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Spotlight On: Blue Note Junction

DeWayne Barton and Safi Martin, creators of the Blue Note Junction project. Photo by Catherine Siravantha

New Project Offers Visionary Plan for Arts, Wellness, Business Incubation in Historic Neighborhood

By Bellamy Crawford

Imagine a space that is vibrant with diversity; bustling with creative local business ventures; alive with edible plants, gardening classes and healthy cooking workshops; and exemplary in its ability to heal, rejuvenate and uplift entire communities through artistic performances, wellness opportunities and environmental sustainability. While this vision may sound like something from one of Octavia Butler’s science fiction novels, it is exactly what Blue Note Junction promises for the historic Burton Street neighborhood.

Blue Note Junction is the brainchild of local visionaries DeWayne Barton and Safi Martin. The inspired wife/husband duo have been collaborating on successful projects aimed at rebuilding Affrilachia in and around Asheville for more than 20 years. Their endeavors include the popular Hood Huggers Tours; the Peace Garden and Market (which has delivered more than 1,500 pounds of produce to neighborhood elders since 2019); HHI-Under Instruction, a neighborhood youth program based on experiential learning; and a competitive artist retreat and residency that attracts creatives from around the globe.

Photo by Catherine Siravantha

“We’ve been working on the vision and plans for the Blue Note Junction since 2010 when we completed our initial Burton Street Neighborhood Plan,” says Martin. “We were inspired by the collective vision of our neighborhood and by the incredible agricultural and entrepreneurial legacy of our neighborhood’s founder E.W. Pearson. In fact, the name Blue Note Junction is a nod to Pearson’s community store, which eventually became known as the Blue Note Casino.”

When brought to fruition, Blue Note Junction will offer a space that is part cultural center, part neighborhood spa, part event venue and part buy-local retail outlet. In other words, the project will provide an all-inclusive, healing, educational and entrepreneurial hub that not only supports the health and wealth of the local BIPOC community but promotes the spiritual, emotional and economic health of the entire city.

“The current vision and plan finally came together over the course of the last year and builds on Hood Huggers International’s mission of creating a culture of sustainability and health that is inclusive and socially just by using the arts, environment and social enterprise,” says Martin.

The primary anchors of the Blue Note Junction project are a produce market and nursery, a community mini-spa, a commercial kitchen, indoor and outdoor performance spaces and the future home of Hood Tours. Each synergistic component of the project has underpinnings for promoting health and helping launch local BIPOC businesses. Also integral to Blue Note’s vision is the critical role youth will play in its development.

“We believe that education exists beyond the walls of the traditional school—and that most youth learn best by doing,” Martin says. “Making the development of Blue Note Junction an interactive and experiential learning opportunity does several essential things: it gives youth real-world experience with the excitement and challenges of bringing a project of this magnitude to life, teaches them hard and soft skills that they will use for the rest of their lives, invests them in their own community and gives them a greater sense of belonging and importance, and prepares them for a successful work experience, either working for someone or starting their own enterprise.”

Blue Note Junction site plan designed by Angelia Rossi

Blue Note Junction is currently in the fund-raising phase of development and has already raised 70 percent of the $500,000 needed to purchase the property on which the project will be built. The entire venture, including the design and construction of the project’s facilities, is estimated to cost $6 million.

“While we’re extremely excited to have folks’ financial support, we also appreciate help with spreading the word,” says Martin. “Phase Two of the project will include additional fundraising and initiation of the planning phase—in which we will be needing various levels of expertise (legal, architectural, design, financial planning and business structure and more). We welcome in-kind contribution of these professional skills, as well.”

All investments and revenue generated by Blue Note Junction will be reinvested back into BIPOC neighborhoods and endeavors throughout the Asheville region.

To learn more about Blue Note Junction, Hood Huggers International and the Peace Gardens & Market, or to make a financial contribution to Blue Note Junction, visit To offer an in-kind donation of professional skills, contact

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