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 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, 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

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 | 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.”

Matt Peiken

In a land of Americana music and art imbued with the mountains, you can forget you’re in Asheville while you’re inside Revolve.

It’s a gallery and performance space in the RAMP Studios, an unmarked industrial building near UNC-Asheville. Revolve is dedicated to contemporary, experimental work -- meaning, it’s 180 degrees from the music and art you’ll generally find along the region’s paths of tourism.

Matt Peiken | BPR

City government, tax and planning commissions and nonprofit board meetings. Those settings naturally conjure ... mystery and romance?

They do if you’re Renee Kumor.

“I’ve been on nonprofit boards for years. I’ve dealt with staff members who’ve embezzled -- that happens constantly,” Kumor said. “The issues of conflict of interest. Just having a crisis of direction on the board, and I just decided those crisis discussions can end in murder, what the heck?”

CULLOWHEE -- Picture in your mind a traditional Cherokee Indian basket. You can see its shape, the bands of bundled pine needles or rivercane wicker, the painted patterns drawn from tribal imagery.


But when you these baskets, do you reflect on treaty violations, the appropriation of Native names and imagery or forced removal from ancestral homelands?

Waynesville has more galleries per capita than Asheville. BPR Arts & Culture Producer Matt Peiken captured a view from Waynesville's Main Street, meeting artists and gallery owners along the city's monthly visual arts showcase "Art After Dark."

In John Hall’s classroom at ArtSpace Charter School, in Swannanoa, there’s an equation stamped in dark capital letters high up one green wall: Vision + perseverance = impact.

Hall teaches social studies, not math, so perhaps that’s why he’s found this equation elusive in his own life. He’s pursued some things and persevered in others. They just haven’t always aligned.

By many measures, including his own, David Hopes is a successful poet and playwright. He’s certainly an influential one, at least to those who have studied with him over the years at UNC-Asheville.

But by other measures, including his own, Hopes hasn’t achieved the notoriety one might expect of someone with so many works published and produced.

In “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at NC Stage, Rebecca Morris stars as a strong, independent woman quick to stand her ground. In many respects, she’s the woman Morris wishes to be.

“So in the rehearsal process, there was a lot of drawing that out (of me),” Morris said. “Your personal power or potency, standing on my own two feet and speaking my mind, whether I think people are going to agree with me or not, is very difficult for me to do.”

The Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre is rehearsing a piece that depends on props and costuming that aren’t quite holding together.

At this point, performances are two weeks away, and Susan Collard doesn’t appear too worried. After 38 years of ups and down and dips and turns she could never have choreographed, Collard responds to these malfunctions with a smile.

“You have these visions of what you want to create,” Collard said. “And then (you have) the bill, and then ‘how do you raise your money?’”

NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series on the Asheville Symphony Orchestra's search for its next music director.


Here’s an interesting situation that become a piece of obscure trivia:

Daniel Meyer was among six finalists this past season to become the next music director of the Fresno Philharmonic, in California. The person who won the position is Rei Hotoda. Now, Hotoda is one of six finalists to succeed Meyer on the podium of the Asheville Symphony.

NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series about the search for the Asheville Symphony Orchestra’s next music director.


The Asheville Symphony is a part-time orchestra. Everyone responsible for the music has another job, or two jobs. So it’s a little stunning to learn how many people applied to become the orchestra’s next music director.




Wiley Cash grew up in a solid, supportive family, attended great schools and is quick to say he is the product of a sheltered, all-American privilege.


So even though he sets his stories in his native North Carolina, Cash is writing as an outsider.


“I had to go to graduate school in Louisiana, however many decades removed from the event itself, to learn about the defining moment in my hometown’s history,” Cash said.


Jarrod Perkins

Female readers of young adult fiction have lifted Stephanie Perkins onto the list of New York Times Bestsellers, an appearance on “The Today Show” and other notoriety most young authors would covet. For Perkins, that meteoric success triggered a crippling bout of depression.


Some might wonder why there’s an annual conference dedicated to a tiny college that shut down 60 years ago. That conference, “ReViewing,” going into its ninth year, until now has been the sole domain of arts professors with particular interests in multidisciplinary practice and the groundbreaking history of Black Mountain College.

Murphy Funkhouser Capps begins writing her plays by living her life.

That’s why it’s impossible to separate the writer and performer from the teenage runaway, the former solo parent, the woman whose husband is battling bone cancer.

The Altamont Theatre is one of Asheville’s most celebrated music venues, and the people who own it say they’re being forced to close at the end of this year.

The original owners of the Altamont, husband-and-wife Brian and Tiffany Lee, still own the brick building housing the theater on Church Street. That building also features two floors of condos above the theater.