A Bit of Wildness in Sophistication – The Art of Scott Avett


This past Friday night I was witness to something remarkable, something magical.  In fact, I was more than a witness to this event.  I was an active part of it, an integral piece in the puzzle of community.  So too were the other 200 people who were present.  No piece was more important than another.  Rather, all were necessary to make the evening as powerful and memorable as it was.

It was to be an evening centered around the art of famed musician Scott Avett, co-frontman of The Avett Brothers and a native to Concord, NC.  However, it became so much more.  The fundraising event entitled, The Paintings of Scott Avett: Exploring Story and Spirituality was the brainchild of local artist Tom Schultz and his wife Sheila Ennis of Empathinc..  It was organized and executed flawlessly by a passionate and dedicated team of individuals, all working towards a common goal–to support one of Charlotte’s most valuable resources, The Educational Center.

I approached the evening with eagerness, curiosity, and excitement.  As I ascended the stairs to the second floor gallery, a mist of celebrity blanketed my thoughts.  This was going to be a very unique opportunity to be in the presence of an artistic genius away from his usual musical arena.  While my endless appreciation for Scott Avett’s talents was the driving force of  my attendance, I was surprised to find an anticipation bubbling up inside of me for something more.  It wasn’t until I walked into the gallery that I began to understand what that “more” was.

The gallery, which was actually an empty second story condominium two days prior, had been transformed into a maze of rooms adorned with Scott’s masterful oil paintings, charcoal sketches, and linocut prints.  People filled each room–mingling, laughing, eating, drinking, visiting, and carrying on.  I was drawn to familiar faces, and with the first hug and smile the mist began to clear.  While I was certainly in the presence of greatness, it was not simply in the form of one man, but rather in the group as a whole.  On that night, in that second floor gallery, community trumped celebrity.

Midway through the night people gathered around the front foyer of the gallery, eagerly awaiting the centerpiece of the event–storytelling by Scott Avett.  First, Sheila took a moment to share her thoughts about the event with us.  She highlighted the history and mission of The Educational Center, as well as its accomplishments.

“[The Educational Center] has been nationally acclaimed [as] a pioneer in research of religion education, particularly in the methodology called maieutics, which is the Greek word for midwife, and it means as a teacher or facilitator, you are not the authority.  You simply help another person work what that person may already know,”  Sheila explained.

As an educator myself, this resonated with me.  So often in formal education we get bogged down by authority and power and lose sight of our mission to facilitate learning.

Tilly Tice (President of the Board of Directors of The Educational Center) followed Sheila and commented on the theme of synchronicity that led up to the evening–a theme that by that point was more than palpable.  She thanked Scott Avett for his support of The Educational Center through his participation in the event, and praised him for being “committed to moving beneath the layers of human stories, of personal history, and experiences to discover deeper levels of spiritual reality and knowing.”

As Tom stepped up to the microphone, the anticipation for Scott’s talk grew even louder.  Tom, like Scott, is also an artist and a storyteller.  Through a few brief stories he explained his connection to Scott and how he relates to Scott’s paintings.

“When you see the color under the arm that is painted so deftly, you are dealing with something wild that is also sophisticated.  When you see one brush stroke that defines an entire toe so clearly and succinctly, you are looking at something wild that is also sophisticated.  I often compare Scott’s work to writers like early John Steinbeck…sometimes I think that there’s an air of grit to the reality that he portrays.  There is a bit of wildness in sophistication.  I hope you recognize that and after looking at these paintings, accept Scott’s invitation to you to find the wildness in you that’s wrapped up in your sophistication,”  Tom shared.

We hadn’t even gotten to the man of honor, yet I was already inspired by the passion and spark that came from Sheila, Tilly, and Tom.  I was not expecting this feeling, but welcomed it freely.  As Scott stepped out before us, his presence alone commanded respect and attention.  Perhaps it was the fact that the majority of those present are inspired daily by the lyrics of his songs, the earthiness and ease of his voice, his humbleness, or his homegrown charm.  The room was quiet, and we were all ready to listen.

Though he admittedly didn’t outline the conversation that followed (“for the past four months I kept this discipline of being really lazy and not planning anything”), Scott seamlessly wove themes of family, discipline, work ethic, and self-awareness together as he danced from story to story.  He was funny, expressive, honest and revealing in front of his audience.  It was plain to see that he came by his storytelling talents honestly, as his dad Jim is the original Avett storyteller–although I suspect there was a long line before him as well.

Scott candidly discussed the push and pull struggle of balancing this learned discipline and work ethic with his innate artistic drive.  He felt best to explain this through the writings of John Ruskin, in particular an essay entitled The Seeing and Feeling Creature.  Scott explained:

“Artists are put on this planet to do…three things.  [Ruskin] says we are here to see, and to feel, and to document.  The artist can try to think but he’s not here to do that.  He can try to explain and analyze but he’s not here to do that.  He can go to parties but he’s not here to party.  He can’t.  He really can’t…As soon as he feels something he has to act on it and move on it.  The documenting, which is the third thing in this description and I believe this is true and I understood when I read it, quite a bit…With the seeing and feeling and the work ethic, there’s a balance that is ongoing for me and at the moment as I think about what I am called to do and my obligations to the visual and through song and through story, it feels in order.  But in the next moment it very well could flip over and find itself off the rails.”

Again, Tom’s theme of wildness in sophistication emerged in Scott’s words.  This theme has invaded much of what Scott Avett shows to the public, both in the recording and art studios.  There is a constant state of re-balancing taking place to keep the wildness at bay, but also to ensure that it isn’t smothered by the sophistication.

As the evening carried on, the energy continued to grow.  Scott had shared with us his stories and his outlook, and now it was our turn to share with others.  We made connections that will guide us along in our spiritual journeys.  Like-minded people from all walks of life created an experience that fostered community, and that was just the beginning.

The next day I returned to the gallery to pick-up the piece of Scott’s artwork that I purchased.  The rooms were quiet and the sun shone in through the windows, creating a new perspective on the space and his paintings.  However, the spark and the energy that permeated through the space the night before remained.  Could we go back and do it again?  I wish we could, but in all honesty it wouldn’t be the same.  The synchronicity of that evening was a once in a lifetime alignment of our lives that we will remember for years to come.

To see some of Scott’s art please click HERE


February 28, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Emotion, Friends, Life. 3 comments.

My new life as a CSA agent

"The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor" ~Hubert H. Humphrey

When I moved to eastern NC I was excited to find out that our small town had a weekly farmer’s market.  Armed with a reusable tote and ready for a plethora of fresh produce, DH and I walked downtown to see what our quaint new town had to offer.  As we approached the market we saw a small collection of 4 stands, and looked around to see if we were missing something, both equally perplexed.  We thought to ourselves, “Is this it? No…there has to be more.”  But that was it…welcome to rural NC.  Despite its meager appearance, we were able to find just what we needed, a few ears of sweet corn, red potatoes, and green beans.  We visited the farmer’s market a few times through the Summer and into Fall as our schedule permitted, and each time left with some type of delicious local produce.  Walking to the farmers market and purchasing local goods made me feel more connected to my new community, and I liked being able to make a contribution, albeit small, to our neighboring NC farmers.

Fast forward 6 months, and I was eagerly awaiting the return of our little farmer’s market, which took a hiatus during the Winter.   There is something so satisfying about supporting local farmers that makes the food taste even sweeter, and I was getting hungry to feel that again.  Just when I thought I would have to wait ’til well into Spring, a friend told me about our local CSA.  I had no idea what a CSA was, but learned quickly that it stood for Community Supported Agriculture.  I immediately loved the idea and wanted to learn more.

Apparently CSA programs were the brain child of some German, Swiss and Japanese (perhaps…there are conflicting reports of origins in Japan) progressive-hippies in the 1960’s, who fashioned their program after the economic ideas of Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner.  In the mid-80’s, CSA programs sprouted up in the US at two small New England farms (Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts and the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire).  Over the past 30 years, CSA programs have increased in size and number and established themselves as integral parts of communities across America.

The basic design of a CSA seems fairly straight forward.  In general terms, the farmers, organizers and consumers agree on a seasonal budget/payment plan, and as the seasons progress they all share in the “risk and reward” of whatever is produced.  In theory, and often times in reality, this design minimizes costs, time, and labor, and maximizes the farmer’s ability to focus on and improve the quality of his/her product.  Many programs offer a variety of distribution options, ranging from pick-up to home delivery on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  Consumers may also order predetermined weekly boxes of produce if they choose not to purchase the seasonal package.  While this fundamental design is in place to guide the organization of these programs, CSA programs also have the freedom and flexibility to evolve into something that fits a specific community while still achieving a common goal.

So, after collecting minimal but very convincing data, I am now a self-proclaimed CSA “agent” in my community.  I have completed my first assignment by joining the eastern NC CSA, Locavore Market.  For ~$20 per delivery, I will receive local NC produce, meats, dairy, nuts, etc. from late March through early June…delivered to my doorstep!  How awesome is that?!  I have already tested the waters by purchasing a weekly box of local produce, which included baby bok choy, collards, sweet potatoes, cabbage, and baby tatsoi.  I have to say that the purchasing and pick-up processes were seamless and the produce I received was of high quality!  I am thrilled at the thought that I will not only be forced to experiment with and try new and very fresh foods, but that I will also be making a positive contribution to my local farming community.  Sounds like a no-brainer to me!  While I am still pretty “green” in my experience with CSA programs, I feel confident predicting that the rewards will by far outweigh the risks, particularly when I think about the positive ripple effect that this type of program can have on surrounding communities.

To find out more about CSA programs in your area and get involved, please visit Local Harvest.  Also, stay tuned for additional CSA blogs, which will be sure to chronicle the many successes and defeats I will experience in my kitchen with these new and healthy  ingredients!

February 28, 2011. Tags: , , , , . Food. Leave a comment.

%d bloggers like this: