freaks of Asheville" calendar that's being celebrated in an exhibit starting Friday at Pack Place.

ASHEVILLE — A nun with a bad habit and a mountain-living mermaid sound more like characters in a bizarre dream than glossy calendar girls. Yet these individuals have found a home in the Arts 2 People’s Freaks of Asheville Calendar.
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The images in the calendar, as well as photographs and artifacts from the organization’s Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival, will be celebrated in an exhibit opening 5-7 p.m. today at Pack Place.

The calendar features some of Asheville’s creative professionals, “a certain slice of the Asheville experience,” said Kitty Love, Arts 2 People’s executive director and driving force behind the calendar.

“I really just wanted to highlight who these people are,” she said. The calendar also features important dates in freak culture, such as moon phases and death and birth dates of some of the important people who contributed to the current community.

Love teamed up with John Elliston and Michael Traister, photographer for Sock Monkey Dreams and the Faces of Izzy’s project, to create a series of black-and-white portraits of Asheville’s “freaks.”

But what exactly is a freak? For Love, freaks “have been deformed by the power of their own creative potential,” she said. “They have an overwhelming creative urge, insatiable curiosity, but difficulty being amused.”

The calendar is essentially 12 months of performers and artists like burlesque performer Corky Bordeaux and folk artist Bob Seven.

“I mostly just wanted to celebrate the people who are constant contributors to the magic I see every day,” Love said.

Traister kept the setup simple — neutral background and no props other than what the subjects brought with them — to make sure the “subjects come out more,” he said. Traister thinks that part of what makes Asheville special is that there is a sense of freedom for people to be who they want and to express who they are, however they see fit.

It’s exactly that spirit that Love hopes the calendar will highlight — and help preserve. “It’s important that we retain this part of our culture as we develop into a bigger city,” she said. “I want to see the creative culture considered in terms of economic development, in terms of tourism and everything else Asheville does.”

The calendar is just the beginning for the project. Love hopes to produce a set of Asheville freak-themed Tarot cards and possibly a larger collection of portraits for a book. Organizers hope to have the calendar available for sale at the upcoming LAAFF, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 6, and at downtown retailers soon. A portion of the proceeds will go toward Arts 2 People.

The Pack Place exhibit also includes images previewing next month’s LAAFF, an arts celebration organized by Arts 2 People. The exhibit will also host Michael Mooney’s bike jousting gear, a sport regularly featured at the festival. Mooney, also known as “Medieval Knievel,” a co-founder of LAAFF, also has a spot in the calendar.

Through all of its projects, “Arts 2 People has worked really hard to try to create something that can move the creative cultural experience forward,” Love said. “We want to create an opportunity for self-expression and community building.”

IF YOU GO:

What: Exhibit for the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival and the Freaks of Asheville Calendar.

When: Opening reception 5-7 p.m. Friday. The exhibit runs through Aug. 29.

Where: Pack Place Front Gallery at 2 S. Pack Square.

More information: http://www.arts2people.org or http://www.lexfestasheville.com.

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