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Now in its ninth year, the Asheville FringeArts Festival will be a four-day, multi-venue, wild, strange, wacky and exciting performing arts extravaganza happening in spaces all over Asheville. It is the festival that asks artists of all genres and media (actors, dancers, musicians, poets, performance artists of all kinds) to explore the edges of their work, to collaborate across genres and to bring new and innovative performances to culturally adventurous audiences.

Be part of a truly unique performing arts experience.

Find out more about the Festival and apply online at www.ashevillefringe.org

The Asheville FringeArts Festival needs volunteers to help make this festival happen.
If you feel the calling, email them at info at ashevillefringe.org

The Asheville Fringe Arts Festival is presented by the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre.

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The Mountain Xpress in Asheville printed some wonderful coverage of this years Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF).  I am going to post some exceprts from each with inks to the full articles and intermingle a few of my shots from the fest… Check it out.

Great article on the LAAFF Music, the Asheville Music Scene, and the evolution thereof:

Rockin’ in the freak world

This year’s LAAFF music lineup is more indie than ever

by Alli Marshall in Vol. 17 / Iss. 06 on 08/31/2010

Molly Kummerle of Paper Tiger

Browsing old Xpress coverage of the inaugural LAAFF turned up this walk down memory lane: “More than 25 local acts [are] scheduled to appear on two stages. Highlights include Devilish Mary (all-girl string band with Cary Fridley, performing at noon); The Oxymorons Comedy Troupe; rising rock stars Drug Money; West African drum-and-dance group Ballet Warraba; and celebrated burlesque troupe The Rebelles.”

Yes, it was just as eclectic seven years ago as it will be this year, only this year there are almost twice as many acts and six stages. And, there’s another notable difference: This year’s LAAFF takes on an indie-rock flavor that it’s never had before.

“We try not to have repeats from year to year,” explains festival organizer Erin Scholze. “We sift through the genres. It seems like this year there are just a lot more successful indie bands.”

Here’s what that evolution looks like: Toubab Krewe headlined in 2005 (along with Strut, stephaniesid, the Great Slide, Cabo Verde, Fifth House, Mad Tea Party, the Buckerettes, Aaron Price and Christina Aurea).

LAAFF Electric Stage 2010

In 2006, Jeremy Long (then-percussionist with Avec La Force Percussion and Dance Initiative) told Xpress, “The planning committee decided LAAFF needed to be more diverse this year.” Enter Flamenco Saltado, Soora Gameela, Baraka Mundi, Banana da Terra, the Shining Rock Reggae Band and Nbale (Newborn Ancient Love Ensemble) with Biko Casini of Strut on West African balaphone — a group formed just for LAAFF.

LAAFF circa 2007 hinted at indie rock — the Sophisticated Chimps fit that bill, along with Speedsquare and Nevada. But the balance was jam, experimental and world music.

“Do everything faster”

… … … … …Check out this portion of the inter view with Kovacs and the Polar Bear here.

Just for LAAFF

Take Nbale. That band formed for LAAFF four years ago after Scholze noticed a number of players (Nbale included Casini, Ryan Reardon, Simon Tisman & Sage Sansome) from various bands waiting out a rainstorm together in a College St. storefront and suggested they try playing together. Another mashup was Sons of a Keeled Over Snake with members of Sons of Ralph, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge and Snake Oil Medicine Show.

“We’ve always called it a showcase event,” Scholze says of LAAFF. “You walk up the street and you are going to hear something you never would have heard. It’s a way for the musicians to intermingle with each other as well.”

Asheville Horns LAAFF 2010

Asheville Horns was also born of an opportune moment: A group of local brass players were tapped to record with Laura Reed and Deep Pocket. “Someone said ‘You should become a horn-rental section,’” recalls trombonist Derrick Johnson, whose main gig is with Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. They did, and putting a bunch of horn players together “gave us a chance to play different types of funk,” says Johnson. Soon, Asheville Horns wasn’t just a brass section for hire, but a band with its own shows.

Johnson, a fan of collaborations, co-created the local Funk Jam (held every Tuesday at the Emerald Lounge) when friends from a Long Beach, Ca.-based funk band were visiting Asheville and looking for a place to jam. Musician/soundman/promoter Frank Bloom offered up Emerald Lounge, and what was meant to be a one-off evolved, over the last two years, into a full-on scene. That scene attracts not just local performers, but touring musicians from bands like Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Galactic and Phish. For new-to-town musicians, “It gave people a chance to get established in the scene,” says Johnson. “People started getting different phone calls for different gigs. It was a card-swapping music exchange.” … Networking for funk players.

A festival that helped build the musical landscape

Dj Candice B at LAAFF 2010

Those kinds of opportunities to meet and mix have changed the sonic topography of Asheville in recent years. When LAAFF started, “People didn’t know each other,” Scholze says. “As the years have gone on, they started doing the funk jam and that brought in people like Vertigo Jazz Band and Matt Williams. That [created] the soul-jazz thing and now they’re cultivating that.” Scenes have formed around common interests, and each scene (jazz, jam, funk, etc.) has its own following. “But I think the next step is for the [various] scenes to start connecting and opening up, maybe connecting the soul-jazz people to the orchestra-jazz people; maybe connecting some of the singer/songwriters to the funk jam,” says Scholze.

So, will next year bring a more decisive move toward indie-rock? Or perhaps an indie/world fusion? Will The Archrivals battle Nataraj? Will Woody Pines bring a DJ on stage? Will Sky Lake add a balaphone to its lineup? Whatever the next LAAFF brings — or this one, for that matter — it’s sure to be a surprise.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://www.mountainx.com/ae/2010/090110rockin-in-the-freak-world

Great writeup on the happenings other than the music at LAAFF. This article also gave a round up of all the LAAFFter parties:

LAAFF: More than music

Vol. 17 / Iss. 06 on 08/31/2010

Interactive

Tall Bike Freak Michael Mooney

• Bike Jousting: Though Michael Mooney’s tall bike will not return to LAAFF this year, his bicycle jousting — a game that Mooney developed specifically for LAAFF — will. Contestants gear up in foam armor, sit astride a bike with a banana saddle and elliptical wheels, and try to dismount their opponent with a boxing glove at the end of a long pole. Fun for kids and adults.
• Big Wheels for Big Kids: This new-to-LAAFF sport was also invented by Mooney and his friends. Adults board low-rider tricycle-like vehicles and race a track made of tires.
• Miss Kitty’s Interactive Arts Area: Made for adults and kids, the arts area features many performers from the ongoing Pritchard Park Cultural Arts Program. Asheville Hoops will be on hand, along with Stina Andersen’s Tunnel of LAAFFs, which gives participants a chance to note what they love about the festival on a CD that is then woven into a bamboo tunnel. Melissa Glaze of the Asheville Mural Project does live painting, Our VOICE organizes a hand-print project and a hope box for survivors of sexual violence. Check out a preview of the upcoming Freaks of Asheville Calendar and hang out in the sideshow world created by Royal Peasantry.
…and more…

Arts

This year, 82 arts and crafts vendors will sell their wares along Lexington Ave. Since the festival’s inception this number has grown along with the square footage of LAAFF itself, which now extends all the way to BoBo Gallery. The number of arts vendors this year exceeds the number represented in this year’s Arts Park at Bele Chere.

Theatre

Catch two very different theatre shows on the LaZoom Bus Traveling Stage: Asheville Playback Theatre…The Feral Chihuahuas…Unifire Theatre…Asheville Vaudeville…Street performers

Dance

There’s more than just music at LAAFF; there’s dance, too. Local movement artists show their stuff — many of these performers also teach classes…Belle Afrique…Asheville Dance Revolution…Asheville Hoops Troupe…Lisa Zahiya hip-hop and bhangra…
READ THE FULL ARTICLE with performer descriptions HERE: http://www.mountainx.com/ae/2010/090110laaff

Wonderful Local Food at LAAFF:

Festival of Flavor

LAAFF has eats and drinks to keep you dancing

by Mackensy Lunsford in Vol. 17 / Iss. 06 on 08/31/2010

The Hop Ice Cream serving it up

What’s a street festival without food? A grouchy group of drunken zombies, that’s what. Fortunately, for festival-goers, there are plenty of local restaurants available to help soothe the blood-sugar woes at LAAFF. Just what can revelers expect to see and taste?Several Lexington Avenue merchants will be represented at the LAAFF food court, and it’s only fitting — local is what this block party is all about. Look for local buffalo short ribs from the Lexington Avenue Brewery, for example. Want something a bit more exotic? Visit Mela’s booth for a taste of Indian cuisine on the streets of Asheville.

… … …

Plenty of local beer will be available at LAAFF, which should come as no surprise. Should you be teetotalling, however, there are options for you, too. Buchi will be pedaling their special brand of local kombucha, and two lemonade stands will be on hand to slake your thirst sans alcohol.

Enjoy the party — and don’t forget to bring your appetite.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://www.mountainx.com/ae/2010/090110festival-of-flavor

LAAFF stage schedules were laid out here http://www.mountainx.com/ae/2010/090110laaff-schedules

Full descriptions of the interactivities at 2009 LAAFF. Asheville Hoops, Stina Andersons-The Tunnel of LAAFFs, Melissa Glaze of Asheville Mural Project: Live painter, Freaks of Asheville Calendar Preview, Royal Peasantry and more are all laid out here in the MX  Interactive Arts area Performer Descriptions


LAAFF for the Kids:

Edgy Mama: LAAFFing with kids

by Anne Fitten Glenn on 08/29/2010

Related topics: parenting, Edgy Mama, LAAFF
It’s time again for that funkiest and most family-friendly of Asheville street fests: the Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival, coming to that once raffish downtown area often referred to as Lex this Sunday, Sept. 5.There again will be a multi-tented kids’ area based in the parking lot between Downtown Books & News and Heiwa Japanese Restaurant. For the first time this year, Kids Universe, as it’s been dubbed, is being organized and run by the Asheville-based Earth Fare supermarkets.

READ THE FULL POST HERE: http://www.mountainx.com/ae/2010/edgy_mama_laaffing_with_kids

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There are so many great shots from this year’s Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival. I have posted some shots below- all which link back to their original albums. Check em out, and please post a comment with links to YOUR shots is they are not already in here. Cheers~!

Great shots of the lovely Ladies on Stilts, Hula Hoopers and other colorful Stuff.  Click the photo for the whole album:

Ladies on Stilts LAAFF 2010 Photo by Mignon Petrini

Bright Life Photography~ Alisa Whelan~ got some amazing shots from the day. Check out the album by clicking on the photo below.

The Pons Brithers on the LaZoom Bus at LAAFF 2010. Photo by Bright Life Photography

Joseph Carney III got some excellent shots as well. Click the photo to see his album:

Derrick Johnson form the Asheville Horns. Photo by Joseph F. Carney III

There are some wonderful shots in this Blog by Romantic Asheville. Click the photo for the full blog post and lots of pictures:

Kenny The Clown. Photo By Romantic Asheville

Find some great pics by G SocialMedia Gary here: http://ashevillenorthcarolina.blogspot.com/2010/09/laaff-2010-photo-album-see-these.html and they are also posted on facebook. Click the photo for the facebook album:

LAAFF Co-Founder Kitty Love. Photo by G Social Media 2010

Here is an album with some great shots of the LAAFF Photo Dress-up Booth that was in Miss Kitty’s Interactive arts area. Click the photo for the whole album:

LAAFF Photo Dress up Booth 2010

Peter Lorenz got some excellent shots of Jack and Rosetta’s wedding at LAAFF. Click the photo for the full album:

Jack and Rosetta's wedding at LAAFF 2010. Photo by Peter Lorenz

And the Mountain Xpress got some Great Wedding shots as well by Photgrapher Jonathan Welch. Click the Picture for the full album:

LAAFF Wedding Parade by Jonathan Welch with the Mountain Xpress

The Mountain Xpress also had a fantastic Photo booth set up complete with a boxing ring. Click the photo below for their full album:

Mountain Xpress Photo Booth LAAFF 2010

More Great Shots in the Xpress by Jonathan Welch. Click the pic for more:

Big Wheels for Big Kids at LAAFF 2010! Photo by Jonathan Welch

Here are some great shots by Edgy Mama. Click the pic for more form her.

Wretler at LAAFF 2010. Photo by Edgy Mama.

Some great pics by MyGothLaundry. Click the picture for the full album:

LAAFF 2010 Photos by My Goth Laundry

Andolent posted a great photo journal of LAAFF Here as well. Click the photo for the whole album.

Photo by Andolent. LAAFF 2010

Here are some pics on Facebook by Earthfare of the LAAFF Kids Area. Click the photo for the album:

Bouchon restaurant got some fun shots as well. Check em out by clicking the pic below.

Crepes! Photo by Bouchon.

……

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LAAFF took place on Sunday Sept 5th in downtown Asheville and was a complete success! Thank you to everyone involved; we appreciate all of our volunteers, performers, vendors, staff, costumers, fellow freaks, photographers, and all of the LAAFFers!!!! Check out some of my pictures below.

Some of the comments we have been receiving on facebook are:

Zen Sutherland “A huge thanks to you, and everyone who worked long before, during and after! It was a masterpiece!”

Steven J. Rash -“oh man. the fest was fantastic as usual. i’m already counting down the days to LAAFF 2011. thanks again!”

Paper Tiger at LAAFF 2010

Daniel Simmons “A day I will remember forever!”

Molly Kummerle “had such an amazing day/night yesterday – thank you thank you thank you!! kudos on another rocking fest ;)”

Cute Mustasheville kid on the LaZoom Bus

Jason Kimenker “You rock!! Thanks for helping to make LAAFF such a pleasure to work. I had a really great time, thank you thank you thank you!!”

Jeremy Long “Another great festival. Thanks for making it as fun and unique as Asheville itself.”

Dreamspider Erin

Darlene Wright “I’ve gone every year except for the first. I go to many festivals, but this is by far my favorite one. I look forward to it every year. It occurs on or near my birthday and is a great way to celebrate it. I look forward to many more years of it.”

Alien Dancing to Woody Pines aat LAAFF

Patty Dougherty Haberman “Fun, Freaks, Family, Food, Finds, and Favorite…..LAAFF”

Jason V. Martin “My favorite Asheville festival..favorite period!!”

Dj Candice B at the Bobo Stage

Alice Smyth “Thanks everyone for giving me a great day of FUN! Loved every minute of it and the weather sure was great! I will be sure to make it next Labor Day as well! (o;”

Sandy Scholze “saw the photos in Garys posts. Its fun to see all the costumes.Kinda like mardi gras and halloween all rolled into one

Vending Coordinators: Rebeccaand Rose Hecht

and here are some fun #LAAFF tweets:

@tracyhyorth: #LAAFF is really Asheville’s Mardi Gras. Just takes place in September. Aren’t we lucky?

@aRagingMuse: At the poetry van the Asheville Horns are funkin’ up my world as all the stars start to shine… #LAAFF -ing all the way

@adam_casto Fests like #LAAFF spoil me. keep checking the fridge hoping 4 tacos, pizza, ice cream,loaded hot dogs,various beer.

Mountain Xpressers: James Fisher and Mackensy Lundsford

@zensutherland: @lexfest It was the best #LAAFF so far! Can’t wait for you to see ’em all (whew, i took over 6 gig of shots)

@elizzlebizzle:guh, I am so beat from [#LAAFF &] repping @trashincavl. met Oscar the Grouch, drank a lot of kombucha, saw a lot of freaks

RT @ayanaberry: Totally. My favorite fest in #avl RT @jar_e: Thank you @Dreamspiderweb for making another wonderful day… So much fun! @lexfest #laaff

RT @papertigermusic: BEST.  #LAAFF.  EVER. thank you asheville, paper tiger loves you 😉

RT @mackensy: Feeling a little fuzzy-headed to be giving interviews today. I have a LAAFF-over. #laaff

Sanders, Sipe, Pond, and Cardine

RT @hopicecream Thank u @lexfest and everyone else for giving #Asheville reason to celebrate the local community! Had a blast 🙂 #LAAFF

RT @mxenv: Loved the labels on the waste bins at #LAAFF today: glass, plastic, and LANDFILL. That’s the truth…LANDFILL doesn’t mean GONE

Tall Bike Freak: The Reverend Michael Mooney

RT @robinplemmons laughed really hard @ #LAAFF. Best part is meeting customers who get me & love my creations. smiled so much my cheeks hurt

RT @phetched: Scrumptious Hardcastle dawgs, Pisgah Pale, Kovacs & the Polar Bear + sexy @robinplemmons at #LAAFF… now it’s naptime. #zzzz

RT @AskAsheville: 12seconds – Alien dances to Woody Pines at #LAAFF in Asheville http://tiny12.tv/R2D03 #avlent

RT @AskAsheville: Laughing my A-S-S off! This is such a cool event! #LAAFF w/ @thesavvyeater @avlcustomcloset)

Fun guy, AskAsheville Gary, and AVL Custom Closet Amanda

RT @AskAsheville Great #wedding #photo of Jack & Rosetta at their #LAAFF marriage in downtown #AVLhttp://su.pr/1KM88P #avlpics #avlwed

RT @aRagingMuse: Beautiful with Archrivals soundtrack! RT @rsulock: awesome #LAAFF footage from Jesse Hamm for Xpress! http://bit.ly/c6r2ME #avlent

Bike joust! RT @AshevilleLife: RT @fobes RT @ ashevillein : call it a draw then? #LAAFF #avlevent http://flic.kr/p/8yrQVR

Jenny Juice's Songwriter Lounge

RT @houseofdevochka: Dudes. Seriously. @lexfest was amazing! I’m going to bed. Right now. For three days. Or 5 hours. #laaff

RT @AskAsheville: People… I am talking about 169 photos of the Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival #LAAFF in Asheville NC right here.. http://su.pr/3ai4ud#

Bright Life Photography- Lissy multitasking at LAAFF 🙂

RT @lyndacd: #LAAFF: Lex Ave Arts & Fun Festival – Still the best fest in Asheville! Great day with interesting people, food, music, fun!

AVL Beer, Jenny Juice, Bob 7, Amy

RT @Iveys: Body paint & a human float. Asheville’s Mardi Gras. #laaff http://plixi.com/p/43517320

RT @adam_casto: Enjoyed spending time downtown at #laaff today. Need to make an effort to get out more. We really do have a wonderful city here. #AVL

Robin Plemmons

RT @SocialLifeAvl: Just got lil one a mocha oreo from the @hopicecream tent with @robinplemmons @lexfest #LAAFF

RT @SocialLifeAvl: I just saw that. My daughters wants to it. BAD RT @ncmattj: http://twitvid.com/M6VW9 – Street Jousting at #LAAFF

Lulu and Dreamspider Erin

RT @SocialLifeAvl: Downtown is packed for @lexfest #LAAFF alot of culture, music, food and vendors.

Molly, Crissa, and Billy Jack

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This is a great article about LAAFF co-Founder and Arts 2 People’s executive director, Kitty Love. I have worked with Kitty for 8+ years now on Arts 2 People and LAAFF as well as other projects and so appreciate the telling of the inception of LAAFF and news on the creation of an artist resource center in Asheville. Great article Jason! There are some long excerpts below, please follow the link to read the full article.

Margaret Lauzon, Kitty Love, and Erin Scholze (Dreamspider) at LAAFF 2009

For Love of Lexington: LAAFF co-founder Kitty Love works to support Asheville’s artists

by Jason Sandford • September 5, 2010 in the Asheville Citizen Times.

Kitty Love enjoys a good freak.

It’s a descriptor she’s adopted for a unique fundraising project and a noun a neutral observer might use for some of the clients who come into the Liquid Dragon tattoo shop she works out of on Lexington Avenue.

… …

“Anybody can be a freak,” Love said. “It’s just a way to describe who’s being their authentic selves.”

And it’s those emerging artists and creative types who help make Asheville the tourism destination it is, she added.

That’s why she’s spent the better part of the past decade supporting and promoting artists as executive director of the nonprofit Arts 2 People, as a staunch advocate for the creation of an artists resource center and as the promoter of sideline projects such as the “Freaks of Asheville” calendar and the Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival .

…   …   …

Having a LAAFF

Love knew Lexington Avenue had something in its eclectic collection of independently owned clothing stores, record shops and restaurants. Love says she saw “a loose conglomeration of individuals coming together to share their unique perspectives in a way that is culture-changing.”

Love and her partner at the time, Michael Mooney, opened Sky People Gallery and Studio on the street. The gallery opened about a month before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The economy sputtered, so Love says she and Mooney dreamed up the Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival the following year to give the area a boost.

“We really wanted to see that Lexington Avenue culture grow without getting gentrified,” Love says.

More an anything-goes block party than an official festival, the event took root with street games like Bowling for Karma — knock over the right Hindu god and erase that awful sin — and Baby-head Putt Putt.

Now in its ninth year, LAAFF is a full-blown, daylong event known for embracing Asheville’s freaky side.

Quantcast

“LAAFF is meant to show that individual self-expression is actually a more attractive product” than other festivals with a more corporate flavor, Love said.

Resources for artists

The Lexington Avenue festival is perhaps the most visible manifestation of Love’s passion, but she’s been working to support young artists through the nonprofit Arts 2 People she leads, and through the ongoing effort to create an artists resource center.

…   …

Arts 2 People, which survives on a shoestring budget, includes outreach and education projects. Love readily admits she doesn’t have the best skills when it comes to raising money and jokes that she needs a “development angel” to swoop in and help.

Love’s dream of creating an artists resource center may strike at her heart the deepest.

She said her mantra is “the wisdom is in the circle,” a guidepost for creating an umbrella organization that can offer young artist-entrepreneurs a wide range of support they need.

It will be “a professional development resource center” that can offer tips on where to find rental space, equipment or specific training, she said.

“When you’re someone who makes pots, that’s what you want to do. But you need to take pictures of your pots to market them, and you need to make business cards with pots on them to network,” Love said.

A resource center could also help identify the exact number of artists in Asheville — she guesses the number at between 6,000 and 8,000 — and the true economic impact they have.

Such a study would go a long way toward cementing the importance of artists to the local economy in the minds of decision-makers, she said.

For Love, it’s all about putting a face on Asheville’s artist-entrepreneurs — Asheville’s freaks, as it were.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20100905/NEWS/309050022

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Art Spark

Posted by daver in City Living on March 12, 2010 | no responses

My mention of the Haymaker Farmer’s Market interest in an art mural on the columns beneath the Haymaker Bridge earlier in the week sparked a fair amount of interest from folks.  People seemed to feel that the Market was on to something good and they were letting me know that we (aka the City) needs to do more to promote public art projects like this since art runs deep in Kent’s DNA — both formally with the art education programs and professional galleries like the KSU Gallery and the McKay Bricker Gallery, and at the other end of the spectrum with a glom of  indie artists randomly found around town doing their own thing in unexpected places (like streetcorners or at the Professor’s Pub).

I tend to agree that the City needs to do whatever it can to advance the arts — both the formal and informal forms of creative expression.  I don’t make that statement to be politically correct or for some philanthropic agenda, rather if we’re serious about selling the Kent experience as an eclectic mix of characters, places and sensory stimuli then art has to be part of the community conversation and stake it’s claim at the alter of eccentric Kent.  The adjectives and descriptors of art — quirky, surprising, confusing, thought provoking, and even shocking — also happen to pop up when talking about many aspects of Kent so in that regard art resonates and even amplifies the Kent ethos (or milieu for the high brow artists among us.)

Our efforts to market the Kent lifestyle is not unique to us — it’s the core of a lot of city development efforts.  Those bold Texans in Austin have taken it so far as to proudly adopt the tag line “Keep Austin Wierd” in a national campaign to be the world headquarters of everything odd.  You can’t help but admire the lengths they’ve gone to realize their aspiration — the video of the 6′4″ cowboy walking down the street in his raw hide boots and matching thong did me in but clearly they have no fear in embracing their unique sense of style.

Another ambitious city that has embraced the off-beat is Asheville North Carolina.  They’ve carved themselves a unique place in the mountains of North Carolina that is equal parts hippie and hill-billy – and it works really well.  Great art, great street scene, great restaurants and a surprising mix of people of all kinds of dispositions.

It turns out that Asheville is one of the sources of inspiration for the Kent art mural project that has been adopted by the Haymaker Farmer’s Market.  They’ve got their own infrastructure art thing going on.

Here’s a few good links to learn more about the Asheville project

Asheville Story Archives

Kent still has a long way to go to catch Asheville but it’s nice to know that we’re in good company.

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By Carol Motsinger • August 30, 2009 12:15 AM
Asheville Citizen Times Sunday Edition
www.citizen-times.com

At the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival in 2007, Megan and Leslie Abernathy (sisters) hula-hoop.  At the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival in 2007, Megan and Leslie Abernathy (sisters) hula-hoop. (Paul Balicky/special to the Citizen-Times)

At the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival in 2007, Megan and Leslie Abernathy (sisters) hula-hoop. At the Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival in 2007, Megan and Leslie Abernathy (sisters) hula-hoop. (Paul Balicky/special to the Citizen-Times)

ASHEVILLE — For Frank Bloom, directing the Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF) is more than a day job. The festival, which is taking over a few blocks downtown Sept. 6, is one of the reasons he moved to Asheville.

Before making the permanent move, Bloom traveled from his home in Charlotte to help with the sound for the festival’s stages. One group turned out to be a sound engineer’s nightmare: There were more people than square footage on the stage. The group of dancers and drummers had never performed together.

“They weren’t even a band,” Bloom said. “They were more like an experiment.” But despite Bloom’s handwringing, the performance went off without a hitch.

“It was really cool…it was a little welcome to Asheville,” Bloom said. “It was one of those experiences that was a decision-maker for me moving here.”

Four years later, Bloom is no longer behind the sound board; he’s up front at the helm of the 8th annual event celebrating all things arts, music and Asheville. The free festival will fill three blocks of N. Lexington Avenue between College Street and the I-240 overpass from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 6.

And in a lot of ways, Bloom’s new gig isn’t too far removed from the afternoon he made sure the sounds of that 20-person band got the crowd dancing. “It’s organized chaos,” Erin Scholze, who booked the bands, said of the planning process.

The art at LAAFF, as seen at a previous festival, isn't dominated by paintings of fall colors and the Flat Iron Building.

The art at LAAFF, as seen at a previous festival, isn't dominated by paintings of fall colors and the Flat Iron Building.

But organized it is. In just one day, the festival will showcase more than 30 bands and 70 artists. Not to mention a kids area, a circus side show, street performers, a new stage in the La Zoom purple bus and whatever other spontaneous acts of creativity decide to show up.

“It’s a showcase,” Scholze said. “For us, it’s really about maxing it out and sensory overload.”

Forget the stages: Scholze’s favorite part of the festival is the “fabulously freaky” characters who make up the crowd.

“I always love seeing the people in costumes,” she said. “You might see the person who just served you at Zambra walking around in this random costume.”

“That’s the spirit of LAAFF…it’s very eye-opening,” she added.

Bloom’s primary goal this year “was to continue the spirit and the atmosphere of the festival,” he said. And what is that spirit? It’s celebrating everything that makes up Asheville: Local art, food and beer, he said.

“This has a party atmosphere,” he said. “We definitely want to keep that identity.”

A street performer entertains the crowd at last year's Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival.  A street performer entertains the crowd at last year's Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival. (Erin Brethauer/Asheville Citizen-Times)

A street performer entertains the crowd at last year's Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival. A street performer entertains the crowd at last year's Lexington Ave. Arts and Fun Festival. (Erin Brethauer/Asheville Citizen-Times)

That certainly doesn’t mean there haven’t been changes. “In eight years, the area around the festival has definitely changed,” he said. “The festival celebrates that indie spirit that was the beginning of the re-birth of downtown.”

As the city center has flourished, so has the festival. When Scholze started working with LAAFF in its second year, some 3,000 people came out to the party. The event now draws 12,000 people downtown, she said.

Festival organizers also try to “integrate the evolution” of Asheville, Bloom said. For instance, they will be serving six local beers instead of just one, as they have in previous years. When the festival started, Asheville wasn’t known as a beer city, Bloom said.

There will be some subtractions this year as well. Michael Mooney will not be attempting to ride the world’s tallest bike this year, a stunt that’s so fundamental to the festival that it’s part of the official poster. They also won’t paint a donated car this year, Bloom said. But bicycling jousting (another Mooney original and crowd favorite) is still planned and they have some new surprises Bloom wanted to keep hush-hush.

But the most unique part of the festival may not be the break-dancing pirate or the kooky couple hula-hooping to funky beats. What makes this event special is the personal investment of the people who volunteer their time to make it happen, Scholze said.

“The community really takes ownership of it,” she said.

The same folks show up year after year. “It’s like a big family reunion,” Scholze added.

A kooky cast of characters entertain the crowds at last year's Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival. (Erin Brethauer/Asheville Citizen-Times)

A kooky cast of characters entertain the crowds at last year's Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival. (Erin Brethauer/Asheville Citizen-Times)


Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival performers
Blue Rags, Dehlia Low, Eymarel, Hunab Kru, Jen and the Juice, Mad Tea Party, Melmacpink, Roberto Hess, Swayback Sisters, tHE POLES, U-N-I verse, Zabumba!. Asheville Dance Revolution, Baraka Mundi, Blackjack, Brushfire Stankgrass, Ceol Leinn, Galen Kipar Project, Modo, Now You See Them, Runaway Circus and Loose Caboose, Taylor Martin, The Chx, Velvet Truck Stop, Angi West, Arundas, Dip-N-Flip E.Normus Trio, Lulo, Pierce Edens, Pilgrim, Poetix Vanguard, Secret B-Sides, Ash Devine w/ Quetzal, Hillbillionaire$, La Feral Zoom: Rollin’ Barks of Laughter, LEAF in Schools and Streets: Youth at Jazz, Oso Rey, as well as a bluegrass jam, celtic jam and old-time jam.

LAAFF Performers Schedule

IF YOU GO
What:
8th Annual Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival.
When:
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 6.
Where:
Three blocks of N. Lexington Avenue between College Street and the I-240 overpass.
Cost:
Free.
For more
about LAAFF 2009 www.lexfestasheville.com
about Arts 2 People www.arts2people.org

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