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Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League Holds 50th Anniversary Show

Farmfields. Frances Greenberg, artist.

By Erich Reinhard

Half a century ago, Black Mountain was somewhat smaller than the small town it remains today. Its fine arts scene had not formed the connections with more distant towns like Morganton and Hendersonville that would shape its regional presence.

When Mrs. Eugene (Mary) Gilbert, having moved from Pennsylvania, visited the Monte Vista Hotel in October 1967, she decided to create with 16 other women a welcoming circle of local artists that taught, counseled and supported each other to see their best work and potential realized. That circle became The Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League (SVFAL) which will celebrate this 50- year legacy with its Annual Members’ Juried Exhibit at the Red House Gallery and Studios in Black Mountain from July 14 through September 3. An opening reception will be held on Friday, July 14 from 5–7 p.m.

Upon moving to the Red House six years ago, the group of community artists has grown to more than 140 members. Offerings include lectures, frequent exhibits, “paint-togethers,” workshops from nationally lauded teachers and scholarships awarded to artistic children and adults.

While the name suggests a local artistic groundswell, “it was originally chosen because members lived primarily in the Swannanoa River Valley,” says Susan Lueck, the show’s curator. “Many now live in the greater Asheville area and surrounding towns.”

The League carries out its vision through a range of two- and three-dimensional mediums, including sculpture, clay, glass, wood, pen and ink, oil, pastel, acrylic, watercolor, collage, fiber art and photography. For the juried exhibit, only the best work will be selected by this year’s judge, the River Arts District’s Fleta Monaghan.

Monaghan is also the creator of 310 ART, a joint studio space allowing adult arts instruction to take place beside her own studio and the workspaces of other practicing artists. Abstract art and mixed media form part of her current focus, though her repertoire includes portraiture, still life and other traditions.

For 2016, the SVFAL Best of Show was Lynn Newhouse’s Everything Is Not Black And White. The large oil painting shows a male-female couple playing chess: on the left, the man is absorbed in making his next move; on the right, his companion, having moved some time ago, buries herself in a romance novel.

“The viewer may wonder what is going through the minds of the chess players, but can never be sure,” Newhouse says. “It’s just not as clear as black and white.”

To learn more about the Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League, visit

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