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PAPA Presents: Footsteps & Brush Strokes Along the French Broad

Mike Wurman (left) and Doc Varn

Preserving a Picturesque America (PAPA) is an organization striving to protect our natural and historic places through the power of the arts. By finding the vantage points of the original 1800s artists from the publication Picturesque America, they are continuing the legacy that they started. The original serial contained almost 1,000 pieces of art.

Although they are seeking all of them, they focus on one section at a time in order to promote local awareness and create local chapters. PAPA is now focusing on the 12 engravings that featured scenes mostly along the French Broad River. PAPA Founder Scott Varn has been gathering artists from eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina for several years and has been guiding them to the vantage points of the original artist Harry Fenn.

Although a national project, local activism is critical. Artist Christopher Holt is the new president of the local WNC chapter for PAPA. He and more than 30 other artists have come together to create an exhibition and art sale this fall. The funds raised will go directly to saving these locations as well as to improving the health of the French Broad River.

To promote the upcoming exhibition, Varn, along with artist and writer Mike Wurman, will be doing something that is not been done in more than 100 years. They will take the entire 80-mile journey from Chimney Rock, NC, to Del Rio, TN, along the Buncombe Turnpike/Drovers Road, which was the route the original artist took in 1870.

Dressed in period clothing with sketchbooks in hand, they will follow in the footsteps and brushstrokes of those who helped Americans see our landscape as something to be cherished rather than exploited. They will travel by horseback, foot and boat, stopping at each of the original vantage points where Harry Fenn made his renderings. Local artists and the public are invited to meet the artists at each of the 12 locations to create, celebrate and learn about the local history from historians on site.

On Saturday May 8 at 9:30 a.m., Katherine Calhoun Cutshall of Pack Memorial Library special collections will be in Pritchard Park for a press opportunity. Later that day, they will also be hosting a free preview event in the River Arts District where they will share their stories and show how anyone can help with the local conservation efforts. All artists and conservation-minded folks are welcome for this informative and fun celebration where art and nature come together.

Tour itinerary:

May 4, 9:30 A.M.-12:30 p.m.
Chimney Rock (Site #12) at Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery Patio in Chimney Rock

May 5, 9:30 a.m.
Leave Chimney Rock by horseback to Sherrill’s Inn on the first leg of the adventure

May 8, 9:30 a.m.
Press interview opportunity at Pritchard Park (Historic Terminus of the Buncombe Turnpike) with founder, artist and historian

May 8, 7 p.m.
Stories, celebration and public preview, 8 River Arts Place

May 10, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
“Old Mill – Reems Creek” (#9) at Lake Louise Park, Weaverville

May 13, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
“Mountain Island “ (#4) vantage point (accessible only by boat)

May 14, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Lover’s Leap Views (#6, #7, #13) in Hot Springs

May 15, 10 a.m. 12 p.m.
“Ferry on the French Broad” (#11) in Hot Springs

May 15, 1 – 3 p.m.
“Scene on the French Broad” (#5) in Hot Springs

May 16, 2 – 5 p.m.
“Paint Rock”(#2) & “French Broad” (#3) in Hot Springs

May 17, 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
“The Smoky Mountains” (#1) along Paint Rock Trail in Hot Springs

May 17, 6 p.m.
Campout and Celebration at the Hillside Farm vantage point near Del Rio, TN

May 18, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
“A Farm on the French Broad” (#8) near Del Rio, TN

For more precise location information, contact For more information about Preserving a Picturesque America, visit

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