Visual Arts

OpenDoors of Asheville Art Gala

Lauren Stepp

OpenDoors Asheville

By Lauren Stepp

Shelia Lucas, a single mother and nutritional aide in Asheville, needed her two teenage boys to thrive. She always told them that to exist as young African-American men in a time defined by silent prejudice, they must don mortarboards and turn their tassels. They must graduate.

“Education means a better chance,” says Lucas. “You’ve got to finish school.”

Four years ago, graduation felt too far away for her youngest, 11-year-old Tyion. Both he and brother Shawn, then 15, grappled with undiagnosed dyslexia. They remained quiet in the classroom, hesitant to write or read aloud.

That’s when the family met Denise Turner, board member at OpenDoors of Asheville, a nonprofit dedicated to providing local youth with educational advocacy and enrichment. Turner pushed for educational intervention plans, aiding in Shawn’s transition to Carolina Day School and Tyion’s to Odyssey Community School, smaller classes being the attraction. She helped Shawn secure reliable transportation—a ’99 Jetta—and enrolled Tyion in Camp Spring Creek in Bakersville, an institute designed to improve reading skills. She even took the kids to doctor’s appointments.

Now, the attention is directed toward Shawn’s college search. This fall, he will be a first-generation college student and, his mother expects, a pacesetter for Tyion. On Saturday, March 11, at 6:30 p.m., the nonprofit will present “Art Affair 2017: Urban Canvas,” an art gala hosted at The Foundation Spot. The annual fundraiser showcases donated artwork from 75 artists, along with craft food and beverages provided by 25 local dining establishments.

“It’s truly a community affair,” says Jen Ramming, OpenDoors executive director.

For Lucas, the fundraiser is more personal. “OpenDoors goes the extra mile to give a child a better understanding of where they are and where they want to go.”

The Foundation Spot is located at 530 Lyman Street in Asheville’s River Arts District. General admission tickets to “Art Affair 2017: Urban Canvas” are $100 each, with VIP tickets available for $150. For more information about OpenDoors and to reserve tickets go to

Leave a Comment