Kitty Love

Executive Director


Kitty Love has served as the Executive Director of the AAAC since December of 2011. Kitty is a professionally trained artist, and has engaged in a lifetime of creative entrepreneurial projects, including mural art, retail craft, interior design, tattoo, and five years as a downtown gallery owner. In 2001, Kitty became engaged in community-building arts activism, including the creation of one of Asheville’s most popular street festivals. Her service through grassroots nonprofit organization, Arts 2 People produced several outdoor murals, arts education programs, programs in parks, and professional development for artists. She is known locally as a dedicated team player, bringing strong ideas and leadership to bear on community and economic development through the arts. Her service includes the City of Asheville Downtown Commission, the HUB Alliance, The Downtown Social Issues Task Force, The Asheville Mural Project, The Downtown Asheville Master Plan, and City Seeds.

Johanna Hagarty

Program Manager
Kids Tixx
Artist Resource Center
Artist’s Curriculum


Johanna Hagarty brings over a decade of experience in event management, marketing, and public relations to the Asheville Area Arts Council. Johanna has focused the last two years of her career on her personal business, Xpand Your Vision, which promotes health and wellness through exposure and engagement with the arts. Johanna has worked directly with communities all across Buncombe County. She has worked in schools, festivals, hospitals, music venues, non-profits, and a variety of other settings to promote this vision. As a Qualified Mental Health Professional, she is particularly dedicated to increasing creative resources for youth and families suffering from mental illness and/or poverty. As Program Manager of the Kids Tixx, Artist Resource Center, and Artist’s Curriculum Programs at the Asheville Area Arts Council, Johanna is continually committed to finding innovative ways to connect us all to our inner artist.

Jen Gordon

Exhibitions Manager


Jen Gordon is the Exhibitions Manager for the Asheville Area Arts Council. She has a B.A. in Art History and Studio Art, and a certificate in Museum and Gallery practices from Humboldt State University and has worked in various galleries since 2006. She has been an active advocate for the arts locally in Asheville as well as regionally throughout Western North Carolina since 2009. Previously the Executive Director for Arts 2 People, the Vice Chair of the Public Art and Cultural Commission for the City of Asheville, and the Festival Director for the Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival she has long been engaged in developing outlets for artists to display their work and ways for audiences to access that work. Jen is excited to have the opportunity to work with local artists to develop their skills as curators and to expand exhibition opportunities for local artists, both emerging and established within the AAAC Gallery at the historic Grove Arcade. She believes that the program operates as a facilitation in critical thinking, conceptual development, and artistic collaboration.

Sara Crawford



Sara was excited to begin serving as Full-Charge Bookkeeper for Asheville Area Arts Council in 2011. She majored in Accounting at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and has worked with several local organizations as an independent Bookkeeper since 2006. She enjoys not only the nuts and bolts aspects of accounting that some may find boring (and possibly nerdy), but also the ability to make a meaningful contribution to organizations she works with, allowing them to focus on the important work that is their mission. She particularly enjoys the challenge, and reward, of assisting Non-Profit organizations. When she isn’t focusing on the world of finances, Sara enjoys keeping busy with her husband and their three children. She also likes to cook, coupon and bargain hunt, and work on DIY or craft projects.

Jodi John Pippin



Jodi John Pippin manages the re-granting program for the Asheville Area Arts Council such as the Grassroots Arts Program and other community grant opportunities through AAAC for Buncombe County organizations and artists.

Lyric Powers


Lyric Powers is the webmaster for the Asheville Area Arts Council. Lyric has been operating Lyric Powered Design, a freelance web & graphic design and webmastering service for the past 10+ years. She has worked with artists and small businesses all over the US and in Australia and the UK. She joined the AAAC team in early 2015 because of a desire to become more involved in the community she physically resides in, a passion for the arts, and a desire to see the arts thrive in that community.

If you have any questions about or encounter any problems with our new website, please contact Lyric.

Tom Shaw

Program Associate
Artist Business Brainstorm Sessions

Tom Shaw is a Program Associate for the Asheville Area Arts Council and coordinates the Artist Business Brainstorm Sessions. His academic work was taken at the University of South Carolina. Tom’s undergraduate degree is a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies that combined Art/Art History/History/and Geography. He also completed masters programs in Applied Art History and Urban Geography and was the Assistant Curator of History at the University’s McKissick Museum. He served as an architectural historian for the SC State Historic Preservation Office where he worked closely with the SC Arts Commission on their grants committee and its efforts to demonstrate the connection between arts and economic development. Tom has also worked for Clemson University’s Institute for Economic and Community Development.

Kari Koty

Social Media Intern

Kari Koty is the Social Media Intern for the Asheville Area Arts Council. She is currently a senior enrolled in the New Media department at UNCA. She has a long standing relationship with social media and is a strong advocate for what it can do to bring a community together. She has used social media sites such as Instagram to further her own artistic development, which has allowed her to make connections with other artists all over the world. She is excited to be working with the AAAC, and hopes to use her experience to expand its reach to the community.


2015 Board of Directors

Gar Ragland – Chair

Producer/President of NewSong Music

Gar Ragland is a music entrepreneur, producer, composer and the president and co-founder of NewSong Music, an independent artist development company. A native North Carolinian (Winston-Salem), Gar began his music career while a student at the University of Virginia, sharing bills with acts that include the Dave Matthews Band, Gov’t Mule and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. After working several years in Washington, DC as an environmental economist for the policy think tank Resources for the Future, Ragland relocated to Boston to study composition and improvisation at the New England Conservatory with MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award winning pianist, composer and educator Ran Blake. He then moved to New York City to open NewSong’s Brooklyn studio and office, and moved to Asheville with his family in 2012 to set up shop at Echo Mountain Recording Studios. He is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (Grammys), and a member of the Buncombe Cultural Alliance’s leadership council.

Michael Manes – Vice Chair

Assistant Gallery Director – Blue Spiral 1

Michael Manes is the Assistant Gallery Director at Blue Spiral 1, a fine art and craft gallery located in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Blue Spiral 1 represents work by exceptional Southern artists in a light-filled gallery spanning three floors. This spacious setting allows the gallery to offer considerable diversity and an extensive exhibition schedule, curating over 20 shows annually. As the Assistant Director, Michael has a number of responsibilities from art consulting and sales for both a residential and commercial clientele, curating, programming and installing exhibitions, and the overseeing of web and social media maintenance. Michael not only has an integral role at the gallery but is also heavily involved in the Asheville arts community. Michael is currently the Vice President of the Asheville Downtown Gallery Association (ADGA)/Downtown Asheville Art District (DAAD). He is also passionate about American Craft Week, Handmade in America, The Center for Craft Creativity and Design, and all national non profits located in Asheville, where he takes an active role as a volunteer and consultant. He believes American Craft enriches our homes, our wardrobes, our offices, and most importantly our public spaces. It contributes to our economy, our balance of trade, and the fabric of our nation’s history. Most recently, Michael was nominated and selected to participate in Leadership Asheville and is very excited to collaborate with other community leaders. Michael holds a BFA in Painting and Art-History from the Columbus College of Art and Design and currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Judy Bond – Treasurer

AVP, Store Manager ll, TD Bank

Judy Bond grew up in Asheville, NC and graduated from UNC Asheville with a BS in Psychology and certifications for teaching grades 4-6 and 6-9.  Bond has worked in banking management for 27 years.  She is committed to community service, as she serves as the Treasurer for the Asheville Area Arts Council, and also serves on the WNC Make-A-Wish Council and United Ways WL Council.  She is the Board Chair for the West Buncombe Fire Department and also volunteers with WNC Special Olympics.

Denise M. Drury Homewood – Secretary

M.A. Curator, Fine Art Museum, Western Carolina University

Denise Drury is the Curator at the Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University. At WCU she oversees the acquisition, exhibition and care of the permanent collection of 1,500 works of modern and contemporary art and leads special topics courses in arts administration and museum studies. During her 10 years of experience as an arts administrator, she has served in education and leadership roles at variety of institutions in the US and abroad. Previously, Drury served as the Executive Director of 621 Gallery, a nonprofit contemporary art gallery, a position in which she was honored by the Florida House of Representatives at Women in the Arts Day (2008). She has also served as a consultant for numerous arts organizations including the North Carolina Arts Council and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Drury currently represents art museums across North Carolina as Arts Section Chair for the North Carolina Museums Council. Denise Drury holds an MA in Arts Administration from Florida State University and currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she has the privilege of serving as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Asheville Area Arts Council.

Cortina Caldwell – Advisory Board

Founder: Visit and Venture

A native of rural Morganton, North Carolina, Cortina Jenelle Caldwell has always had a passion to serve and connect the surrounding community. After early years of working alongside her grandmother to grow the family catering business, Cortina was intrigued by the power of entrepreneurship. Continuing to grow her obsession with authenticity, Cortina’s nine year history in the hospitality industry and community sector includes leadership roles with Bill & Melinda Gates Millennium Scholars Program; UNC-Greensboro; Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels; and the Grove Park Inn.

In 2011, while completing her triple-focused Bachelor’s Degree of Science with a focus in Business, Education & Social Science, Cortina founded Visit & Venture, LLC. Under her company umbrella, Cortina has served as an Advisory Board member for Asheville Natural Wellness; a tourism development consultant for Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation; and a sought-after speaker and instructor for area organizations such as UNC-Pembroke, East Carolina University, HandMade in America and Caldwell Community College & Tech Institute.

As a result of the unique and focused business model created with Visit & Venture, Cortina was named the 2012 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year by the Minority Enterprise Development Committee of WNC and inducted into the Class of 2013 for 40 Under Forty Asheville. Most recently, Cortina was welcomed into the 33rd Class of Leadership Asheville.

Currently, Cortina is working toward a Master’s of Arts in Management & Leadership and once finished, aims to continue her quest for authenticity and vision for the collective community.

Cherry Lentz Saenger

Former Professor Mars Hill College

Cherry Lentz Saenger holds a Bachelors in Social Work and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Kentucky. She worked as a professor of Social Work for 27 years at Mars Hill College and belongs to the Academy of Certified Social Workers. While at Mars Hill College, she served as a faculty advisor for the Student Government Association, was a member of the Admissions and Academic Standards Committee, and was a member of the Visiting Artists and Lecturers. Cherry enjoys being involved in the community as she serves on the Board of Directors for the Asheville Area Arts Council. She has previously served on the Board of Directors for STEAM, Caring for Children, and the Western Carolinians for Criminal Justice. She was a member of the Peaks Society Development Committee. Cherry has been published in the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy.

David Starkey

Director, Asheville Lyric Opera

David Starkey is the founder and director of the Asheville Lyric Opera. In their 14th season, ALO produces opera and education programs year round. Prior to coming to Asheville, David performed as a professional opera singer and opera director based out of New York City. In addition to working with the ALO, David teaches at Mars Hill College as a music professor and is President of Vision Productions, the areas largest theatrical production company. David regularly acts on the national level as a consultant for cultural non-profits. With over 15 years of arts and business experience David is a champion of the time tested belief that communities are built through the sound disciplines of Cultural Entrepreneurs.

Larry Turner


Born in south Georgia and grew up in Zephyrhills, Florida. Attended University of South Florida and UNC Chapel Hill obtaining a degree in history. Received Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Emory University and practiced dentistry for 30+ yrs. before retiring 6 years ago. Has lived in Asheville area since 1974. Passionate about art.

Karen Brown


Karen K Brown is originally from New Jersey but raised in Asheville. She is a graduate of UNC – Asheville with a Bachelor in Fine Art. She was an art teacher for 10 years in the private school system and now a full time landscape painter in the River Arts District. Karen has art work in several galleries throughout the southeast. She and her husband Buster have raised 3 artist daughters and live in North Asheville. Karen has been an active participate in the community for over 30 years. She is a member of the Asheville Art Museum, Arts for Life, Asheville Downtown Gallery Association, Asheville Chamber of Commerce and a new board member of the Asheville Area Arts Council. When she is not painting, Karen enjoys photography, travel, riding her road bike and playing tennis.

Craig Harris

Vice President & Senior Investment Strategist, Wells Fargo

Craig Harris is a Vice President and Senior Investment Strategist for the Western Carolinas region of Wells Fargo Private Bank. Craig earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from Belhaven University where he played collegiate soccer. Mr. Harris is a Chartered Financial Analyst® charterholder, a member of the CFA Institute and lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife and three children. In his spare time, Craig enjoys all that Asheville has to offer: good beer/great food, a thriving art scene and incredible live music. He also suffers occasionally as a Liverpool Football Club fan.