Interim Executive Director
Stefanie Gerber Darr has been an independent museum consultant since moving to Asheville in 2014 and has worked with national craft organizations to manage traveling exhibitions and exhibition catalogs. She has also worked as the galleries and collection manager at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, an educator for public programs at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, gallery manager at Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, and as a performance artist in Humberto Duque’s Lightning Blues Express project at the Denver International Airport. She combines her training as a museum educator, curator, collections manager and maker to develop meaningful experiences for people with art.
Studio & Exhibitions Manager
Jen Gordon is the Studio & Exhibitions Manager for the Asheville Area Arts Council and the Refinery Creator Space. 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 2003. 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. The Refinery Creator Space project is representative of her personal goals to create a facility that can accommodate production in multiple mediums and artist work space. She believes that this program will operate as a facilitation in critical thinking, conceptual development, and artistic collaboration. We can’t wait to present this resource for our creative community.
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.
Janelle Wienke has a life time ingrained in the arts. Her education in anthropology, sustainable development and community and regional planning has propelled her into the field of creative placemaking. Previously the Entrepreneurship, and Small Town Revitalization program manager at HandMade in America, Janelle has developed a well rounded set of skills, and an eye for collaboration in the arts, to inspire creative economic development. Janelle manages the re-granting program for the Asheville Area Arts Council and looks forward to managing Grassroots Arts Program and other community grant opportunities through AAAC for Buncombe County organizations and artists.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Enterprise and Development Manager for ArtSpace Charter School
Josh Batenhorst is Enterprise and Development Manager for ArtSpace Charter School, a K-8 charter school that teaches 400 students in Swannanoa. He has been a teaching fellow with the A Plus Schools Network since 2007 and has worked across the country to help schools learn to improve their culture and capacity through integration of the arts. He was the Theatre Arts Integration Specialist at ArtSpace until his recent graduation from the Wake Forest Working Professionals MBA program. Josh believes in the power of the arts to engage and prepare students for work in the 21st Century and he currently blogs and writes about this work on the school’s website – www.artspacecharter.org.
Storyteller and Artist
Tiffany is a true storyteller and an artist in her own right. Much of her work in the community has been deeply involved in helping local and regional businesses craft online content and marketing strategies. She successfully co-managed the crowdfunding campaigns for three of Western North Carolina’s highest-earning projects in her time with JB Media Group and crafted social media, blog and website content/strategy for tourism and development for the Cherokee, the Smoky Mountains and many more. As a creative spirit engaged in community and art of all forms, she’s also dedicated to supporting and uplifting the arts community through freelance writing for several local and regional publications.