Janelle Wienke

Interim Executive Director


Janelle Wienke is the Interim Executive Director of the Asheville Area Arts Council (AAAC). As a member of the AAAC team since 2015, Wienke has distributed nearly $250,000 in grants to Buncombe county arts organizations and artists, created the Arts Build Community grant and led the creation of the cultural equity statement. Before the AAAC, Wienke managed Entrepreneurship and Small Town Revitalization programs at HandMade in America, a regional organization growing the craft economy in Western North Carolina. Janelle brings an education in anthropology, sustainable development and community, and regional planning, experience consulting grassroots organizations to plan and implement art centered initiatives, and a life ingrained in the arts.

Mamie Fain

Program Manager


Mamie has had a spirited appreciation for the arts since childhood. Always surrounded by creative educators and art enthusiasts, it was only a matter of time before joining the field herself. She is a graduate of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina and holds a BA in art history with a minor in studio. Before joining the AAAC, she worked as a corporate retail manager specializing in women’s fashion. Mamie joined the team as an eager intern excited to get involved in the community and is now ready to embark on a new adventure as programs manager. She is passionate about serving the council and encouraging a sustainable future for the arts community of Asheville.

Andrew Nelson

Development Manager


Andrew is passionate about art. He has been since taking a high school humanities class. He deepened his understanding of art history by studying in Rome, Italy. Once rooted back home, he worked on national and local political campaigns to further causes he cares about, including the environment and culture. For the past four years, Andrew has been serving as membership manager at The Wolfsonian-FIU, where he worked with board members, donors, and members to fulfill their mission. Andrew looks forward to using his skills as a student, an advocate, and a fundraiser to help the Asheville Area Arts Council.

Dana Schiffman

Marketing Manager


Dana loves telling people about opportunities that can help them succeed. Combined with her love of the arts and Asheville, it is no wonder she ended up at the Arts Council. Dana received a BFA in Photography form the State University of New York at New Paltz. After graduation, she spent some time working and living in New England (including a stint as a photo assistant at World Wrestling Entertainment Magazine) before she moved down south. In Asheville, Dana has become very involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC, serving as a Big Sister and the Sectary of the Board. In 2018 she was voted the Big Sister of the Year in NC. Dana is passionate about the ensuring economic stability for children and artists in the area and will work hard to make sure they can flourish in our community.  

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.


2018-19 Board of Directors

Josh Batenhorst – Vice Chair

CEO Bright Star Touring Theatre

Josh Batenhorst is the CEO of Bright Star Touring Theatre. Bright star is one of the nation’s largest providers of theatrical programming for young audiences in schools libraries, museums and theaters performing over 2000 shows annually across the nation and around the world. Josh is committed to the power of the arts in education and was a classroom drama teacher for 12 years and continues that work as Teaching Fellow with A+ Schools of NC, a program of the NC Arts Council that works to improve schools through the power of the arts.

Ehren Cruz

Performing Arts Director, LEAF Community Arts

Ehren Cruz is the Performing Arts Director for the non-profit organization LEAF Community Arts.  Going on its 24th year, LEAF serves the mission of building community, connecting cultures and enriching lives through music & arts through its signature events, local and international outreach programs. Over the past five years, Cruz has successfully produced nine consecutive sellout LEAF Festivals, welcoming 12,000 patrons and over 400 artists twice each year into the heart of Western North Carolina. He is also the lead producer of LEAF Downtown AVL, the largest, free non-ticketed event in Downtown Asheville hosting over 20,000 patrons each event. Above and beyond event curation, Ehren Cruz serves as a professional speaker and arts advocate leading workshops, panels, and presentations throughout North America on topics such as: Mission-centric event design, artist professional development, enhancing creativity, diversity & equity programming, and community building through the arts. 

Bill Dorfman – Development Committee


Michael Ebbs

Michael Ebbs is a Vice President within Wells Fargo Treasury Management Client Services with 20 years in the Financial Services industry in both career and consultative pursuits. Michael earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Appalachian State University. Mr. Ebbs is an Asheville native and 6th generation descendent of the Ebbs family which settled in Madison County in the late 1790s. He splits his time between his home in Weaverville and mountain farm in Madison County, North Carolina. In his spare time, Michael is a published Fine Art Photographer having maintained a studio in the old Phil Mechanic building in the Rivers Arts District (RAD) in the past. His art has been displayed as far as New Zealand division of Tourism to Publishing Houses in London as well as multiple sales of his work to public and private collections within the United States. His work was also a winner of the prestigious Indiana University East Whitewater Valley Art Competition (Hosting prestigious artists and art experts of national acclaim for the jurying). He is an avid fly fisherman, outdoor enthusiast, and world traveler with a deep passion for the arts. 

David Feingold – Development Committee

General Manager and CEO of WCQS

David Feingold is the General Manager and CEO of WCQS – Western North Carolina Public Radio, Inc. He joined WCQS July, 2015, after 16-years at NET – Nebraska’s state-wide public radio and television networks – where he was the senior manager for content. At NET he worked closely with the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Humanities Council in developing series and documentaries. David spent the first part of his career in public radio news departments in the Midwest before a shift to television, including 11-years at CNN where he served as Business News Editor, National Editor, and London Bureau Chief. In the UK, he also worked for Reuters as Executive Editor Worldwide for television cover. He received a BA in Psychology from the State University of New York at Binghamton, and an MA in Mass Communications from Central Missouri State University, with an emphasis in broadcast and journalism law.

Angela Lausell – Event Committee

Angela Lausell holds a Bachelor’s in Information Technology and a Masters in Business Administration as well as several technical certifications. She has worked in IT management and IT Professional services for over 20 years. During this time, she has worked as a project manager, IT manager and in multiple technology consultancy roles for companies like Teva Pharmaceuticals, Terremark, Assurant, Florida Power & light and several software startups. Angela enjoys bringing the local community together. She is the co-host and organizer of the annual Snout & Stout event, which brings together Asheville’s local technology startups and businesses for a fun social gathering. Angela also served on the events committee of the “Annual Feast among the Grapes”, a food & wine fundraising event for the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI). In her spare time, Angela enjoys hosting themed parties, event design, photography, Iphoneography, painting, costume design and graphic design.

Pete Perez

Pete Perez is a retired executive living in Asheville since 2010. He earned a BS in Business from Eastern Illinois University and an MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. He has held a number of top Human Resources executive positions including Kraft Pepsi and ConAgra Foods, with a focus on talent management/leadership development culture change and diversity. He has a passion for the arts and artists in Asheville that are such a crucial part of this special city. His wife Cindy and artist daughter Lisa live in Asheville his son Pete lives in the Chicago area.

Gael Perry – Events Committee

Three years ago and after 35 years in New Orleans, my husband, Joseph Pearson, and I moved to Asheville. As expected much thought went into this decision to leave a city we loved and try our wings in this beautiful area. Two of the most important objectives in our search for a new home was that this community have a vital arts and cultural presence and be an inclusive area
( I’ll throw in great food, too.)
Actually, I was born here in West Ashevile, left when I was 6 years old, returned to UNC Chapel Hill for college. We lived in many areas of the country and i traveled and lived in Spain after college; therefore, I have been exposed to many diverse cultures and populations. After college, I set a goal of traveling both nationally and internationally and collecting art. Both of which I have done.
I worked in Washington, DC and New Orleans as a Dental Hygienist and then taught at LSU School of Dentistry for 8 years and was an Associate Professor after graduate school. After teaching, I became a sales and marketing representative for 30 years for several large Pharmaceutical companies. During this period, I was also receiving training as an artist.
Now, we live in West Asheville and I have returned to my roots which belies the title of a novel by a famous local author “You Can’t Go Home Again”.

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.

Noel Swartz – Treasurer

Shareholder, Johnson Price Sprinkle PA

Noel, an Ohio native, most recently lived in Massachusetts.  He moved to Asheville from Boston in 2013 and joined JPS working in assurance services.  He is a CPA and holds a B.A. in Accounting and Finance from Ohio Northern University. Growing up, Noel took the requisite three years of piano lessons at an early age and dabbled with pottery and photography during and after college.  In his spare time, Noel enjoys cycling, racing cars, playing the guitar and spending time with his wife and extended family.

Eunice Ward – Development Committee

Retired Lawyer

Eunice Ward Recently moved to Asheville from Chicago. She was retired from her law practice in which she was a family lawyer. While practicing for some 30 years, Eunice was an active member of several law organizations, particularly the Women’s Bar Association and Lawyers for the Creative Arts. She was the founding president and a long-time board member of a not-for-profit helping women in the countries of the former Soviet Union develop grassroots organizational skills.

Now making her home in this vibrant creative community, Eunice is most interested in assisting artists to reach their full potential. She desires to use her organizational, business, and professional skills to assist the AAAC to act as a strong leader and mentor for the Asheville creative communities.

Liz Whalen Tallent

Liz Whalen Tallent is an Asheville native who left for college at UNC-Chapel Hill, but later returned to raise her family and settle down in the hometown she loves. She has headed up marketing and special events at the Orange Peel since 2006. Before she started at the Peel, she served as the Marketing Director for a national baby and juvenile products brand, and also worked as a product developer for a children’s clothing company. When not at the Orange Peel, Liz also enjoys doing freelance work planning & designing weddings and corporate events for clients around Western NC for Asheville Event Company.

She formerly served on the board and Issues Committee of the Asheville Downtown Association for 6 years, and currently serves as the Events chairperson for Moms Demand Action Asheville. She is passionate about preserving Asheville’s authenticity and creative spirit, and feels strongly that arts advocacy and the leadership of the AAAC during this time of unprecedented growth are critical, as our creative and artistic community endeavor to be recognized and acknowledged by our local leadership and our fellow Ashevillians as the core of what makes our city so special.

Liz and her husband of 6.5 years, Josh, and their 3 beloved children: Ben, age 5, and twins Helen Kate and Louise, ages 18 months, along with their elderly fur-child (of the canine variety), Suzy, live in North Asheville.


Advisory Committee

Robin Croog, Retired Business Executive
Hedy Fischer, Cultural Pollinator
Mark Goldberg, Retired Executive/Entrepreneur
Craig Harris, Investment Manager, Wells Fargo
Susan Holden
Melissa Jacobs, Artist
Karen Keil Brown, Artist
Michael Manes, Gallery Director, Blue Spiral 1
Gar Ragland
Cherry Saenger, Retired Professor
Larry Turner, Artist
Susan Turner, Craftsperson/Retired Entrepreneur
Lynn Weekes Karegeannes, Community Volunteer


Events Committee

Julieta Fumberg

Julieta Fumberg Studio – Marketing Agency

My name is Julieta Fumberg from Julieta Fumberg Studio – Marketing Agency. As a photographer and graphic designer, I develop websites to my client’s specifications using my 15 years of experience of adding creative and innovative ideas each and every day. Through a comprehensive process of extracting the desires and needs of my client’s I present a perfect translation of their business’ mission. My finished worked demonstrates innovative artwork and one of a kind design that allows my client’s website to stand out from their competition.