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St. Andrews Welcomes Black Mountain College Festival

In the more than half-century since it closed in 1956, Black Mountain College, an experimental college once located in the western North Carolina mountains, has taken on the stuff of myth and legend.

Founded on the heels of “the closing of the Bauhaus by the Nazis, and the beginning of the persecution of artists and intellectuals on the European continent,” many of whom eventually made their way to Black Mountain College, the school was:

owned and operated by the faculty and was committed to democratic governance and to the idea that the arts are central to the experience of learning. All members of the College community participated in its operation, including farm work, construction projects and kitchen duty. Located in the midst of the beautiful North Carolina mountains near Asheville, the secluded environment fostered a strong sense of individuality and creative intensity within the small College community.

Among its poets and students were Robert Creeley, Josef Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Hilda Morley, and Jonathan Williams.

In 1974, St. Andrews Presbyterian College, now St. Andrews University, “held the first Black Mountain College Festival to celebrate the history, the mission, and the arts of Black Mountain College.” This Fall, the Black Mountain College Festival returns to Laurinburg for a semester-long celebration of scholars, artists, poets, writers, musicians, inventors, and dancers who will be on-hand to revel in the past—and welcome the future.

“St. Andrews is trying to emphasize its connection to Black Mountain College primarily through Ron Bayes,” said Dr. Ted Wojtasik, co-chair of the Black Mountain College Festival and creative writing professor at St. Andrews. “We used to have a lot of Black Mountain College poets come here to read, like Jonathan Williams and Robert Creeley—who were friends of Ron’s. He was in that generation, but he wasn’t physically at Black Mountain College.”

Ron Bayes is a 2014 inductee of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

The Black Mountain College festival events include “poetry readings, prose readings, art exhibits, dance performance and open mic readings for anyone to express their artistic abilities.” Basil King and Martha King, both alumni of Black Mountain College who met and married after meeting there, are scheduled to read poetry and prose on Thursday, October 27, at the Ronald H. Bayes Lounge of Orange Hall on the St. Andrews campus. There is also the possibility that Mary de Rachewiltz, the daughter of Ezra Pound, may appear. The festival concludes November 19 with a panel discussion on the future of Black Mountain College on Saturday, November 19.

For more information on the Black Mountain College festival, click here.

New Website for NC Arts Council

NC Arts Trail

NC Arts Trail

The North Carolina Arts Council launched a new website this month:

Graphic-based, efficient, and modern, the new site highlights favorite programs through a slideshow on the home page and offers easy access to other features through a drop-down menu up top.

The site and the new A+Schools website are mobile friendly and were designed by the Arts Council’s graphic design and website manager, Hal Earp.

Visitors can jump to the North Carolina Arts Council’s social media accounts at the bottom of the page.

Feedback? Found a link that doesn’t work? Contact NCAC at

Joseph Bathanti Receives North Carolina Award

© Sylvia Freeman

© Sylvia Freeman

Former North Carolina poet laureate Joseph Bathanti has received the North Carolina Award for Literature, the highest civilian honor in the state.

A longtime friend of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and a familiar face at Network events (he was most recently the featured guest at Saturday’s Fall Conference luncheon, in 2014), Bathanti is the author of ten volumes of poetry, three novels, and a short-story collection. He is the recipient of some of the state’s most prestigious literary awards and teaches creative writing at Appalachian State University.

Bathanti is admired and respected by his literary peers. He came to North Carolina in 1976 to work for Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), noting that he had a master’s degree in English and no idea what work he wanted to do. His assignment was teaching at the state correctional facility in Huntersville. There, he met his wife Joan, who taught the Pittsburgh native about grits. His interactions with the incarcerated taught him the importance of allowing others to tell their personal stories. He came to love North Carolina and writes of this state and his native Pennsylvania equally. He serves as an ambassador of letters, and has worked with military veterans to tell their stories as well. Through all of his teaching posts and populations, he brings an appreciation for the human spirit and the humanity of us all.

The North Carolina Award will be presented to seven distinguished North Carolinians on Thursday, September 22, at the Raleigh Marriott City Center. Governor Pat McCrory will present the awards at the 7:00 pm banquet and ceremony, following a reception for the recipients at 6:00 pm.

The 2016 honorees include Joseph Bathanti of Vilas for Literature; Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum of Chapel Hill for Science; Robert J. Brown of High Point for Public Service; James C. Gardner of Rocky Mount for Public Service; Dr. Assad Meymandi of Raleigh for Fine Arts; and Dr. Aziz Sancar and Dr. Paul L. Modrich of Chapel Hill for Science. The awards are administered by the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

“It is an honor to pay tribute to these remarkable individuals who have made North Carolina better by their extraordinary involvement in this state,” said Susan Kluttz, Secretary of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “Each has enriched the lives of our citizens and propelled North Carolina onto the national and world stages.”

Greensboro’s Visual Poetry Project

Between now and November, in downtown Greensboro, poetry lovers can take a self-guided walking tour and see eleven different sculptures that have been created in response to poems.

Sponsored by the Writers’ Group of the Triad, The Visual Poetry Project paired eleven poets with eleven different artists in the ekphrastic tradition:

Sculptures are generally located on Elm street between the main library and ArtMongerz gallery (across from the Mellow Mushroom). For example, if you see a fountain in Scuppernong bookstore then you should look for the poem on the side. All sculptures should have a journal to allow you to leave comments.

For a complete list of sculpture/poem locations, click here.

Poets include North Carolina Writers’ Network members Michael Gaspeny and Walt Pilcher. To see a sampling of the sculptures and poems, click here.

On Friday, September 2, starting at 6:30 pm, there will be an organized walking event starting at the Greensboro Central Library, 219 N. Church St. Contributing poets will be on-hand to talk about their individual poems.

For more information, contact Cathie Holcombe at or visit the event’s Facebook page.


There’s a theory of movie-making, espoused (if not invented) by t.v. and film critic Chris Ryan, that if you “put dope actors in your movie,” your movie will be good.

That seems to be the running theory behind Genius, out this summer, which follows the story of American Southern writer Thomas Wolfe and his connections with New Yorker Maxwell Perkins, the publisher. The cast includes Colin Firth (Maxwell Perkins); Jude Law (Thomas Wolfe); Nicole Kidman (Aline Bernstein); Guy Pearce (F. Scott Fitzgerald); and Laura Linney (Louise Saunders).

While this theory that good actors can compensate for a mediocre script often works just dandy (see all three—sorry, four—Hunger Games movies), that doesn’t seem to be the case with Genius. It’s been dubbed “hammily acted” (The Guardian), “unappealingly lit” (The Daily Telegraph), “like CPR on a lifeless body” (The Hollywood Reporter), and said to posses “all the life of a flower pressed between Look Homeward Angel’s pages eighty-seven years ago” (Variety).

Not exactly ringing endorsements, especially given the movie’s 49 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Still, those interested in Asheville’s favorite son, Thomas Wolfe, and his editor Perkins, who also edited F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, might stomach the bad lighting and wretched acting to find something of value.

This blogger couldn’t actually find any theaters currently showing the movie, so viewers might do better to simply pre-order the DVD, or wait for Netflix.

Sally Buckner Receives The Order of the Long Leaf Pine

Shelby Stephenson and Sally Buckner

Shelby Stephenson and Sally Buckner

This Thursday, August 11, Sally Buckner will be honored with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Among the most prestigious awards conferred by the Governor of North Carolina is The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. It is awarded to persons for exemplary service to the State of North Carolina and their communities that is above and beyond the call of duty and which has made a significant impact and strengthened North Carolina.

In her long career, Sally Bucker taught at every level from kindergarten through graduate school, and retired after twenty-eight years on the faculty at Peace College. A former journalist, she published poetry, plays, nonfiction, and short stories in many journals and anthologies. In 1991, she was the editor of Our Words, Our Ways, an anthology of literature designed to accompany eighth-grade studies of state history. Her first collection of poems, Strawberry Harvest, was published by St. Andrews Press in 1996. In 1999, she was the editor of Word and Witness: 100 Years of NC Poetry, published under the auspices of the NC Poetry Society by Carolina Academic Press.

Other recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine include poet Anthony S. Abbott (1992), NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Kathryn Stripling Byer (2010), and author, journalist, and public relations leader Joe Epley (2004). For a complete list of recipients, click here.

The ceremony takes place on Thursday, August 11, at 4:00 pm at the Glenaire Retirement Community auditorium, 4000 Glenaire Circle, in Cary. This event is free and open to the public.

Buckner will be honored by NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee and current NC poet laureate Shelby Stephenson. NC playwright June Guralnick and the NC Arts Council’s Literature and Theater Director David Potorti will make remarks.

For more information, contact David Potorti at 919-807-6512.

WCPSS Hall of Fame to Induct Nancy Olson

Quail Ridge BooksNancy Olson, founder of Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, passed away in March. On Wednesday, October 12, Nancy will be inducted into the Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame.

Credited with “sparking a literacy renaissance in North Carolina,” Nancy founded QRB in 1984. The store hosts countless literary events, book clubs, discussions, and town hall meetings and has become a vital part of North Carolina’s cultural landscape. Nancy was Publisher’s Weekly 2001 Bookseller of the Year.

The WCPSS Hall of Fame is a program of Wake Education Partnership, a non-profit committed to “improving public education and advocating for excellent educational opportunities for all students.” The Hall of Fame honors outstanding educators, alumni, and community leaders who through their lives have either deeply impacted the Wake County school system or, as an alumnus, dramatically added to the quality of life in this city, state, or nation.

Nancy will be inducted along with five others, including Orage Quarles III, former president and publisher of The News & Observer in Raleigh.

QRB recently moved to a new location at North Hill, 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road. Click here for directions and tips on parking.

For tributes to Nancy Olson, including a video of her memorial service, click here.

Boost in Arts Funding Benefits all 100 NC Counties

From our friends at the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources:

Raleigh—The new budget signed by Governor Pat McCrory will allow the North Carolina Arts Council to support an extensive arts infrastructure across North Carolina, including arts programs in all 100 counties funded through the Grassroots Arts Program, with more than $7.1 million in grants.

“This funding will further support the arts, which are a catalyst for economic development, tourism and overall quality of life in North Carolina,” said Governor McCrory. “The work of local arts councils helps make North Carolina global destination where people want to live, work and visit.”

In fiscal year 2016 -17, N.C. Arts Council grants will support more than 340 arts organizations, individuals, schools, and other nonprofit groups that sponsor arts programs or arts-driven economic development projects. Grant funds come from both legislative appropriation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Arts have sparked economic development across the state,” said Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz. “These grants mean more jobs and a better quality of life.”

The budget invests an additional $500,000 in the Grassroots Arts Program. Nationally recognized for its per capita distribution formula that allows local decision-making on arts programming, the Grassroots funds support the sustainability of a network of local arts councils across the state.

“For nearly 50 years the North Carolina Arts Council has invested in artists and arts organizations,” said Wayne Martin, Executive Director of the NC Arts Council. “The result is a diverse arts infrastructure that is one of the most extensive in our nation, reaching into all 100 counties of the state.”

The NC Arts Council will continue to invest in the SmART Initiative, a program that uses the arts to transform downtowns and fuel economic development. A grant was awarded to support the implementation of a Highway 19E Gateway Art Plan in Burnsville created by Seattle-based artist Jack Mackie in collaboration with a variety of local glass artists and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

“The SmART Initiative influences business development, inspires downtown revitalization and historic preservation, builds community pride of place and stimulates the growth of more creative businesses,” said Kluttz. “Government and the private sector work together in communities large and small to ensure that North Carolina continues to be a place where businesses want to be, people want to live and visitors want to explore.”

One of the first SmART Initiative programs is the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, located along Goldsboro Street in downtown Wilson, which will be officially dedicated next fall. Currently 16 of the 28 restored whirligigs have been installed at the park and there has been more than $20 million in private and public investment generated within a two block radius of the park including brewpubs, residential apartments and restaurants. The City of Wilson has committed $1.29 million to construction.

Funds that support rural communities include several arts in education programs, such as the popular Traditional Arts Programs for Students and Junior Appalachian Musicians, an after-=school program where students receive music instruction taught by traditional string band musicians, Seagrove potters, or African American jazz musicians. cARTwheels, a performing arts touring and residency program that provides in-depth exposure to arts, will take place in 15 venues.

Noteworthy education projects funded this year include expansion of North Carolina Wolf Trap to Rutherford County. The Arts & Science Council (ASC) of Charlotte is a regional site for the nationally acclaimed Wolf Trap Early Leaning Through the Arts Program that brings performing artists into Pre-Kindergarten classes for a seven-week residency. Wolf Trap incorporates the arts into the classroom with a curriculum that is aligned with Common Core State Standards for Pre-K. The Rutherford County School District is collaborating with the ASC on this project as an effort to grow the program throughout the region.

Grant awards are recommended by panels of civic leaders and arts experts based on artistic merit, benefit of the project to the state’s citizens, and the applicant’s organizational strength and capacity. Recommendations are reviewed by the North Carolina Arts Council Board and forwarded to Secretary Susan Kluttz for final approval.

Click here for a listing of investments by county.

For more information about the NC Arts Council visit

About the North Carolina Arts Council
North Carolina has long been recognized for rich traditions in crafts, literature, historical drama and music. Since 1967 the N.C. Arts Council has worked to strengthen North Carolina’s creativity, invention and prosperity through its four core functions: creating a strong and efficient arts infrastructure across North Carolina; planning and implementing economic development initiatives; educating our young people; and researching the impact of the arts on our state:

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. Led by Secretary Susan Kluttz, NCDNCR’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to
experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call (919) 807-7300 or visit

For the Advancement of Indigenous Cultures

Throughout the country, Native organizations face the challenge of preserving the culture and stories of the indigenous communities they’ve been created to serve. None more so than the Cherokee, whose Trail of Tears began in Western North Carolina. The pressures these Native populations face, both in terms of economics and culture, are very real.

The Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers seeks to preserve the stories of indigenous cultures, provide mentors to the next generation of storytellers, and actively promote education and recognition. Their mission?

To support the work and words of Native and Indigenous people in order to strengthen the impact of their voices in asserting community sovereignty, individual self-determination, traditional and cultural values, and creative expression.

The Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers was founded in 1992 by Dr. Lee Francis III. The organization focuses on four core values:

  • Story: The center of all our work is story. It is what sustained our people through the darkest times. We honor and celebrate the stories in all we do.
  • Community: As an Indigenous organization, we do not act on our own but always as a community; seeking to connect and collaborate
  • Quality: We seek to ensure the highest quality of work produced by our members and the organization itself
  • Generosity: Our work is done with a good spirit and a good heart that gives more than it receives.
  • Authenticity: Our work and words will look to find the most authentic and genuine way to represent Native and Indigenous communities.

Projects include a Native Youth Literacy Project that “focuses on synthesizing Indigenous and Western knowledge and leads to stronger student accomplishments in reading, writing, and communicating.” This program looks to draw from traditional Native values and strengths to help students with reading and writing.

The WC Reads program is an effort to get free comic books into the hands of Native students. And their newest program is Electric Tellings, where they hope to create an online repository and digital radio station for the incredible stories of the indigenous community.

Founded with the belief that “Western education systems find no value in models that do not serve to reinforce the dominant hegemony,” the Story Keepers Project seeks to “empower Native and Indigenous youth through deep cultural and traditional connections to become guides and guardians of their communities’ traditional values and ways of being as communicated through traditional and contemporary stories,” among other goals. This program can be hosted in schools.

Membership is an extremely reasonable $40 a year (cheaper if you qualify for certain categories). This gives you discounts on events and gatherings, access to members-only pages, and a subscription to Native Realities, their official journal.

To learn more about the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, click here.

Let the NC Literary Map Be Your Guide

If you’ve been to a Network conference in the past few years, then you’ve likely chatted with a representative from the North Carolina Literary Map. They’ve been an exciting and constant presence in our exhibit hall since their founding in 2010. In the last six years, they’ve developed a unique program that has positioned them as stewards of North Carolina’s literary heritage and an irreplaceable piece of our state’s literary, well, map.

The mission of the North Carolina Literary Map is to highlight the literary heritage of the state by connecting the lives and creative work of authors to real (and imaginary) geographic locations. Through the development of a searchable and browseable data-driven online map, users are able to access a database, learning tools, and cultural resources, to deepen their understanding of specific authors as well as the cultural space that shaped these literary works.

Here’s how it works. Go to (Yes, they need a new URL. It’s shorter than it used to be, though!) Click on “Search by Author.” Enter an author’s last name. “Maron,” say, for 2016 North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee “Margaret Maron.”

This returns one record. Click on her name to bring up the author page for Margaret Maron. Author pages include complete bibliographies with links to the books; awards specific to North Carolina that were won by the author, and you can even click on the name of the county where Margaret is from—Johnston—to see all the other authors associated with Johnston County.

The selection criteria of the North Carolina Literary Map are broad and inclusive. The criteria focuses on works written about North Carolina and authors who were born in North Carolina, who currently live or have lived in North Carolina, who have written about North Carolina, or who have made a significant contribution to the North Carolina’s literary landscape. The author must have at least one publication cataloged by the Library of Congress. At this time, the Map includes only works that have a physical equivalent and does not include literary articles, self-publishing houses, works published by vanity presses, or works only available from an individual website.

The website also offers a list (with links) of North-Carolina based literary magazines; lesson plans for schoolteachers; and the ability to search by genre or book, as well as browse North Carolina authors by specific criteria. Visitors can search for books that take place in North Carolina towns, including the fictional Falls, NC, made famous by NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Allan Gurganus! Hopefully Cotton Grove, where Margaret Maron’s Bootlegger’s Daughter series takes place, will be added soon.

The more time one spends with the website, the more gems reveal themselves. For example, NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Randall Jarrell’s author page links to his letters.

The NC Literary Map is a joint program of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro University Libraries; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; and the State Library of North Carolina.