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

Eakin Howard


Brooklyn Reese is 12 years old and, when she’s healthy, she’s sort of a second mother to her younger sister and brother.

“Before I got sick, I had a lot of responsibility, because Izzy, she had trouble with math and homework, so when we got home from school, I’d help her with her homework,” she said. “And I’d take care of Jackson and give him a sippy and make him a peanut butter sandwich.”

Holly Kays


Holly Kays studied creative fiction in college and saw herself on a path to becoming a novelist.

 

“Everybody who likes to write is writing a book at some point,” she said. “Most of those books never actually wind up being written.”
 

Like most budding novelists, Kays has another job to pay her bills. Unlike most, Kays works for a sympathetic boss.

Natural Born Leaders


Mike Martinez doesn’t like talking about growing up in Union, N.J., but he will say moving to Hendersonville as an 18-year-old saved his life.

“I was getting in trouble in ways I don’t necessarily want to talk about, but I was not headed on a good path,” he said. “I’m not even sure I’d be alive if I lived in New Jersey.”

Photo: Casey Lance Brown. Background: Clinton C Brown


If you feel a rumbling in the air this week, don’t look to the weather report. Instead, check out the schedule for the Asheville Percussion Festival. To the ears of founder River Guerguerian, this festival is as much about community as it is about music.

“I look at it like there’s a kitchen, there’s 10-12 cooks, each cook brings one recipe,” he said. “You put the recipe on the table and we all work on it together.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Like a lot of excited, ambitious entrepreneurs, Heather Maloy put her head down and bulled forward with her plan: She wanted to create a fulltime professional ballet company in Asheville.

“With it being a summer tourist community and being very alive in the summer, it seemed like a great starting point,” she said. “But I wasn’t really thinking fully how to get past that summer point to a year-round point.”

courtesy of Janet Oliver


From her earliest memories, Janet Oliver was different than every other child she knew in Batesville, Ark. Her father was a white civil rights lawyer, her mother black, and the adults around her—particularly the women in her matriarchal family—pushed her to greatness.

“The women around me said you will get a great education, you will leave Arkansas and you will have a life,” she said. “I was self-directed, I was opinionated, I was articulated and I was obedient, and I think they liked that factor far more.”

After a season devoted to auditioning six finalists, the Asheville Symphony Orchestra has tapped Darko Butorac as its next music director. Butorac succeeds Daniel Meyer, who departed the orchestra after the end of the most recent season, his 12th in Asheville.

Butorac, 40, began his life in classical music as a cellist, but had his first chance to conduct an orchestra when he was 17. From then on, he knew he wanted a life on the podium.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


It’s hard to miss Sharon Cooper on the dance floor. Her expression is almost always wide-eyed, focused and intense. Even her slowest movements carry urgency.

But then there’s Cooper, the pediatric nurse. With her young patients, she’s smiling, animated and tender.

“I’ve always been interested in it, and always very interested in the body and the way it works and muscle systems,” Cooper said of nursing.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

EDITOR'S NOTE: The audio version of this story includes incorrect information about the frequency of flooding of the French Broad River. The river has crested above 10 feet during seven of the past 15 years, drawn from National Weather Service data.

Around 11am Wednesday, Pattiy Torno stood on the steel mesh deck of the open gallery and meeting space at 14 Riverside Drive, looked out over the brush at the rising tan-brown waters of the French Broad River and sighed.

“If the river gets to 11 feet, I’m moving my stuff. It’s that simple,” she said. “I have a storage locker about two blocks away specifically for this purpose.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Before she went by the singular name of Lytingale, Lois Henrickson envisioned a career fronting a folk rock band.

“Any day now I’m going to be discovered. Don’t you know this?” she said with a laugh.

courtesy of the artist

The suicides last year of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington touched millions around the world. But as someone struggling with his own depressive anxiety, soon to be 18-year-old Ian Ridenhour couldn’t help viewing their paths as a potential harbinger for his own.

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.”

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