Matt Peiken

Arts Producer

Matt Peiken, BPR’s first full-time arts journalist, has spent his entire career covering arts and culture.

He spent ten years at the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota writing profiles, opinion columns, and trend stories on visual, literary and performing arts. At WCPO Television in Cincinnati, Ohio, he produced videos and created podcasts for WCPO.com about area artists and cultural events.  Returning to Minnesota, he created an independent online arts television series, 3-Minute Egg, which he expanded into a weekly broadcast series on Twin Cities Public Television.  

Matt has served as a regional editor for Patch.com, part of a national network of hyperlocal news sites. He was also the Managing Editor of the Walker Magazine, the bimonthly publication of the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis.

Matt says he was drawn to Blue Ridge Public Radio and Asheville for the opportunity to produce public radio journalism in a region that is renowned for its creative community. He’s especially interested in forming partnerships across Western North Carolina that shine a light on regional artists for new audiences. He received his Bachelor of Arts in journalism at California State University – Fresno, and was the recipient of a National Arts Journalism Program Fellowship and a Poynter Institute Fellowship.

Ways to Connect

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Like the swallows that return every year to San Juan Capistrano, David Wilcox’s most devoted followers — it’s an insult to refer to them as mere fans — return every spring to Kanuga Lake, outside Hendersonville.

Wilcox Weekend, as it’s known, is an annual ritual drawing a couple dozen people from around the country, along with some of their children and several of their dogs. The eighth Wilcox Weekend was May 4-6.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Gavin Geoffrey Dillard has a story to tell.

“I ended up being in a relationship with David Geffen,” he said.

And another.

“I wrote comedy for Joan Rivers, Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Vincent Price, Peggy Lee.”

And another.

“I was the No.1 gay porn star in the world for two years.”

And another.

While Asheville's twice-annual LEAF Festival is best known as a music festival, the Trillium Dance Company has performed each spring and fall at LEAF for the past five years. In this video, step inside a company rehearsal and learn what Trillium founder Leslie Rogers has on tap for the spring 2018 LEAF.

Courtesy of Brie Capone

When Brie Capone talks about her roots in music, she can seem a little impressionable.

“I had a very serious crush on John Mayer, and he went to Berklee,” Capone said. “For me, that was definitely a marker of ‘Oh, musicians go to Berklee.’ OK, I should definitely do that if I want to do this fulltime.”

And years later, she recorded her debut album at Asheville’s Echo Mountain studios because she learned the band Dawes recorded “Stories Don’t End” album there.

Courtesy of Corey Parlamento

Corey Parlamento’s music sounds like it doesn’t have much structure. His songs wander and flow, and if you find yourself lost in the textures, you’re not alone.

“When I’m practicing with my band, they’re like 'Let's go back to the ... Chorus? I don’t know. Bridge? I don’t know. Pre-chorus? I don’t know!’” Parlamento said.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Willie Repoley named his company the Immediate Theatre Project, and watching Repoley in rehearsal, the name is clearly appropriate. Sets are minimal and casts are small -- and with his new original show, called “Burden,” -- the cast begins and ends with Repoley.

Courtesy of Andrew Finn Magill

Andrew Finn Magill had no choice. From his bloodline to his name, Irish heritage stamped Magill’s identity.

His parents played traditional Irish music in the home. He ditched Suzuki method violin practice to play Irish music. And he went to Ireland twice to compete in the all-Ireland violin championships. As a kid, he would take part in the jam sessions at Asheville’s Jack of the Wood, and his father, Jim, founded the Swannanoa Gathering.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

As you went about your sunny Saturday in Western North Carolina, you might have been unaware tens of thousands across the country celebrated a holiday of sorts. Scores of people traveled across town and, in some cases, across mountain ranges to browse, mingle and find platters of gold in Asheville during the ninth annual Record Store Day.

Nathan Rivers Chesky

Like most young singer-songwriters committed to their craft, Asheville’s Carly Taich has carved a line in the ground between her youth and adulthood. That line is her debut album, “Reverie.”

Taich sees “Reverie” as a breakup album, of sorts. Several songs are a goodbye to the bands and music Taich made before moving to Asheville four years ago. Taich and her band perform April 21 at Ambrose West in Asheville.

Courtesy of Brenda Lilly

Brenda Lilly went to college to become an actress and moved to Hollywood with her dreams set on sitcoms. She eventually found her way in television as a writer — no easy feat in a town and industry built on patriarchy — and in the early 2000s she co-created the family television drama “State of Grace.”

So why did Lilly, a fifth-generation Asheville native, move back home to the mountains?

Matt Peiken | BPR News

An estimated 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness in a given year. And while downtown Asheville is the public face of our region’s homelessness, there’s an artistic effort at Blue Ridge Community College, in Hendersonville, to spotlight rural homelessness.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Festival season is upon Western North Carolina, but the quirkiest of our festivals is already behind us. The eighth annual “(Re)Happening,” on the grounds of the former Black Mountain College, drew hundreds March 31 to listen, touch, explore and experience.

Courtesy of Brittany Jackson

A couple years ago, three Asheville women in their mid-20s bonded as production assistants on a film made in Atlanta. When the filmmakers decided to tour their film around the country, the women here had an inspiration of their own.

“So I just thought to myself, we should have them in Asheville. We should organize a screening and we should show some of our films, too, and how about other cool people from the area?” said Brittany Jackson. “Why not just make it a weekend and call it a film festival.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News

If you’re a singer-songwriter who only needs an acoustic guitar for company, you can create and rehearse your music pretty much anywhere. But if you’re in a band, you need a place to spread out and be loud without bringing down nearby property values—or the police.

Bands in Asheville are so desperate for affordable spaces that there’s enthusiastic support—and growing financial support—behind an effort to open what would amount to just four rehearsal spaces.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

In the 1970s and ‘80s, Jon Michael Riley made a lot of money as a corporate and commercial photographer, and his work anchored advertisements in major magazines.

“I had a client tell me one time ‘Well, we like to use you because you speak the language down here,’” Riley said. “Soon as I get to the south, my southern accent would come back.”

courtesy of Hannah Kaminer

Like a lot of people fresh out of college, Hannah Kaminer found herself a little lost. So she left a life and teaching job in Waco, Tex. to return where she grew up. Her parents had divorced, so without a family home awaiting her in Black Mountain, she moved in with friends in Asheville.

“I mean, I loved teaching, but without community and connections, it’s really hard to live in a place,” Kaminer said.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

If Yousef Natsha had his way, Israeli immigration officials would allow his partner back into the country, and Natsha would continue capturing video and photos of Palestinians living under the gun of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Everywhere you turn inside Sassy Frass Consignment, your eye catches bejeweled, gleaming crosses and other Christian symbols sprinkled among t-shirts, furnishings, glass baubles and other nicknacks.

Then there are very different signs about one special chapter in the store’s history -- the charred doors left behind by a firey Molotov cocktail and the giant block letters that temporarily hung on the building’s facade, spelling out Ebbing Police Department.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Michael Jefry Stevens stuttered badly when he was young, nearly died 20 years ago in a mugging and once declared bankruptcy.

So it’s a little odd to hear Stevens say he believes he’s the beneficiary of good karma.

“Basically I have a spiritual philosophy that if you do the right things, the universe will help you at the appropriate time,” Stevens said. “So far in my life, that has happened.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News

In a way, Honor Moor has Donald Trump to thank for becoming a playwright.

“You asked me why I wanted to write a play. I think it’s more I had to write this play,” Moor said. “All the news was so compelling that I felt I wanted to get it down and I wanted to get it out. For me, probably, I felt like many people, hey, it was a way to digest all of it.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Nina Kawar’s studio is the former principal’s office of Marshall High School, but her artwork gives this room the air of a science lab.

Jason Sandford | AshVegas.com with permission

What started with a question about the future of a parking structure has led to a dynamic effort to develop affordable spaces in the city for creatives to live and work.

Caren Harris

If there were a convenient way to do so, Constance Humphries would invite all her audiences inside her Asheville townhome to watch her perform.

“A gallery situation or small venue or even a house is ideal because I can be very close to my audience,” Humphries said. “I like to look at them, look in their eyes. I like to get in their space -- not in an aggressive way, but in a supportive way.”

Isaac Harrel

There are t-shirts and bumper stickers, and no doubt city politicians have run on the campaign slogan -- Keep Asheville Weird.

“Asheville walks that fine line of being proud to be weird, but some people are also like ‘But I don’t want weird,’ you know?” said Jocelyn Reese, talking about the city’s annual bow to unabashed weirdness called the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival. Reese and her partner Jim Julien are co-directors.

There are likely enough singer-songwriters in Asheville to fill every coffeeshop and street corner in the city. But amid the region’s bluegrass, Americana and jam music, there’s a new effort to turn people onto the Asheville’s indie rock and punk scene.

 

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Every other Thursday during the school year, a dozen or so teenagers of color meet in a repurposed classroom at Asheville’s Arthur Edington Center.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

In 1967, school board members from a Brooklyn neighborhood were headed to England. They wanted to study how administrators there handled segregation and racial representation in the classroom.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Unless you’re wearing a hardhat in the vicinity of Pack Square, the construction sounds filling every workday are reminders how far away the Asheville Art Museum is from reopening.

“We thought we would be functioning on this site throughout the construction project,” said Pam Myers, the museum’s director for the past 22 years. “I think I said ‘Oh really, we’re really going to need to move, and move the entirety of the collection?’ It was fast and furious.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Chelsea LaBate has two voices. In song, you hear the tone and vibrato of Fiona Apple, maybe even a little Billie Holiday. Then there’s LaBate’s inner voice, of resilience and sunny determination, to live and work as an artist.

“I think I have waves of feeling like I’m getting there, and then we all have whammies,” LaBate said. “For me this past year, it was my father died and I tool in my teenage brother, and I’m just now pulling out of that.”

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