Arts Heritage/History

Support Conservation: PAPA Spring Art Auction

French Broad River Island. Deborah Squier, artist

By Emma Castleberry

Preserving a Picturesque America (PAPA) will host its Spring Art Auction and Benefit, presented and hosted by Brunk Auctions, on Thursday, June 16. PAPA is a nonprofit dedicated to finding and recreating 1,000 original pieces from the 1870s series Picturesque America, which depicts natural and historic landmarks across the US and contributed to the early conservationist movement. “One hundred and fifty years ago, the original Picturesque America changed the way the citizens looked at the natural world, and it is the aim of PAPA and these new adventure artists to do the same,” says Scott Varn, executive director of PAPA. “They return to the exact location where the original 1870s artist created his work and make a modern interpretation to show how things have changed.”

Portrait of artist Harry Fenn. Angela Cunningham, artist.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with an Art Preview and Artist Reception with wine, appetizers and music by acoustic guitarist Phil Alley. Proceeds from the auction of art works will support local conservation organizations such as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Asheville GreenWorks, Carolina Mountain Club, Chimney Rock State Park, MountainTrue, Pisgah Conservancy, Friends of Cherokee National Forest and RiverLink. For each piece sold, the contributing artist receives half of the proceeds and a designated organization receives the other half. “The proceeds will go to protecting specific cultural and natural icons as well as improving the health of the French Broad River,” says Varn.

Christopher Holt’s charcoal work, Lover’s Leap, will be on the auction block. The piece was completed in March of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. “I usually paint in watercolor or oil when working outdoors, but for this drawing, I used charcoal,” he says. “Looking back on it now, the medium captures the moment we were living in: a lot of gray area, the brightness of life kind of tuned down, and there is one tree that kind of reaches across the others, a bit askew. Maybe I’m reading too much into my own drawing, but there is a subconscious editing going on when you’re working outdoors and from life and when I see this, the feeling of 2020 comes roaring back. Much of art is somewhat of a time capsule and viewing it through the lens of preservation—seeing what is here now as compared to a picture drawn 150 years ago—can really tell you something.”

Fine artist and illustrator Bryan Koontz will also have a piece in the auction titled, The Smokies–Weaver’s Bend. “The Auction will be a great way to raise funds for PAPA as they endeavor to draw attention to these views and help preserve them,” says Koontz. “Many are located in National Forests and Parks, but many are not, and have been lost to development over the last 150 years. Sadly, many of the views within the parks themselves have been vandalized, so with the help of these funds, PAPA will get the word out and inspire volunteers that would be able to repair or help restore the vistas.”

Brunk Auctions is located at 117 Tunnel Road in Asheville. For more information about the auction, contact PAPA at 828-273-5383. Visit to learn more or to buy tickets.

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