I found myself driving with a packed car to what felt like the end of the world. Azule, a place hidden in the belly of the Western Carolina mountains invites, inspires, calms and moves. My first artist in residence in North Carolina turned out to be quite the adventure. Azule is situated 6 miles from Hot Springs, an hour northwest of Asheville. Another way to understand it's location would be to describe it as a place with no cellphone reception and very spotty wifi.
It is only
when you leave the highway for the smaller state roads, that you begin to comprehend the breathtaking beauty and wilderness of this area. The last part of the drive from Hot Springs to Bluff mountain was one I will dream about for days to come. It felt as though the road was rolling out at whim, winding itself around the steadfast mountains. I imagined how my car might have looked like a speck of silver, appearing and disappearing under the thick canopy of trees. This roller coaster drive was an experience in itself. It ended abruptly into a gravel road at a sign carved in stone, lazily pointing to the road ahead. On driving further a beehive of a house suddenly appeared, as if to have grown out of the ground much like the wilderness around it. Azule is nestled into a quiet spot with Pisgah National Forest enveloping it in all directions. The story of the house is as incredible as the couple who built it. Camille, the only surviving owner views the house as an unfinished creation - imagining walls, windows, colors and spaces that would one day create her perfect art piece.
interiors are unconventional, cozy, dusty, lined with books, photographs, plants, pottery, collected objects and things - hundreds of them, stored with purpose. There are windows everywhere like paintings perfectly framing the vistas around it. I picked one such spot and spent many hours working and gazing out on the rolling greens. Camille had to leave for a two day trip just as I came in, which also meant I had to now reimagine what my project was going to be. She showed me and another resident around the house and left for her trip. For sometime after, I sat there motionless overwhelmed by the silence. It took a little time and support from my husband's distant voice on the landline to calm my nerves and embrace this solitude. But I soon realized that the house was never really still, it was like a living thing- creaking, stretching, sighing and constantly adjusting itself. To add to this, the sounds coming in from the forests provided the perfect melody for this soundscape. The house never felt alone.
the neighbor and an Azule board member checked in on us a few times each day. She was amused at my impulse to lock doors and said how she had never used those things since moving up the road from Camille in 1978. In each of her visit she would tell me stories about Azule that would linger in my mind for hours to come. Camille's life is worthy of a film. This petit French woman with one arm, has imagined and constructed this magical place along with her late husband, Dave. It seems like all the hardships in her life prepared her for this colossal task. She witnessed so much destruction in her war-torn childhood, that she has spent the rest of life rebuilding. At age 72, she does not seem any less convinced or doubtful of her idea to create this beautiful house where artists and the local communities can share life and art. Her spirit ties in well to a random book I picked from the library shelf about the Appalachian trail thru-hikers who walked over 2,000 miles in all kinds of weather and hardship. I could not help but draw parallels to their drive and Camille's maddening vision of an artistic utopia in the middle of nowhere.
gave me a lot. I was able to accomplish my personal work but also leave with a worldview that has changed something inside of me. I worked on a personal project and filmed extensively around the property. The rest of the time, I read, played an old piano (I don't play), drove around Bluff Mountain, talked to locals and took photographs, lot of photographs. One of the afternoon in particular, convinced me about the power of this place. It was at lunchtime when a group of 12 visual and performance artists and activists from all over the East coast, suddenly descended onto Azule. They were part of a retreat organized by Alternate Roots, which Camille is involved in for many years. We talked and exchanged ideas and it seemed like the house was charged with possibilities. Azule has surely left a mark on me. It has slowed me down, disconnected me, engaged me, made me think and create, all in just four days.
Think before you throw away!
Camille’s art, is a product of re-purposed, re-cycled and up-cycled scraps and broken items. Camille welcomes donations of glass, pottery, porcelain, tiles, stones and more for her ongoing mosaic projects. Thank you for your support!
We have a new board member
I began life in the desert of E. Oregon in a (small) ranch family. I was schooled there and then for a short bit @ the U of Oregon in Eugene before moving to Chapel Hill, NC as a young grad student wife. After some more school in CH, I moved to the mountains of Madison Co. almost 40 years ago. I am lucky to be at home in the mountains.
I do not think of myself as an artist, unless you count being in high school band and organizing the laundry on the line by color. I am, however, one who applauds in the audience. I am grateful for those who have worked over the years to bring AZULE to its realization and look forward to working with others on the board into the future.
Bluff Mountain Music Festival
The festival was started as a public protest against clearcutting in Madison County. There are renewed threats of clearcutting in the county, but the people are ready.
The Bluff Mountain Music Festival was joyous again this year. The Azule tent, with Lynda, Michelle and Sherry, was very popular! It offered free arts and crafts for the children attending the event. Myra wrote Azule after the festival :“Thanks for creating a wonderful tiger. She growled and terrorized the streets of Hot Springs and enjoyed it immensely.”
Children of all ages enjoyed these services. Mustaches and arm tattoos were popular with the local teens. Ted wrote, “I appreciate your thoughtfulness and fine attention to detail in making a most beautiful peacock! Made our daughter very happy!”
Everyone had a great time! Look forward to seeing YOU next year!
UPCOMING residents in July and August:
Theatre Artist Anna Carter, Writer Sharon Wexler and Writer Nina Carroll
Azule is currently accepting applications for future retreats, residencies and skill shares.
The deadline date is AUGUST 15.
All these years you have been part of the ongoing
"AZULE portraits project"
Hundreds of these portraits are now on canvas and ready for you to sign
Come and Sign yours !
Photos in this issue are contributed by
Donna Cooper Hurt, Gwylene Gallimard,
Lynda Wheelock, Michelle Suttle,
Myra and Sukhada Gokhale.
AZULE's Mission is "To provide an environment where artists and community meet, learn and work together through the arts in their many forms."
TO ALL DONORS:
Thank you so much for helping AZULE board members and volunteers to move AZULE on its necessary journey. Come, visit and participate. Invite your friends!
THANK YOU :Kathie de Nobriga, Betsy Reiser,
Gary and Lavonne Roy, Sherry Wilson, Lynda Scott, Michelle Suttle, Jean-Marie Mauclet, Bunny Halton-Subkis, Gwylene Gallimard, Omari Fox and Randy Bell, Henriette Brouwers & John Malpede, Takia Dickens, Joe Ebel, Todd Fowler, Louise Graff, Mark & Joyce Hulbert, Donna Hurt, Lorrie Jayne, Rena Lash, Kim Marin Rollin,
Tom Morris & Eye Productions, Lisa Mount, Olivier Rollin, Sue Schroeder, Carolyn Stewart, Arlette Vaccarino, Rebecca Gahagan, Dan Beckwith and Barbara Bates Smith, Jeff Sebens.
THANK YOU also to all Board Members who gave countless hours of in-kind work. And THANK YOU to all who organize, promote or come to our programs.
AZULE is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Your donations are tax-deductible from your income.
For a visit call Camille828-622-3533
For information on AZULE's programs, to make any proposal, to apply for a residency or retreat, to book AZULE or to register for any of our offerings, visit AZULE website www.AZULE.org and e-mail us at AZULEart@gmail.com
You are all
AZULE may bring you the opportunity to meet great artists, attend a SkillsShare or learn about a traditional Appalachian Skill, experience a rejuvenating space for residencies, retreats, staff or wellness meetings. Come and visit, give us a call.