WALTER Magazine - March 2022

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The Art & Soul of Raleigh

MARCH 2022

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Volume X, Issue 7




EXPLORE: Urban Hikes Fives wild walks near town


MUSIC: Family Album How Secret Monkey Weekend came to be


SPORTS: Fired Up! Raleigh’s new pro basketball team


NATURE: A Moment in Bloom An ode to spring ephemerals


CREATORS: One to Watch Outer Banks director Jonas Pate




Editor’s Letter




Your Feedback




The Whirl




End Note

SIMPLE LIFE: Baker’s Assistant Turning a hobby into business

On the cover: North Carolina Museum of Art, photography by Scott Frances


NOTED: In the Field Uncovering the true dangers of nature research

Taylor McDonald (SECRET MONKEY WEEKEND); courtesy Murry Burgess (BIRD)

MARCH 2022


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What the Moon Knows by Pat Riviere-Seel illustrated by Lidia Churakova


Sensuous Placemaking Landscape architect Walt Havener designs exquisite, sustainable spaces by J. Michael Welton


60 12 | WALTER

Signed & Sealed Terry Henderson’s unique antiques by Katherine Snow Smith photography by Bryan Regan


Scenes of Spring The Sarah P. Duke Gardens brim with the beauty of the season by Hannah Ross photography by Juli Leonard


Glow in the Dark Nate Sheaffer reflects on a career of illumination by Colony Little photography by Eamon Queeney

Juli Leonard (DUKE GARDENS); Bryan Regan (WAX SEAL)


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Two views from the ski lift on our first run!


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couple weeks ago, I went skiing for the very first time. There was no particular reason I’d never done it before. Perhaps it was because I come from a family that prefers warm weather — for vacation, we’re more likely to hit the beach than hit the slopes. But my husband, Josh, grew up skiing, and it seemed like a good skill for the kids to figure out early, especially with mountains so accessible to Raleigh. So for Christmas we got the girls some snow pants and a promise to teach them to ski. I borrowed layers from a friend, and we drove out to Sugar Mountain on a Friday night, in the midst of a snowstorm. We made it up to our rental, snow chains on the tires, white knuckles the whole way, kids oblivious on their iPads in the back. The wind kept me up all night; I could hear our condo creaking and feel it shifting with the strongest gusts. In the morning, we had a foot of fresh powder. We set out after breakfast and found ourselves late to the rush of skiers ready to take on what was shaping up to be a sunny, single-digit day. The girls and I signed up for our beginner’s lesson and sent Josh off to do some real skiing. Learning to ski was humbling. The girls caught on right away, unhindered by fear of injury or looking foolish. I fell, early and often, and struggled gracelessly to get back up. But after an hour or so, we’d all made it down the bunny slope a few times, so the instruc-

tor declared us ready to go. We met Josh at the ski lift. The ride up was beautiful and exhilarating, a moment of serenity with panic simmering underneath. As soon as we got off the lift, I fell again. It seemed inauspicious. But there we were, at the top of what seemed like an enormous mountain. My two babies were unfazed and ready to go. And then they just… went! So after a beat, swallowing a wave of terror, I did, too. Ski poles tightly gripped, feet locked in Snowplough formation, we made it to the bottom. And they wanted to go again! After a few runs, my feet got a little straighter, my grip a little looser; I started leaning left or right on purpose. An icy patch was enough to send sweats through my body, but successfully dodging a snowboarder was pure triumph. By the second day, I was almost having fun, and we drove home without any broken bones. It was great to experience something totally new at this stage in life — and even cooler to be learning right alongside my daughters. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to the expert slopes, but my kids might. And in the meantime, I’ll continue to be inspired by their bravery.

Ayn-Monique Klahre Editor

FEBRUARY 2022, Volume X, Issue 6 EDITORIAL




Creative Director LAURA PETRIDES WALL Associate Editor ADDIE LADNER Contributing Writers Kara Adams, Murry Burgess, Wiley Cash, Jim Dodson, Hannah Ross, Katherine Snow Smith, Mike Dunn, Colony Little, David Menconi, Joe Miller, J. Michael Welton, Pat Riviere-Seel, Lori D. R. Wiggins Contributing Copy Editor Finn Cohen Contributing Graphic Designer Morgan Gustafson Contributing Photographers Mallory Cash, Eamon Queeney, Juli Leonard, Forrest Mason, Taylor McDonald, Bryan Regan

Advertising Sales Manager JULIE NICKENS Senior Account Executive & Operations CRISTINA HURLEY Events Manager KAIT GORMAN Graphic Designer ALYSSA ROCHEROLLE Finance STEVE ANDERSON 910-693-2497 Inquiries? WALTER OFFICE 984-286-0928 Address all correspondence to: WALTER magazine, 421 Fayetteville Street, Suite 104 Raleigh, N.C. 27601

Contributing Illustrators Gerry O’Neill, Lidia Churakova Interns Katie Cusack, Emily Gajda

WALTER is available by paid subscriptions for $25 a year in the United States, as well as select rack and advertiser locations throughout the Triangle. Subscribe online at For customer service inquiries, please email us at or call 818-286-3118. WALTER does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Please contact Ayn-Monique Klahre at for freelance guidelines. Owners JACK ANDREWS, FRANK DANIELS JR., FRANK DANIELS III, LEE DIRKS, DAVID WORONOFF © WALTER magazine. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of the copyright owner. Published 12 times a year by The Pilot LLC.



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Wiley Cash is a New York Times bestselling novelist who teaches fiction writing and literature at the University of North CarolinaAsheville, where he serves as Alumni Author-in-Residence. His new novel, When Ghosts Come Home, is currently available. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, photographer Mallory Cash, and their daughters. “It was really exciting to sit down with Jonas Pate, who’s quickly become one of the brightest lights in our state’s film industry. I was especially interested in his ideas on taking something personal and making it universal. Perhaps this explains both the universal appeal and global success of Outer Banks.”

P HOTOGR A PH ER Leonard works as a photojournalist at The News & Observer and lives in Raleigh with her daughter, partner, and a houseful of creatures. “I have photographed Duke Gardens many times over the years but this visit was unlike any other. The gardens were closed to the public, so I wandered the 55 acres mostly by myself in a hushed rain. There was no one to dash across the bridge with a bright umbrella or the usual opportunities for layering humans and landscape that I typically try to build into my work. It was only the landscape, a swirl of Akebono cherry tree blossom petals, and the quivering assembly of raindrops on tulips.”


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P HOTO G R A P HE R A Raleigh-based photojournalist, Queeney is usually exploring the state for clients like the New York Times and The Washington Post after cutting his teeth at the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio for a number of years. These days he can be found working with a camera or cycling around Raleigh while smiling a lot. (Wave if you see him, he’ll wave back!) “I became a photographer because I love light. Photographing Nate Sheaffer was a dream assignment in that sense, for magical light was in no short supply. Add in Nate’s kindness, talent, and literal fire, and I could have spent all day photographing him in his studio.”

MURRY BURGESS / WR I T ER Burgess has always loved animals, which led her to a career in Urban Ecology and Ornithologym, and she is currently a 3rd year Ph.D student in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at North Carolina State University, where she studies the health effects of sensory pollutants in birds. In her free time, Burgess enjoys reading, writing, birding, photography, and hiking with her dog, Loki. “It was a bit challenging to write about such a serious and personal topic, but I’m glad my voice is being heard. I hope this piece invites conversation around the way we think about and practice safety.”

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FEEDBACK We love to hear from you! Tag us when you’re out and about — or cozied up at home with WALTER. “I loved the piece in the most recent about the design projects that will shape Raleigh. That was really well done!” — Matt Lail “Thank you for sending the magazines in Tyvek envelopes — the same material that I paint on for my pieces! I’ve had lots of compliments about the article. I appreciate your support.” — Ann Roth

Lots of folks were inspired by Susan and Jeff’s road trip...

The Airstream and Suburban in the Mojave Desert. “So enjoyed reading about your adventures! — Melissa Peden “I spent many weekends riding to and from horse shows in the back seat of that Suburban with our horses in tow. What a great story and a wonderful family!” — Logan Kalmbach “Fabulous article, Susan. Humorous, descriptive and inspiring. I can’t wait to see you and discuss your trip… places where I too have been and where I hope to go. Good for you and Jeff!” — Carol Spruill


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The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 21

) 67>-4 84)+-

Chapter 2

Away We Go S

un-drenched days crossed paths with sapphire shores in the rearview.


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OUR TOWN Celebrate spring with flowering masterpieces, inspirational dancing, some great local music, and Irish celebrations.

courtesy Big Night In



BIG NIGHT IN FOR THE ARTS March 10 | 7 p.m. Open your ears — and your wallets: United Arts Council’s virtual Big Night In for the Arts fundraiser is back this year, a rare opportunity to see a broad range of talent with North Carolina roots performing live. “Although the arts community is slowly beginning to rebuild, there is still a great need to help the artists and organizations essential to the recovery of our region,” says Ragen Carlile, interim president of the United Arts Council. Carlile says the event, an effort joined by sponsor WRAL and area arts councils, raised $350,000 last year, and they are optimistic about taking that momentum into this year’s televised event. “Our hope is to again rally around the arts community so that N.C.’s arts and culture do not just survive, but thrive in the future,” she says. The evening’s headliners include jazz singer Nnenna Freelon, tap dancer Jabu Graybeal, alt-rocker Ben Folds, singer-songwriter Hiss Golden Messenger, poet Jaki Shelton Green, and potter Mark Hewitt, among others. Free to view; live streaming; All information is accurate as of press time, but please check and the event websites for the latest updates. The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 23


March 2 | 8 p.m. PNC Arena will host The Eagles for their Hotel California Tour, where the legendary rock band will perform all the songs from its 1976 record of the same name. Sing along to classics like Life in the Fast Lane, New Kid in Town, and of course, the title track. Original Eagles members Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, and Joe Walsh will be joined by the late Glenn Frey’s son, Deacon Frey, and country music star Vince Gill. From $124; 1400 Edwards Mill Road;

YOGA AT COR MUSEUM March 5, 12 & 19 | 9:30 p.m. On the first three Saturdays of the month, stretch and meditate downtown — with a side of history — at the City of Raleigh Museum. Located in the historic Briggs Hardware Building, the COR Museum will offer free hour-long yoga classess for all skill levels. The sessions take place in the main gallery of the museum and are led by local yoga instructors Aparna Ravichande and Natalia Lingerfelt, who both specialize in Hatha Yoga. (Lingerfelt’s class on the 12th will be taught in English and Spanish.) All you need is your mat, water bottle, and mask. Free but registration encouraged; 220 Fayetteville Street;

CONNECT + CREATE SERIES March 8 & 22 | 5:30 p.m. All ages are welcome inside the Chapel at Dix Park for a series of hands-on art classes presented by Artspace and Dix Park Conservancy donors. On March 8, join artist Tay24 | WALTER

SNOW WHITE March 10 - 27 | See website The legendary tale of Snow White and her evil stepmother comes to life with choreography by Carolina Ballet’s artistic director Zalman Raffael, complete with new sets, costumes, and of course the seven dwarfs. For this balletic interpretation of the beloved children’s story, Raffael collaborated with the award-winning composer Shinji Eshima, who also created the moving score for Bariolage in September 2019. From $27; 2 E. South Street;

UNCOMMON WOMEN March 12 | 7 p.m. Head to Jones Auditorium at Meredith College for a concert dedicated to classical works composed or influenced by women, including multiple original pieces by Celka Ojakangas, an elegy to Amanda Todd from Jocelyn Morlock, Samuel Barber’s Medea, Carmen Suite II by Georges Bizet, and the event’s namesake, Joan Tower’s Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman, a response to Aaron Copland’s Fanfares for the Uncommon Man. $27; 3800 Hillsborough Street;

AUTHORS IN CONVERSATION March 13 | 2 p.m. For the final event in Wake County Public Libraries’ Black Brilliance program, Village Regional Library is hosting S.A. Cosby, the New York Times bestselling author of Razorblade Tears and Blacktop Wasteland, in conversation with local screenwriter and author Eryk Pruitt. Hear both authors read excerpts from their upcoming books, talk about their shared love for writing crime fiction, and participate in a live Q&A. An in-person signing will follow the event with books available for purchase. Free; 1930 Clark Avenue;

JUNIPER LEVEL OPEN GARDEN DAYS March 4 - 5 | See website Celebrate the start of spring with a trip to Juniper Level Botanic Garden that offers something for casual visitors and experienced gardeners alike. The 28-acre campus is home to multiple perennial greenhouses, exotic plants, a grotto garden, and rare trees and shrubs — many of which are available to purchase. Visit its Plant Delights Nursery on the way out and choose from over 1,600 different perennials and plants for your own garden. Free; 9241 Sauls Road;


courtesy of Juniper Level Botanical Garden/Tony and Anita Avent (GARDEN); courtesy Carolina Ballet (SNOW WHITE)


lor McGee to learn about tapestry weaving and work on a miniloom to create a one-of-a-kind wall hanging to take home. On the 22nd, learn how to make your own fabric collage tote bag out of scraps with Alliyah Bonnette, Artspace’s regional emerging artist-inresidence. Registration for this series opens one week before each class at 5 p.m. Free; 1030 Richardson Drive;



courtesy North Carolina Museum of Art (ART IN BLOOM); courtesy Dohtery’s Irish Pub

All month | See websitess

ART IN BLOOM March 16 - 20 | See website Spring is aflower — and that means the North Carolina Museum of Art is, too! This five-day affair will take a global theme this year, with British floral designer Joseph Massie as a special guest and musical acts like the Peter Lamb Trio, Ed Stephenson, and Smitha Prasad providing a soundtrack that conjures various regions around the world. In addition to enjoying the elaborate floral displays that play off The People’s Collection, you can sign up for lunchtime floral demonstrations with the designers, a gardenthemed film screening of Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, and paper-making classes. From $30; 2110 Blue Ridge Road;

JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK March 18 - 27 | See website Inspired by the celebrated children’s book series by Barbara Park, watch as the mischievous Junie B. Jones navigates kindergarten — and the infamous idiom, “finders keepers, losers weepers.” When Junie B. finds her furry mittens stolen, she retaliates by declaring herself the “finder” of a brilliant pen of many colors, inspiring a lesson on the principles of right and wrong. $17; 301 Pogue Street;

Start the festivities early at the 38th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade downtown — in-person again this year! — on Saturday, March 12. The family-friendly event starts at 10 a.m. and will be replete with buoyant Irish dancing, imaginative floats, and sonorous bagpipe players ( Also on March 12, Irish pub Hibernian will have its annual block party, kicking off at 8 a.m. with musical acts like Wake Moody, Autumn Nicholas, and Love Tribe, as well as a limited menu. Don’t worry, they’ll have another celebration on actual St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 (311 Glenwood Ave; PineCone is hosting a concert featuring traditional Irish band Lúnasa on March 25 at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater (2 E. South Street; And all month you can find Irish favorites like shepherd’s pie or corned beef and cabbage with a side of live music at Morrisville’s Irish-owned Tra’Li Irish Pub (10370 Moncreiffe Road; or Doherty’s Irish Pub (1979 High House Road, Cary;

TRACY MORGAN: WORKING IT OUT March 18 - 19 | See website Head to Improv comedy club to see Emmy-nominated comedian and actor Tracy Morgan, known for his stand-up specials and roles on 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, and The Last O.G. At this “bracing” and “occasionally controversial” show, expect Morgan to deliver his signature pithy observations and one-liners. Plan to eat there: the venue offers a menu that includes hot chicken sandwiches, street tacos, brownie sundaes, and a full cocktail, beer, and wine list. From $35; 1224 Parkside Main Street Cary;

BEETHOVEN LIVES UPSTAIRS March 19 | 1 & 4 p.m. Follow a young Christoph and his uncle as they investigate the madman that has moved in above them (spoiler alert: it’s Beethoven) in this innovative reimagining of a classical concert.

Conductor Michelle Di Russo and theatrical symphony group Classical Kids Live! bring Beethoven to life for audiences of all ages with performances of some of his most celebrating works, including Für Elise, the Ninth Symphony, and the “Moonlight” Sonata. From $27; 2 E. South Street;

NORTH CAROLINA OPERA GALA March 19 | 5 p.m. Support the performances and programs of the North Carolina Opera by heading to Park Alumni center at North Carolina State University for its annual fundraiser. Dance to live music by Sidecar Social Club, enjoy dinner catered by Mitchell•Casteel, and take part in both live and silent auctions of items like gift cards to local restaurants like the Angus Barn, a staycation at the AC Hotel Durham Marriott, and original art, like a watercolor beach landscape by Tesh Parekh. $20; 2450 Alumni Drive; The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 25


HUMAN/NATURE March 29 | 7:30 p.m. The Martha Graham Dance Company, one of the oldest American dance companies, is coming to Memorial Hall. This season, Graham presents Diversion of Angels, Errand into the Maze, and a newly reimagined Canticle for Innocent Comedians, a classic ode to nature. From $29; 114 E. Cameron Avenue, Chapel Hill;

CREATIVE MORNINGS March 25 | 8:45 a.m.


After nearly two years of meeting virtually, Creative Mornings RDU, a monthly speaker series and networking event for creatives of all stripes, is back in person at the NCMA. Musician M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger will be speaking to this month’s theme, “Folklore.” It’s fitting, since Taylor studied American folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I’ve had a vision in my head of this event for months now: coming back together, M.C. at the stage, NCMA as the backdrop. I am absolutely thrilled that it’s coming true,” says Alysse Campbell with CM RDU. Free; 2110 Blue Ridge Road;

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March 25 - April 10 | See website This Ronald Harwood play is based on his own experiences working as the dresser to actor Sir Donald Wolfit. Set backstage at an English province theater production of King Lear, the play follows Norman as he attempts to prepare Wolfit, one of the last great English actors, to take the stage as World War II rages on around them. From $20; 107 Pullen Road;

Getty Images


URBAN HIKES You don’t have to go far to experience nature in the Triangle by JOE MILLER


n a typical city, you have to drive an hour or more to find nature. Fortunately, ours is not a typical city. In the Triangle, you needn’t drive far to escape; in fact, you can probably walk. Here, we’ve got a preponderance of trees and a climate that produces lush greenery in even the smallest patch of dirt — meaning that even a storm drainage corridor near a housing development

can yield a sense of wild adventure. These five hikes epitomize the types of gateway getaways tucked throughout the area. Some, such as Raleigh’s Reedy Creek Trail, mix nature with urban amenities. Others, such as Schenck Forest, offer a sense of woodland adventure just a couple miles from town. And all are easy hikes, without much time behind the wheel.

REEDY CREEK TRAIL To borrow a line from Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”: you can get just about any kind of hike you want on the Reedy Creek Trail. Up for ice cream or some Mediterranean fare? You’ll find it at the east trailhead on Hillsborough Street. Want to wax nostalgic on your university days? You’ll find the spark on Meredith College’s campus, through The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 27


which the trail passes. Maybe a crash course in contemporary sculpture? You can swing right by Thomas Sayre’s Gyre as the trail makes its way through the North Carolina Museum of Art’s park. Then you’re on to greener pastures as the trail sidles up to North Carolina State University’s Equine Educational Unit, replete with white barns and some 30 horses grazing green pasture. Start at 2110 Blue Ridge Road (the NCMA parking lot); 5 miles out-and-back; for hours and more info, visit places/reedy-creek-trail AMERICAN TOBACCO TRAIL, DURHAM Sometimes you just need a long, undemanding walk in the woods — one where you can get lost in conversation with a companion, or lost in contemplation with your own thoughts. The middle and southern sections of the American Tobacco Trail, in southern Durham, Chatham, and Wake counties, offer just that. From the Scott King Road Access, head south on the trail, which at this point consists of paved surface, ideal for baby strollers or walk28 | WALTER

ers, and a 3-foot-wide surface of finely crushed gravel fit for runners. The wide passage — in a previous life, it was the Durham & South Carolina Railroad — lets the sun in on cold winter days while the stands of loblolly pine create walls of green that are especially welcome in the drab of winter. Turn around at the Northeast Creek bridge for a 2-mile hike, or continue to the wetland overlook just above O’Kelly Chapel Road and u-turn for a longer, 3.5-mile outing. Start at 602 Scott King Road, Durham; 2 or 3.5 miles as described; for hours and more information, visit american-tobacco-trail CARL ALWIN SCHENCK MEMORIAL FOREST On a sunny, warm early spring weekend when you just know Umstead State Park will be teeming with hikers, check out its scholarly neighbor to the south, Carl Alwin Schenck Memorial Forest. This 286acre N.C. State teaching forest has a cult following, popular with those who savor a more solitary escape from civilization.

From the trailhead off Schenck Forest Access Road, hike past the gate a couple hundred yards down to the picnic shelter, behind which you’ll find the Francis L. Liles Trail. Take a left and follow it through a valley of stately hardwoods down to Richland Creek. Here, follow the Richland Creek Trail downstream through a bottomland forest that occasionally floods (not the best option after a good rain). After a half mile or so, a trail takes you uphill to the end of the dirt road you hiked in on, past a planted forest of pines, a demonstration wood-processing station, and eventually the picnic shelter. Note that this is the only hike where dogs are not allowed. Start at 5101 Reedy Creek Road; 2 miles as described; for hours and more information, visit BLACK CREEK GREENWAY, CARY Start at North Cary Park and you’ve got a great carrot for kids for completing the hike: an extensive play area that includes everything from traditional ballfields and playground equipment to a challenging climbing boulder. But first, we walk! Pick up the Black Creek Greenway and head north along a green corridor just wide enough to isolate you from the residential areas on both sides. Then, after crossing under Weston Parkway, Black Creek gradually opens into Lake Crabtree. Shortly, there’s a scenic overlook, and after walking along the shore and across the dam, you reach the northern trailhead (with restrooms, another bonus for families!) and an expansive view of 520-acre Lake Crabtree. This is the turnaround for a 3-mile hike. Start at 1100 Norwell Boulevard. Cary; 7.1 miles total, 3 miles as described; for hours and information, visit LAKE JOHNSON’S WEST LOOP When most folks on the west side of Raleigh think of Lake Johnson, they think of the 2.8-mile ribbon of tarmac

Joe Miller

Carl Alwin Schenck Memorial Forest

Joe Miller

that surrounds the east side of the lake. Pancake flat on the north side, you’ll find gently rolling terrain on the east and south sides. This area offers a nice walk, but if you want a true hike, check out the natural surface trail on the lake’s west side. Half of this hike is hilly, with a nice bluff overlooking the lake; the other half is flat and devoid of challenge. Both the East and West Loops share passage over a 200-yard-long pedestrian bridge crossing the lake; the wilder West Loop includes a more intimate passage over Walnut Creek at the lake’s west end. Even on a nice weekend, you can usually find a spot in the parking area off Avent Ferry Road. Start at 5041 Avent Ferry Road; 2.1 miles as described; for hours and more information, visit

Lake Johnson

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 29

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FAMILY ALBUM Secret Monkey Weekend turns quips and memories into songs by DAVID MENCONI photography by TAYLOR MCDONALD


lot of families mark the passage of time with photo albums. But the Hart household in Durham is doing that with a different kind of album: a 12-song collection of music called All the Time in the World that’s out this month. It’s the first full-length album from Secret Monkey Weekend, a rock trio made up of Jeffer-

son Hart (a local musician who worked at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill until his retirement a decade ago) and his adopted stepdaughters, 19-year-old Ella and 14-year-old Lila. The opening song “Honey Num” started out as a nonsense phrase drummer/ singer Lila was saying at age 6. “Fascist Blood Baby” is a song that bassist Ella came up with last year based on a vil-

lain from one of her favorite TV shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “One day, they were both singing, Don’t kill me, fascist blood baby,” recalls Jefferson, who sings, plays guitar, and has led groups including The Ruins and Ghosts of the Old North State. “I said, That sounds like the chorus of a song, and they wrote most of it on the spot.” True enough. Secret Monkey WeekThe Art & Soul of Raleigh | 31


The Secret Monkey Weekend trio: Jefferson Hart and daughters Ella and Lila.

end’s roots go back several decades, to when the girls’ mother, Laura Hart (an archivist at UNC’s Wilson Library), was Laura Brown. She was married to Matt Brown, a much-beloved member of the local music community. Brown played drums in various ensembles, including the country band John Howie Jr. & the Rosewood Bluff, as well as a duo with Jefferson called Matt Brown and his Drums of Renown. Jefferson grew close to the Brown family, meeting Laura and the girls when they’d come to shows. “Ella got to know Jeff from going everywhere with her dad,” says Laura. “And then came Lila, who would be hiding behind her dad as a toddler.” Ella’s first public performance came at age 6, when Jefferson invited her up during a Drums of Renown show to sing The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” Then came a cruel turn of fate, when Matt died of a heart attack in 2012. He


was just 42 years old, and his death left family and friends bereft. “It sucked and has shadowed my life ever since,” John Howie Jr. says of his passing. “Literally not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about Matt.” But in the aftermath, something unexpected happened: Laura and Jefferson became more than friends. They married in 2015, a turn of events chronicled in the album’s closing song “Laura Jo” (You’re my best friend/And I love you…), and soon, Secret Monkey Weekend became part of that unexpected happy ending. Jefferson taught his new daughters a few rudiments on drums and bass, and they burnished their skills with lessons, practice, and hard work. About six years ago, they christened their trio Secret Monkey Weekend — an inside joke, after a headline they’d seen in a 1967 issue of Tiger Beat magazine. They started playing shows covering the likes of The

Beach Boys, The Ramones, The Cowsills, and George Jones, alongside the occasional original song. At the time, Lila was still young enough that she had to sit in a booster seat in the car. Novelty trappings aside, the girls back up their father’s guitar as a sharp rhythm section with Lila as a singing drummer. Highly listenable, All the Time in The World is made up of rock and pop that lands somewhere between Americana and college radio. “The big surprise to me was just how good Ella and Lila were,” says Don Dixon, a friend and the one-time R.E.M. co-producer who produced Secret Monkey Weekend’s album. “Ella wrote really good bass parts and executes them very well, and Lila hits the drums perfectly — unbelievable touch and consistency.” In addition to Dixon, Peter Holsapple and Will Rigby from North Carolina power-pop legends The dB’s are among the North Carolina notables who made


contributions to All the Time in the World. The album was recorded last October at Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium recording studio in Kernersville, with cover art that recreates a famous mid1980s photograph of Easter’s legendary Winston-Salem band Let’s Active. And the girls’ late father is a major presence throughout the album.

“Ella wrote really good bass parts and executes them very well, and Lila hits the drums perfectly — unbelievable touch and consistency.” — Don Dixon

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“Matt and I were married 20 years and I went to a lot of gigs,” says Laura. “Maybe it’s because I want to hear it that way, but hearing the way Lila plays drums, there’s a direct connection to the way I’d hear Matt play. It takes me back.” A decade after his death, pictures of Matt Brown still adorn the walls of the family home, and All the Time in the World is dedicated to his memory. “He’s still with us, either talking about him or when we play music,” says Ella. “It feels like he’s always there.” Adds Jefferson, “I wonder what he’d think, and how proud he’d be. It feels like he’s looking down, aware.” The title track emerged from a conversation between Jefferson and Lila four years ago. After picking her up from school one day, he asked when she wanted to have band practice and she said, “Anytime, because we have all the time in the world.” “That got me choked up a little bit,” Jefferson says. “In truth, we don’t have all the time in the world, and this family’s history attests to that.”

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The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 33


courtesy Firebirds/Rick Cornell

Firebirds vs. Atlanta in spring 2021

FIRED UP! A new brand of professional basketball in Raleigh fuses competition and community by LORI D. R. WIGGINS


or more than a decade, Wade Harris has provided academic and athletic mentoring to preteen and teen boys at his Raleigh Personal Training Center, a fitness center in north Raleigh. Along the way, he combined his passion for helping young men and his love of basketball by sponsoring a southeast Raleigh team for summer league games hosted in the Saint 34 | WALTER

Augustine’s University gymnasium. Frequently, Harris found himself working with young men — many of whom enjoyed some glimpses of stardom at collegiate and semi-professional levels — who dreamed of staying in the paint professionally. In 2017, Harris’ business, Pro Basketball Raleigh, LLC, purchased rights to own a professional basketball team in

Raleigh, and two years later he joined the one-year-old The Basketball League (TBL) as Team Market Owner of the Raleigh Firebirds. “With so much talent here and so many players looking to continue to play basketball, it made sense to establish a team in Raleigh,” Harris says. TBL is the brainchild of Evelyn Magley. As the wife of a college player turned NBA pro, Magley “got an education on

The 2021 Firebirds team.

the business of basketball, looking at it from the outside, then seeing it from the inside,” she says. “And when I saw the inside, I saw the inside; the behind-thescenes you don’t see when you’re not part of that world.” She was concerned about the way the athletes were treated, practices that reduced them to performers and commodities. “There was a lot of ugly,” she says, “players expected to sell their souls.” So she started her own league — the first African-American woman to own a male professional sports league — with the goal of creating more opportunities for professional play and treating players better. “We want to establish a legacy for these young men to live out their dreams, and show them they’re not just athletes, they’re men — whole people,” she says. “It’s a paradigm shift.” TBL isn’t affiliated with the NBA, or its minor league, the G League (though its players have gone on to these, as well as international teams). But it pays its players, enlists a team chaplain, and offers

financial literacy seminars, life-skills classes, and profit-sharing opportunities for both players and Team Market Owners (a nomenclature intended to erase connotations of owning athletes or people). Players can sell their jerseys, for example, and get a percentage of the proceeds. “We’re using basketball as a tool to go out and positively impact lives,” said Magley. “It’s awesome to have that championship trophy, but the real trophies are the lives you impact.” The Firebirds’ home court is John Chavis Memorial Park, itself a centerpiece of storied history and recent revitalization. “We wanted to serve in the southeast Raleigh corridor so we could offer programs to kids in that community,” Harris says. Here, the Firebirds play about two dozen games a year. The 2022 season kicks off March 4 and continues through May 20, and often the games are supplemented with themes and contests tailored to attract and serve different fans. In the past, they’ve celebrated first responders,

the military, STEM education, and local chambers of commerce. “Wade’s offering men an opportunity to play basketball and be positive role models in the community,” said Sandra Orsega, North Carolina sales manager for PIVOT, a physical-therapy company that sponsors the team. In its first year of competition, the Firebirds were one of eight TBL teams; they made the playoffs but lost by four points in the Eastern Conference Championship game to the Albany (New York) Patroons, that year’s national champs. The Firebirds’ second season, 2020, was cut in half by the pandemic. By 2021, TBL had grown to 29 teams; that year, the Firebirds lost the first-round playoff to the Syracuse Stallions. Still, Harris notes: “In both full seasons, the Firebirds made the playoffs, which is a big feat!” This year, there are 47 TBL teams across the United States. The Firebirds recruit from colleges, summer and semipro leagues, national TBL combines, and through its own mini-camps. Each year, The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 35

the recruitment roster is cut from 37 players to 22, then down to 18 players who participate in training camp. In late February, the final 12-man roster is announced. Last year’s roster featured nine North Carolinians. In 2019, five Firebirds players signed contracts to play abroad. Among 2021 players, leading scorer Shaq Dance left to play in Iraq in January; Tony Farmer signed and played in Argentina; and four other Firebirds were invited to combines hosted by the G League. While still new to the area, “this league is going to be an attraction,” said Chris Lightner, a former TBL and Firebirds player turned assistant general manager. Lightner’s bloodline matches the team’s foundation: He’s the grandson of Raleigh’s first Black mayor and community stalwart, Clarence Lightner, and the son of former North Carolina State University and NBA standout Chris Washburn. “Right here in the Capital City, it gives people something to gravitate towards,

Wade Harris

and we’re getting better and better, in play and in the things we do off the court out in the community,” he says. Before this season started, the Firebirds started scrimmages at Chavis on first Tuesdays and Thursdays, hosted a financial literacy and entrepreneurship seminar, and cheered on its “adopted” basketball team at Southeast Raleigh Charter School.

“It’s not just about the team, it’s about being involved in the community in the right way,” said Bob MacKinnon, the Firebirds’ interim head coach. He’s a former assistant coach at UNC-Chapel Hill who was later named the winningest NBA G League coach. He’s filling in for regular Firebirds head coach Robert Brickey, a former Duke University basketball standout, while he takes caution during COVID as a caregiver to aging parents. “The Firebirds are an integral part of this growing league,” MacKinnon says. “It’s a great brand of basketball in this great basketball state we live in.” Firebirds point guard Brock Young, a Broughton High School and East Carolina University alumnus, credits Harris for getting him in shape mentally and physically to return to the sport after enduring five potentially career-ending injuries. “Wade is a blessing,” he says. “He’s the reason a lot of guys are in a good place now, despite the obstacles that got in the way.”

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Spring Beauty

a moment in BLOOM The ephemeral nature of our woodland spring words and photographs by MIKE DUNN

hese days, the tree branches are still bare in our woods, their winter skeletons exposed, their leaves from last year now covering the forest floor. Grays, browns, and the occasional splash of green from some ferns are the dominant colors. But change is coming. Starting in late December, more sunlight reaches us with each passing day. In the mornings, I gaze out the window at the native plant shade garden just a few feet from our kitchen, looking for signs of new growth. The spotted leaves of the Trout Lilies should be up any day now. The first Hepatica has shared its purple grace along our creek. Soon, the drab colors of the woods will be dappled with bits of beauty — the first wildflowers of spring. Spring ephemerals, as these flowers are known, last only a few weeks or months before retreating underground until the next year. They take advantage of increasing sunlight that hits the forest floor before leaves of hardwood trees have a chance to open and cast shade upon the ground. During their brief period aboveground, these wildflowers attract early pollinators and manage to store enough energy underground (in their rhizomes or corms) to ready them for their next appearance. They are found mostly in deciduous forests of North America, Russia, and Japan. North Carolina has an abundance that scatter the forest soil throughout our state, especially in the mountains. We have a large deer population in our community here in Hillsborough, so spring ephemerals are not particularly abundant in the woods behind our house. Scattered along a creek bottom, our crop is made up of Cutleaf Toothwort, Round-lobed Hepatica, Spring Beauty, Rue Anemone, and a few Giant Chickweed; their tiny petals display shades from snow-white to a gentle violet, lively against a background of verdant leaves. Last year I found the first Hepatica blooming the third week The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 37

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Clockwise from top: Bloodroot, Round-lobed Hepatica, Windflower, Trout clockwise from top Lily. left: bloodroot flowers; Round-lobed Hepatica; windflower; trout lily

of January, but most of the true spring wildflowers reach their peak from late February to early April. Inside the deer fence, we have a greater abundance and variety, many of which were obtained through “plant rescues” organized by various conservation groups over the years. A plant rescue is what it sounds like: people going out to a site with permission from the landowners before land clearing or

other habitat alteration and digging up plants that would otherwise be destroyed. (It is generally not a good idea to dig up wild plants, but plant rescues are an exception to that rule.) Many of our other plants have been purchased from local native-plant nurseries. Gardening with spring ephemerals requires patience. Trillium flowers, with their signature three-petaled blooms, may take several years just to germinate

It’s a good reminder to saunter rather than power-walk through the woods; you’ll need a sharp eye to spot these diminutive wonders, though at times you’ll find them abundant, in showy patches.

from seed. Other flowers, like Trout Lilies, require several years of growth before they flower for the first time. But once you have them, they may be with you many springs. I have one clump of Bloodroot, a perky white blossom with gracefully scalloped leaves, that came from my Great Aunt Ruth’s garden decades ago. She lived in the mountains of Virginia and wildflowers were abundant on her property. Her garden path had a large specimen of this beautiful white flower growing in it and she decided to move it so it would not get trampled. I spent many summers there roaming her property, so she gave that plant to me to look after because she appreciated my naturalist tendencies. It now occupies a prominent spot in our shade garden. Some of the best places in our area to see spring ephemerals are several of the preserves managed by the Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC), Eno River State Park, the trails in Duke Forest, and the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Look for swaths of Trout Lilies on the slopes and hillsides at places like Swift Creek Bluffs in Cary in late February and early March. Along creek bottoms you can find showy stands of the delicate Spring Beauty about that same time. Late March and April bring another round of spring wildflowers such as Dwarf Crested Iris and Wild Geranium, especially on north-facing slopes. If you miss the show here in the Piedmont, head out to the mountains and visit the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park later in the spring. It’s a good reminder to saunter rather than power-walk through the woods; you’ll need a sharp eye to spot these diminutive wonders, though at times you’ll find them abundant, in showy patches. These tiny plants are beloved by many — they know spring is coming before we do, appearing even before the beginnings of leaves spark on the trees. And for me, they are a reminder of the wonder of even the smallest things in nature. The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 39

CREATORS Firebirds vs. Atlanta Empire 2021

ONE to WATCH Jonas Pate and his runaway hit Outer Banks by WILEY CASH photography by MALLORY CASH


here is plenty of mystery in the breakout Netflix smash hit Outer Banks — everything from a father lost at sea to a legendary treasure. But behind it all is the enigma that director and co-creator Jonas Pate seems most intent on exploring: what truly divides people along class lines. It’s a theme that has consistently intrigued us, from the Montagues and Capulets to the Jets and Sharks. Pate’s rival groups are similarly aged, sun-kissed teenagers living and partying along North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where a group of working class kids known as the “Pogues” continually find themselves 40 | WALTER

marginalized and dismissed by the “Kooks,” the children of wealthy residents and seasonal tourists. Fists and hearts certainly fly, but despite the show’s use of cliffhangers and actionpacked sequences, at its core Outer Banks investigates the emotional and experiential threads that pull some of us together across class lines while invisible barriers push others of us apart. According to Pate, the divide between the haves and the have nots is “the oldest story in the world. It cuts across everything,” which he believes explains the show’s broad appeal. Broad indeed. In the late spring of 2020, just as the people of the world

were settling into the pandemic and the realization that they did not want to see or hear another word about Tiger King and Joe Exotic, Outer Banks debuted in mid-April and quickly became one of Netflix’s most watched shows of the year. The following summer, the show’s second season hit No. 1 on the Nielsen report. The success seemed immediate, and the show’s slick production quality made it all appear as easy and relaxed as a day on the water, but Jonas Pate and his twin brother, Josh, with whom he created Outer Banks along with Shannon Burke, had spent their whole lives preparing for this moment. The Pate brothers grew up in Raeford,

courtesy Netflix (PATE, POSTERS)

Pate on set of the Outerbanks

where their father served as a judge and their grandfather owned a local pharmacy. “It was amazing,” Jonas says. “It was like Mayberry. I’d ride my bike to the pharmacy and get a Cherry Coke and a slaw dog, and then I’d visit my dad at the courthouse. My stepmom was head of parks and recreation, so I’d go over there and help ref T-ball games.” We are sitting on the second-story porch of the home he shares with his wife, Jennifer, and their two teenage children in Wilmington, just across the water from Wrightsville Beach. This January morning is unseasonably warm and sunny, and Jonas is dressed as if he just stepped off the set of Outer Banks, not as its director but as one of its stars. While Jonas primarily grew up in Raeford and attended high school there, he spent his summers with his mother along the barrier islands near Charleston. “Outer Banks is an amalgam of different high school environments and things that we went through,” he says. “It helped create the mythical environ-

ment — we kind of knew what it was like to live feral in a small town with haves and have-nots. Kiawah and James Island were like that. It was poor kids and rich kids, and they would get into fights. And Raeford is still very rural.” Rural, yes, but Jonas and Josh still found plenty to keep them busy. If they were not exploring the marshes and waterways off the coast of Charleston, then they were shooting homemade movies back in Raeford, where they made films about Robin Hood and Hercules and edited them by using two VHS machines. He laughs at the memory of it. “The cuts were terrible and fuzzy,” he says, “and all the special effects and sound were awful.” But he admits that something felt and still feels magical about it. He had always loved film, especially those by Steven Spielberg and Frank Capra, saying that he has “always been drawn to filmmakers who are a little sweeter and have a little more heart.” After college, the brothers found that The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 41


Jonas Pate in his Wilmington home office.

they still had the desire to make films, but they did not know how to break into the industry. “We didn’t know anyone in the film business,” he says. “We didn’t know anything.” The brothers moved to New York and worked to immerse themselves in the city’s film culture. While interning at the Angelika Film Center, Josh met Peter Glatzer, who was a fundraiser for the Independent Feature Project. They talked about screenwriting, and the Pate brothers soon had a script that Glatzer was — Jonas interested in producing. Their first film, The Grave, was shot in eastern North Carolina, and while it did not receive a theatrical release and

went straight to video after premiering on HBO, the Pate brothers had their collective foot in the door. In 1997, they made another North Carolina-shot film with Glatzer, The Deceiver, that starred Tim Roth and Renée Zellweger, and it found a larger audience after debuting at the Venice Film Festival and being distributed by MGM. The brothers headed for Los Angeles. There, Jonas found himself “taking jobs just to pay the bills” and “getting further and further away from what I actually wanted to do.” One bright spot of his time in Los Angeles was Pate meeting his wife, Jennifer, who also worked in the industry as a casting agent. Not long after they met, Jennifer started her own agency, and Jonas went to

“When I pulled from my own life instead of the movies I’d seen, it all came together,” he says. “You get to the universal by being super specific.”


her for assistance in casting his first television show, Good vs. Evil, in 1999. He went on to direct and produce a number of television shows, including the NBC shows Deception and Prime Suspect and ABC’s Blood and Oil. In 2005, the Pate brothers partnered again and returned to North Carolina, where they filmed a single season of the television show Surface, which they co-created. After having kids, Jonas and Jennifer decided to move back to North Carolina in time for their son and daughter to attend high school. Jonas suddenly found himself on the other side of the country from the industry to which he had devoted his life for the past 20 years. But then something magical happened. Jonas understood two things: First, he needed to create something that could be shot on the coast so he could stay close to home. Second, he would draw from his own experiences to make it real. “When I pulled from my own life instead of the movies I’d seen, it all came together,” he says. “You get to the universal by being super specific.” One big challenge that Jonas and his team encountered was casting the show’s young stars. “We auditioned maybe 500 or 600 kids, and we really had to try to find kids who’d been outside and lived in the outdoors.” Not surprisingly, given the Pate brothers’ personal ties to the show’s geography, nearly every star they cast was from the South, except for one who hailed from Alaska. “Growing up outside, being around boats,” Jonas says, “it’s hard to fake that stuff, and it’s hard to make it look real if it’s not.” I turn off the recorder and Mallory packs up her photography gear, and we say our goodbyes to Jonas. He is leaving soon for another production set. We share a number of mutual friends in Wilmington with him and Jennifer, and we talk about getting together for dinner once he returns. Mallory and I are alone in the driveway when I realize that I have locked the

courtesy Netflix

Firebirds owner Wade Harris

keys in our car. To say that I was embarrassed — and, let’s be honest, panicked — would be an understatement. Mallory pulls out her phone and begins searching for a locksmith. I have a flip phone, so I just stand there, weighing the two most logical options: breaking the window with one of Jonas’ landscaping rocks or just leaving the car and walking home, denying it was ever ours. I cannot help thinking that if I were John B., the star of Outer Banks and leader of the Pogues, played by Chase Stokes, I would sneak into a neighbor’s garage and hotwire their car, drive home, procure a backup set of keys, and return for Mallory while passing under the investigating deputy’s nose. Or, if I were Topper, the leader of the Kooks, played by Austin North, I would bang on Jonas’ door and use his phone to call my father’s car service. But I am neither of these characters. I’m just me, so I apologize again to Mallory, and we wait for the locksmith together.

Clockwise from top left: Pate with Chase Stokes, who plays John B; Pate and teenage stars of Outer Banks; Pate directing scene with Stokes and Madison Bailey, who plays Kiara.

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 43


The Baker’s Assistant How sweet it is by JIM DODSON illustration GERRY O’NEILL


ot long ago, my wife, Wendy, joined 47-million foot soldiers of the Great Resignation by retiring early from her job as the longtime director of human resources for one of the state’s leading community colleges. She loved her job at the college. It was fun and fulfilling in almost every way. But something was missing — and revealed — when COVID invaded our lives. Simply put, it was time to follow her heart and do something she’d envisioned doing even before I met her 25 years ago: to start her own gourmet, custom-baking company. News late last year that an innovative shared community kitchen for food entrepreneurs (called The City Kitch, based in Charlotte) was opening branches in Greensboro and Raleigh propelled her into action. She signed up for the first private kitchen studio and got to work preparing for her debut at an outdoor weekend market just before Christmas, selling out everything she baked in a couple hours. It was a promising start.


I should pause here and explain that Wendy is no novice or newcomer to the luxury baking world. Even while masterfully holding down a demanding career over the past two decades, she made stunning custom wedding cakes, luscious pies, artistic cookies, and other baked delicacies for friends and neighbors. As I say, she was already wowing customers in Syracuse, New York, when we met during one of my book tours in 1998, and she agreed to go on a formal first date that turned out to be, as I fondly think of it, baptism by baby wedding cakes. To briefly review, on a brisk autumn evening after a seven-hour drive between my house in Maine and her home in Syracuse, I arrived just in time to find Wendy cheerfully boxing up 75 miniature, exquisitely decorated wedding cakes for some demented daughter of a Syracuse corporate raider. “Oh, good,” she beamed, flushing adorably with a dollop of icing on her button nose, as I appeared. “Want to help me box these up and take them around the neighborhood for me?” How could I refuse? Her neighbors, it

seemed, had offered space in their refrigerators and freezers until the cakes could be delivered to the wedding hall. Truthfully, I don’t recall much about being pressed into service as an impromptu delivery man. I just have this vague memory of carefully boxing up dozens of the beautiful little cakes and bearing them all gussied up with elegant ribbons and bows to pals around the cul-du-sac. “Oh,” one actually cooed as she looked me over. “You must be the new boyfriend from Maine. Careful you don’t put on 50 pounds. Wendy’s cakes are awesome.” I gave her my best Joe Friday impersonation. “Never tasted ’em, ma’am. Just here to help out the baker.” Happy to report, the baby cakes made it safely to the wedding hall the next day without incident. The grateful baker even thoughtfully saved one of the gorgeous treats for my trip home to Maine. I’m embarrassed to say I never sampled it. Cake wasn’t my thing, probably because I grew up with a mama who made me a birthday cake from a box mix and store-bought frosting that tasted like chocolate-flavored sawdust with icing. I

gave Wendy’s baby wedding cake to my children, who absolutely loved it. Another issue emerged on my next visit to Syracuse, our critical second date. I breezed into her kitchen with a bottle of wine before we went out to dinner, and found her putting the finishing touches on another masterpiece of the baker’s art. Sitting nearby on her kitchen counter, however, was a wicker basket full of popcorn, my favorite snack food. As she opened the wine, I grabbed a handful. Her lovely face fell. It turned out to be a groom’s cake that only looked like a wicker basket full of popcorn. Profusely apologizing, as I licked the evidence of the crime off my greedy fingers, figuring this might be our last date, I had something of a dessert awakening. “Hey, this is really good. I don’t even like cake. What is this?” To my relief, she laughed. “Only the finest Swiss white-chocolate, sour-cream cake with salted buttercream. But no

worries. I can make another. Let’s just get take-out for dinner while I work.” I’d never seen such composure under fire. Right then and there I decided to propose to this remarkable woman and even confessed my sad history with cake, wondering if she would do the honor of making me a birthday confection. “Sure,” she said. “I’ll even make you a box mix cake if you want it.” Talk about a selfless act of love — this was like inviting LeRoy Neiman to do a doodle of a racehorse. Fortunately, by the time our wedding rolled around two years later, Wendy had schooled me up like a pastry chef’s apprentice, sealed by my first taste of her old-fashioned caramel cake — which she now makes me every year for my birthday (along with a sour cherry pie). Not surprisingly, the spectacular cake she made for our wedding disappeared without a trace before I could even get a taste. Our greedy guests left nary a

morsel — I suspect they even took home extra pieces stuffed in their pockets. Since that time, a steady stream of pies, cakes, cookies, scones, muffins, and rolls have flowed from her ovens to friends and family from Maine to Carolina. Which is why the creation of her business, Dessert du Jour, is such a milestone. The love of my life has never been happier since launching her dream company. And she shares her joy with others, one gorgeous theme cookie or slice of roasted pecan-studded carrot cake at a time. And for the moment at least, I have the honor and pleasure of being her sole employee, the one who puts up the tent and tables at the street market and delivers the goods wherever I’m sent, paid in cake tops and leftover cinnamon rolls. I ask you, does life get any sweeter than that? Jim Dodson is a New York Times bestselling author. He lives in Greensboro.


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The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 45


in the FIELD In a land of snakes and ticks, there’s an unexpected danger photos and words by MURRY BURGESS


startled myself when I realized I was reaching for a large ball of scales instead of the tiny bundles of feathers I’d been expecting. The rat snake was curled up in the chicks’ nest, its body spilling over the sides. It seemed to be resting peacefully after eating my research subjects. I climbed up my 20-foot ladder, wrestled the rat snake down, and transported it a bit up the road hoping it wouldn’t return. (It did, again and again.) Then I got back to work. Every day that I do research, I double-check that I have all my safety equipment. I pack bug spray, a first-aid kit, extra water, and, at the insistence of my mom, sunscreen. I triple-check that I pack my knife, wallet, and ID. I load these supplies, plus my 3-year-old pitbull mix, into the car.


I am a Ph.D. student studying urban ecology and ornithology in the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation program at North Carolina State University. For my research, I have been conducting a field experiment in rural Snow Camp, testing how Barn Swallow chicks respond to artificial light at night during their development. The experiment takes place inside an old wooden barn with LED Christmas lights hung over the nests as my anthropogenic light source. As a first-year graduate student, I waited in my college’s safety seminar for the topic of confrontations with others to come up. We discussed basic first aid and venomous snake identification. We were taught how to safely remove ticks and monitor bites for disease. All the example photos showed the symptoms on white

skin. “What do we do if we work in urban neighborhoods and men start harassing us?” asked one of my Black female colleagues. “Just call the police,” said the professor. But to us, the solution felt just as dangerous as the problem: in an era where headlines are filled with Black people killed by police during routine stops, calling the police feels like inviting more serious issues. We’d rather put up with the catcalls than turn someone into another hashtag, or worse, become one ourselves. Most of my field career has been tinged with racism, beginning before my research even started. I was looking for field lodging in Snow Camp so I wouldn’t have to commute an hour to the barn every day. There’s a campsite adjacent to the barn that was an ideal place to live for the

summer. My advisor and I went to talk to the owners. The lady who warily greeted us maintained a cold demeanor as we explained our situation. The campground policy was that only five days could be paid for at a time, and she was inflexible with making allowances for me. In fact, she only spoke to my advisor, who is a white woman, and not to me. Her body was angled away from me, as if I barely existed. As a Black woman, I’m used to the constant, subtle racism of being ignored, distrusted, critiqued on my speech and appearance, or held to different standards than my white colleagues. In a typical office, a microaggression such as this could be reported to human resources. But when the outdoors is your workplace and the people you interact with aren’t colleagues, there’s no HR to enforce a welcoming space. We later learned from my study site manager that her husband was seen shooting at a Bald Eagle and was reported, but never suffered a single consequence. Historically, animals have had more protection than Black people; if the federally protected symbol of America didn’t receive any protection at that location, I wasn’t confident that a young Black woman would. I didn’t feel safe and decided not to stay there. So now, every day during my field season of late March to late July, I drive past Trump signs and Confederate flags, all in pursuit of understanding why chicks in artificial light end up smaller than chicks in natural conditions. I’ve learned to fill up in Raleigh before my commute. The gas station nearest my field site is always swarming with police cars and distrustful, prying eyes. Having been followed many times by police cars while birding or just enjoying the outdoors, my gut tells me to steer clear of that gas station. “How to safely pump gas without being cuffed or shot” was not a module in my college’s field safety seminar. I started to feel like the knife in my bra was not enough, so I asked my college for identifying gear. Identifying field gear affiliates students with an organization and indicates that we are doing official research. My advisor made N.C. State

This and opposite page: Scenes from Murry Burgess’ field site, including the Barn Swallows, a rat snake, and her dog, Loki.

car magnets for me, and the department is now working on developing more gear, like vests and hats, for all students in the field. Other important conversations with my department included making sure someone knew when I was at the barn and when I made it home; an arsenal of emergency contacts; and discussing interpersonal safety concerns and brainstorming solutions to them. As part of my experiment, I occasionally need to go out at night to measure the intensity of the artificial light and see if the timers are working properly. I make sure to alert the property owner that I’ll be there, but I’ve found that having company at the barn greatly eases my hypervigilance. Because of COVID-19 regulations, I was unable to have undergraduate field technicians in my first year, but I always bring a friend on these midnight adventures, and we look out for each other. We try to be in and out as quickly as possible. Besides an incident where the ladder fell out from underneath me on a muddy day, I count myself lucky to never have been injured or harassed at the barn. But one time, an unknown camper brought his truck to halt just outside the barn and began to approach me. I can’t say if it was the car magnets, the pitbull with his hackles raised, or hearing me speak to an

audience on Instagram Live that stopped him, but something made him decide to mind his own business that day. I have no way of knowing that man’s intentions, but these appropriate safety precautions have the potential to save lives. With two field seasons complete and my third coming up, I’ve become acutely aware of the lack of protective measures for researchers like me in institutions across America. I’ve heard too many stories of female researchers being harassed and minority researchers having the police called on them. Safety concerns can be a barrier to others entering the field, especially those who have been historically excluded from natural science professions. Without self-advocacy, many of us might not receive the security we deserve. As I walked that snake away from the barn, I was annoyed that it ate the Barn Swallow chicks, but I was mostly excited to have a beautiful rat snake wrapped around my arm. I admired its smooth, black scales and needle-like teeth. I could even appreciate the cloying scent of its odor defense, simply because it was an experience with nature. As a field researcher, I anticipate snakes, wasps, and ticks. But as a Black woman often working alone, the scariest thing I encounter in the field is other people. The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 47


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What The Moon Knows by PAT RIVIERE-SEEL She knows shadow, how to slip behind clouds. She’s perfected the art of disappearing. She knows how to empty herself into the sky, whisper light into darkness. She knows the power of silence, how to keep secrets, even as men leave footprints in the dust, try to claim her. Waxing and waning, she summons the tides. Whole and holy symbol, she remains perfect truth, tranquility. Friend and muse, she knows the hearts of lovers and lunatics. She knows she is not the only one that fills the sky, but the sky is her only home.

illustration by LIDIA CHURAKOVA

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 51

Landscape architect Walt Havener designs exquisite, sustainable spaces across the Southeast



Scott Francis


Cantor Rodin Court at the NCMA

ne of the North Carolina Museum of Art’s most sensuous works won’t be found in its galleries, or even inside the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park. In fact, it’s not even part of the collection, but placemaking at its most exquisite — a sumptuous experience for four of the five human senses. (If a catered moonlight dinner could be arranged, the fifth could be quenched as well.) Outside of the West Building, within a rectangular notch carved into the western edge, porous gravel bound with epoxy glue crunches quietly underfoot. Water murmurs as it drains into the center of a shallow pond, its base tinted black, its edges softened by gray, rounded river rock. On warm days, crepe myrtles rustle in the breeze, while dragonflies buzz by in flight. The scents of roses — and of water lilies, aligned in two parallel rows of 10 at the pond’s center — waft through the air. A large, black-tinted wall, crafted from board-formed concrete, stands at the end of the courtyard, mute and powerful. When its forms were set, concrete was poured from above in uneven layers, with sand dribbled along their edges. After the forms were stripped, the sand was washed away, leaving behind textured cavities begging fingers to run through them. The wall is the exact width of the glassed-in interior gallery it faces, 150 feet away, and quietly serves as a terminus for both indoor and outdoor spaces. “It has great restraint,” says Mark Hough, Duke University’s landscape architect. “The wall is great, but intentionally subtle.” This courtyard, known as the Cantor Rodin Court, is the creation of landscape architect Walt Havener, founding principal and design director at Surface 678 in Durham. It’s one of five such spaces he designed for the West Building, and one of three with water features. A reductive landscape architect, Havener understood that this outdoor gallery should defer to the artwork The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 53

Scott Francis

Above: The entrance to the NCMA’s West Building. Opposite: The Cantor Rodin Court.

inside, but still make its own understated presence known. Here, guests find six life-sized or larger-than-life bronze sculptures by renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin, including The Three Shades, a study for his masterwork, The Gates of Hell. “It’s the highlight of my career,” Havener says of the Cantor Rodin Court, as well as the landscape he designed to flow around the West Building. “It’s beautiful and simple, and a joy for me.” In 2010 he was tasked with designing five courtyards to complement the new West Building, designed by architect Thomas Phifer, as well as uniting this structure with Edward Durell Stone’s 1983 East Building. To do that, he created a plaza shared by pedestrians and vehicles between the two structures. There are no cues for cars — no curbs, signs, or markings — giving drivers the sense they can operate 54 | WALTER

with impunity in the plaza. Instead, Havener added a grassy, oval-shaped island in its center, offering a subtle clue to rotate around it. “Most people intuitively understand and travel counterclockwise, but some go clockwise,” he says. “To me that means it’s working well.” He was asked also to create the environment that would envelop the West Building — and 11 years later it does, just as its architect envisioned. “Phifer wanted the building to eventually disappear into the landscape,” says Dan Gottlieb, NCMA’s former director of planning and special projects. “And on a cloudy day, it really does that — it dissolves into the landscape that Walt designed around it. It’s an antiheroic attitude.” Havener employed modern rigor at the museum’s entrance, a grid of trees shading visitors who sit, talk, drink, and eat at café tables below. At the edge of this formal space and beyond,

an undulating natural landscape hides views of Blue Ridge Road, connects to the larger park around it, and introduces plantings from across the state. “To make it his own, he took it from a highly geometric approach that morphs the building’s grid, to courtyards and grassy hillocks designed with commissioned sculptures,” Gottlieb says. Havener’s crowning achievement on the grounds is actually invisible to museum guests: a stormwater mitigation system for the West Building’s 50-acre watershed. He sank a 90,000-gallon cistern underground on the building’s north side to store runoff for irrigating trees and plantings. But its overflow feeds into a redesigned pond 1,500 feet away, where water is cleaned before draining into House Creek below. It’s a nature lover’s retreat. “The pond was originally designed as flooding control, and we improved

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 55


Art Howard (WALKWAY, WALL); Scott Francis (HAVENER)

Above: Another view of the West Building; Walt Havener. Opposite: A path outside of the NCMA.

upon that greatly, and vastly improved water quality,” Havener says, crediting Steven Blake and the Denver-based environmental firm Artifex-ED for their work there. “In all it was a huge success for quantity and quality, but more importantly for the integration of people into the system.” In 2017, the entire project won the American Society of Landscape Architects Professional Honor Award, the most prestigious of its kind. It was selected from 465 submissions in the U.S. and around the world. Tellingly, Havener made no mention of the award in interviews for this story. “He’s a talented designer, but he’s humble,” says Paul Manning, Duke University’s director of project management. “His head never gets as big as it does with some talented designers — that’s who he is, and that’s his character.” Havener got his start working for a landscaping firm in high school, then

attended North Carolina State University to learn horticulture. There, he discovered a talent for design. Before he graduated in 1983, he was called into a meeting that included the head of the landscape architecture department. “Three professors dragged me into an office and said, You’re going to apply for the master of landscape architecture programs at Harvard, UVA, and Michigan,” he says. And to his surprise, “I was accepted at all three.” He chose the department of landscape architecture at Harvard University, which at the time was chaired by the legendary Laurie Olin. “It was just a great school,” Havener says. “There was an urban atmosphere, and I had the ability to go to lectures in a wide variety of disciplines, and with future world leaders.” Once he graduated, Havener came back to the Triangle, working from 1991 to 1993 with O’Brien Atkins Associates in Durham, then teaming

up with Bob Lappas to form Lappas + Havener. By 2013, he’d bought Lappas out and formed Surface 678. It’s now a highly respected regional firm with 27 employees. Its name makes symbolic sense. “Surface is the medium we work on,” Havener says. “And 6, 7, and 8 are the zones from North Carolina to Texas — hot and cold, with warm nights.” Today, the firm works on projects in North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. “Half of our work is in North Carolina and the other half is in the Southeast,” he says. “We’ve worked with almost all the architects of merit in this state — they’ve heard about our approach, and they like the collaborative process.” Michael Stevenson, partner at Perkins Eastman’s Raleigh studio, is one of them. “I’ve worked in New York and D.C. and collaborated with many The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 57

Art Howard

Above and opposite: Areas within North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus.

national firms, but I’ve always believed Walt and his firm are the equals of that,” he says. “It’s a national design firm that happens to be in Durham.” Surface 678’s newest project graces Havener’s alma mater, on the Centennial Campus at N.C. State. It’s a sophisticated stormwater management system for the Clark Nexsen-designed engineering building, Fitts-Woolard Hall. The project — a series of riffles, step pools, and stainless steel weir — runs the length of the building, 300 feet in total. It’s 30 feet wide, including seating and landscaping for students, and 5 feet deep, including surface and subsurface features. Stormwater from the roof of the building enters the first of a series of step pools at its top, at an elevation of 366 feet. It emerges at the bottom, after an 11-foot drop, at 355 feet. Here, the landscape architects have recreated the dynamics of a North Carolina trout stream. Each level has a 58 | WALTER

riffle and pool: the riffle transports water downgrade, and the pool allows for collection and infiltration into deep media beds below the surface. “Step pools are really pockets of bioretention,” Havener says. “The weir, or sluice, is a demonstration of how water travels quickly when unopposed by nature, versus traveling through natural elements like soil, stone, and plants.” Its material palette includes boulders from the North Carolina/Tennessee border, valued for their orange-browncream coloration. Blocky shapes and flat tops allowed for stacking and fitting. Smaller stones from Virginia, called river jacks, occupy the riffles where water rapidly descends into pools. “They were selected for their color range and the rounded language of mountain streams,” Havener says. Plantings are native to North Carolina. “We try and select materials that will remain low, so the stream doesn’t grow over with foliage,” he says.

“There are grasses, perennials, and sedges, with low shrubs and few trees.” As at the museum, the firm created a uniting space between the engineering building and its neighbor, the James Hunt Library. The buildings share a grand staircase, part of a key campus path. Havener and his designers selected materials and made alignments to subtly reference the library. “We pretty much redesigned from the west side of Hunt to the east, and the oval to the north is a unifying campus space,” he says. “We carefully managed alignments with the perimeter path and a tree-planting master plan that the University authored.” At the end of the day, the project is thoughtful, sustainable, and designed within an inch of its life — not that the lay passerby would notice. That’s Havener’s gift: creating outdoor spaces that are at once utilitarian, unobtrusive, and uplifting, an unexpected gift to the senses.

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Replicas of Sir Walter Raleigh’s wax seals from Terry Henderson’s collection.

signed & sealed

Terry Henderson’s unique collection bridges history and design by KATHERINE SNOW SMITH photography by BRYAN REGAN

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 61

Terry Henderson, above, has an extensive collection of wax seals, medals, intaglios, and other memorabilia collected over the years.



hey say if you have three of anything it’s a collection,” Terry Henderson says with a chuckle. “So I guess I qualify as a collector.” The laugh contradicts the breadth of what he’s gathered: a distinctive assemblage of over 400 intricately carved silver and metal seals and wax impressions, called intaglios, from the 18th and 19th centuries. The intaglios range in size from a half-inch to 1 ½ inches — each a miniature work of art — and made from an intricately carved seal or stamp. “There are faces, mythical figures, and all manner of classical Greek and Roman designs,” he says. Prized within this collection are three rare replicas of Sir Walter Raleigh’s seals. When you see them, you can just picture him in London in 1592, holding a flame to a stick of wax, dripping a small red puddle onto the envelope containing a newly penned letter to his secret wife, Elizabeth Throckmorton. Picking up the ornately cut metal seal, he’d press it into the wax to safeguard his words from prying eyes. “As a native of North Carolina and because of the place that Sir Walter Raleigh holds in the history of the state, I thought they were very interesting,” Henderson says. “And, of course, Hayes Barton, where I live, is named for Raleigh’s birthplace in Devon, England.” Sir Walter Raleigh used different seals for various roles in his life: Governor of Virginia (though, just like the city named after him, he never set foot there), Warden of the Stannaries, Governor of the Island of Jersey, and Captain of the Queen’s Guard. He also had a personal seal. In his era, wax seals were used to designate official documents as well as to secure letters, writing tablets, boxes, and even doors. The original seals used to make the wax impressions were often crafted out of precious and semiprecious gemstones and used in signet rings or pendants. The concave image was cut into the stone like a mold. The gemstones were so hard

2020 || 00 The Art &OCTOBER Soul of Raleigh 63

that normal engraving tools could not be used, so the cuts were made by lathes powered with a bow or foot pedal, Henderson explains. The concave (negative) carving would be pressed into a red wax sulphur mixture rendering a convex (positive) image. Sometimes the intaglios would be made of white paste instead of red wax. The resulting hardened intaglios were often collected by sons of wealthy families as they completed their education. They’d use them to commemorate the various stops on months-long, sometimes years-long, grand tours of the capitals and ancient sites of Greek and Roman civilizations. These collections of intaglios were often cataloged in books created especially for their display. “The classics and the arts come together in these small treasures,” he says. “I would come across them for sale on eBay, from other collectors or from antique dealers. You’d see them individually or two or three together at a time.” The British Museum made just 100 copies of three of Sir Walter Raleigh’s 16th-century seals in the late 19th century. The museum then sold the seals to raise money to buy back the original seals from collectors, who had acquired them through an earlier auction. Over the decades, they’ve continued to be a collector’s item. Early on, Henderson developed a fascination with history and an eye for spotting rare medals, seals, and intaglios. He actually found one of his most prized pieces as a teenager at an antique store in his hometown of Hickory, in the western part of the state. “I call it my Queen Vicky medal,” he says. The commemorative 3-inch medallion was made and sold for the Diamond Jubilee celebration of Queen Victoria’s 60 years on the throne in 1897. At the time, she was the longest-reigning British monarch. The solid silver medallion is a triumph of the medallic arts, featuring the queen’s profile on one side and, on the other, the Royal Coat of Arms centered in the midst of all the flags of the the British Empire at the time. “I probably paid less than $100 for 64 | WALTER

it,” Henderson says. “But that was an incredible amount of money for me as a teenager in the 1960s.” About 20 years later, Henderson and his wife were at a shop in Mount Vernon, Virginia, the homeplace of George Washington, where he came across another favorite find: a replica of the Great Seal of the United States reproduced from a seal that Washington had owned. These replicas were produced in the late 1860s as a way for the Mount Vernon Ladies Association to raise money to buy the privately-owned Mount Vernon estate from Washington’s heirs. (It worked: they bought it back for $200,000, a considerable sum at the time.) Their fundraising efforts allowed Mount Vernon to become the first organized house museum in the country. Henderson, who moved to Raleigh in 1987, recently headed up the centennial celebration for his neighborhood of Hayes Barton. In a full-circle moment, he commissioned a new seal from Raleigh Notary Seals for the occasion, depicting the one-time trolley stop at the corner of Harvey Street and Glenwood Avenue. It was embossed in gold foil on commemorative programs for the event — a modern take on the historic wax seals that captured his interest decades ago.

“The classics and the arts come together in these small treasures.” — Terry Henderson

A few more items from Henderson’s collection, including his ”Queen Vicky” commemorative medallion and dozens of red wax intaglios.

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 65

FRESHLY FALLEN The blossoms of the Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis ‘Akebono’) are fleeting, but the petals they drop make our footsteps soft after a winter of hard edges.


Scenes of

SPRING The Sarah P. Duke Gardens brim with the beauty of a hopeful season

by HANNAH ROSS photography by JULI LEONARD

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 67


ach March, a tunnel of Akebono Yoshino cherry trees comes into bloom at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, their blushtoned blossoms unfurling. As the flowers peak, their pale pink petals catch the breeze and twirl to the ground. Jan Little, the garden’s director of education and public programs, welcomes the jubilant embrace of the cherry trees. “They’re planted in such a way that it’s a celebration. In Japan, they celebrate not only the blossoms in the trees, but the blossoms that fall on the ground, and that’s so nicely illustrated in the allée,” she says, referring to the pathway under the trees. In the gardens, spring is orchestrated long before the flowers emerge. A skilled team of horticulturists juggle seasonal tasks year-round, planning for spring in the heat of summer. Each fall, tens of thousands of bulbs are planted. Horticulture director Bobby Mottern thrives in this verdant cycle. He leads a creative team of gardeners who manifest continual magic for visitors. “We shape pockets of opportunity and experiences throughout the garden,” Mottern says. “We want to see the dreams of the garden staff come to life.” Designed with such generosity of spirit, the gardens hold endless opportunities for discovery, reflection, and inspiration. In the Woodland Garden, the ephemerals emerge, including bloodroot, Virginia bluebell, and trillium, popping through the leaf litter to capture brief sunlight before the tree canopy returns. The historic Terrace Gardens are bathed in sunshine, with Italianate stone beds full of structural, evergreen texture. Tucked throughout to delight spring visitors are about 60,000 bulbs, including daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, and grape hyacinth. Inspired by a trip to Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands, Mottern and his team now plant their bulbs in layers, with large bulbs buried under smaller ones, to create waves of blooms for months. Planting this way is a significant undertaking, but, Mottern says, “creating complexity makes it dynamic.” Along with bulbs, hardy annuals like poppies and snapdragons are tucked throughout, bringing a sense of renewal to every corner. Nearby, in the Asiatic Arboretum, some of Mottern’s favorite spring moments take place: the synchronous blossoming of the saucer magnolias, and the emergence of Japanese Maple leaves, which gleam like jewels at this tender stage. “Most people focus on flowers,” he says, “but I love the leaves of spring — all those vibrant shades of green.” To notice nature’s nuances as horticulturists do takes finely tuned attention. In her education role, Little helps visitors experience the gardens with a fresh perspective. She encourages tapping into the senses — matching colors, mapping sounds, or following fragrances where they lead — to unveil the evolving beauty of the gardens. “Instead of plants just being a backdrop,” Little says, “you’re actively seeing the garden, which makes your experience richer.”


TEXTURED TERRACES Tens of thousands of bulbs awaken in the Terrace Garden alongside romantic weeping cherry trees (Prunus pendula ‘Pendula Plena Rosea’). Stately conifers, bristled pines, and angular agaves embrace spring’s softness within their architectural lines.

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POPS OF COLOR Bulbs and hardy annuals are planted throughout the gardens in late fall. Come spring, they paint the landscape with their rich hues, beckoning us closer. Clockwise from top left: Grape Hyacinth (Muscari aucheri ‘Blue Magic’); Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule); Poppy anemone (Anemone coronaria); and tulip (Tulipa sp.).

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 71

UNFURLING FORMS The gardens in spring rouse our senses with their texture, light, and fragrance. Clockwise from top left: Bud of Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule); Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum); Fatsi (Fatsia japonica); and Weeping Higan Cherry (Prunus pendula ‘Pendula Plena Rosea’).


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MORNING DEW Catch the gardens in the morning for glimpses of rebirth reflected in a thousand dewdrops. Clockwise from top left: tulip (Tulipa sp.); daffodil (Narcissus spp.); snowdrop (Leucojum aestivum); daffodil buds (Narcissus spp.)

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 75


Nate Sheaffer reflects on a career of illumination


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think we are hardwired to be drawn to light,” says Nate Sheaffer. “Neon is a brilliant and uplifting visual.” He should know: he’s a longtime neon artist and glass bender who’s perfected his craft for over 36 years in North Carolina. If you see a glowing sign luring your gaze toward a storefront in Raleigh, chances are it was created in his studio, Glas Neon. From the bright red “Raleigh” sign inside Union Station to the triptych of positivity prompts (What Good Shall I Do Today?) at CAM Raleigh to the shiny new green sign in the window of Parkside Grill, Sheaffer and his Glas team have made public art their business. “As a shop of craftspeople, we get to imbue some artistic leverage into the commercial signs we make,” he says. The Glas Neon studio at Dock 1053 on Whitaker Road — which calls itself “a shiny place for shady people” — is a dazzling wonderland filled with whimsical vintage signs, glimmering disco balls, campy cartoon characters, magical marquees, and bespoke custom commissions infused with artistry and whimsy. A portion of the studio is open to visitors who can observe the process in action through a window — a safe way to get a glimpse of the artists at their workbenches, bending glass with torches. Working in neon combines art and science to create lightning in a bottle. The process begins with a design drawn to scale on paper and used as a pattern 78 | WALTER

“I’d like to think that when we do something right, that has a decent design, the light alone will draw people. And if it’s clever, then maybe it will make somebody smile.” — Nate Sheaffer for “bending” a glass tube. While heating the tube over a high flame, the artist maintains a consistent diameter by blowing puffs of air into the glass. Once the desired shape is achieved, the bending is complete. The Glas Neon team uses various colors of glass, and some tubes are coated with phosphor or other chemicals to generate different hues. Next, gas is introduced into the glass tube — neon, historically, but other inert gases, too, like argon, helium, or mercury, or a mix that will glow when activated. The gas is sealed inside the tubes, which have electrodes attached to each end. When power is sent to the electrodes, it ionizes the gas inside the tube and activates the light. The combination of the tube color, phosphor lining, and gas used influences the color of the finished product. It’s a delicate, technical process, with brilliant results. Sheaffer relishes neon’s ability to spark curiosity and wonder: “I really want everybody who looks at something that I’ve had a hand in the design to say, How did he do that? and then to immediately ask, Why?” Sheaffer attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 1980s, earning a degree in German while also studying art and sculpture. As a student, Sheaffer was encouraged to incorporate light into his studio practice. That led to an independent study under neon artist John Noe, which then led to work with John Wilhelm, who was then

the owner of Paradise Neon in Raleigh. Wilhelm tutored Sheaffer in neon art and mentored him on the business side of neon-tubing fabrication. After Sheaffer graduated, Wilhelm (who had recently sold his own business) encouraged his protégé to start his own shop. In 1986, Sheaffer opened Neon Impressions in Chapel Hill, fabricating glass tubing for commercial businesses with his brothers Curtis and Garth as partners and employees. While commercial signage work paid the bills during Neon Impressions’ early years, Sheaffer realized that in order to push the business into a more artistic direction, he would need stronger glass-blowing skills. “I felt like I needed to have a grip on the craft to adequately start being more quirky on projects,” he says. “I accelerated the process by working 16-hour days, by myself, practicing for two years.” By the late 1990s, neon glass operations in the U.S. faced stiff competition from global fabricators and technological advances in LED lighting. Neon Impressions shut down as the industry suffered tremendous losses. “Over 2,000 neon glass blowers pretty much stopped working, period, in 1999,” says Sheaffer. “And that was out of a pool of about 3,500. Only about 350 exist now.” Sheaffer himself stepped away from the business for a while, first working in general contracting, then staying at home to parent his two young children. But as they got older, the lure of the light returned. He joined the Chatham Artists Guild in 2011 to start rehoning his craft,

Scenes from inside the Glas Neon studio, where Nate Sheaffer and his team fabricate signs and other artwork.

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 79

Sheaffer at work in the Glas studio bending a tube of glass.


then founded Glas Neon in 2016; he now employs five people at the Raleigh studio. When Sheaffer opened Glas, the lingering effects of global competition and technical advances remained. Still, the studio was doing well — until a 2020 expansion to a second studio in New Orleans, coupled with the pandemic, put the business in a precarious position. By last year, it was almost lights out for Glas. Sheaffer realized that if he let his staff go, the chances of them returning were slim. So he took a significant financial gamble to keep his staff employed by borrowing from his retirement savings. “If I lost my glass blowers, I wouldn’t get them back — they would go find someplace else and

I wouldn’t blame them,” he says. “We did a lot of ‘make work’ restoring old signs. I paid everybody by borrowing from future Nate, who will not return my calls at all [laughs]. My sad story would be less sad if it weren’t everybody’s story.” But a holiday miracle pulled Glas Neon out of the dark: last December, WRAL and Dorothea Dix Park commissioned Glas to create neon sculptures for the second annual Nights of Lights drivethrough light show. The project was the boost the team needed. The Glas team created over 35 large-scale works for the festival, including a series of neon elves and a 23-foot mechanical Santa Claus. In addition to its commercial work, the studio has had a hand in artistic commissions like the Love Over Rules installation at Father & Son Antiques. Marjorie Hodges from Artsuite commissioned Glas to fabricate and install work originally designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas. “That was such a timely thing to happen for everyone,” says Sheaffer. “It was a technical challenge, the whole crew worked together as a shop effort — it was really gratifying and the message is so good.” This was the second large-scale commission for which Hodges had hired Sheaffer, the first being a piece called Eyecentennial in the North Hills ArtBox public art project. “Nate is so talented, he really stretches the bounds of using neon to create complex, colorful, and engaging works of art,” says Hodges. The craftspeople at Glas are also encouraged to hone their own creative practices. Tayler Drattlo, a neon artist who’s worked at the Glas studio for two years, reflects on how color in neon plays

with our perception. “As I have explored and experimented in my neon practice, I’ve noticed my tendency toward the neon glow itself and its participation in space,” she says. “The delicate art of bending soft glass mixed with the endless possibilities of gas to glass color combinations draws me in. I’ll need at least one more lifetime to explore all the possibilities of the shape and flow of the visual candy that is neon.” That creativity speaks to the environment of collaboration and mentorship at Glas, which, in addition to nurturing the folks in its studio, holds glass-bending classes to preserve the distinctive craft. “He’s the hardest-working person I’ve ever met and has always been open to sharing his experience and knowledge with others,” says Richard Marvill, a glass bender at Glas Neon who has known Sheaffer since they were students together at UNC. “He’s also an energetic champion of what we do — he definitely inspires those around him to give a little more.” Sheaffer recognizes that part of the lure of neon is nostalgia, but believes that, with creativity and craft, it can play a crucial role in shaping the visual landscape of an evolving Raleigh. “I’d like to think that when we do something right, that has a decent design, the light alone will draw people,” says Sheaffer. “And if it’s clever, then maybe it will make somebody smile.”

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 81

“The delicate art of bending soft glass mixed with the endless possibilities of gas to glass color combinations draws me in. I’ll need at least one more lifetime to explore all the possibilities of the shape and flow of the visual candy that is neon.” — Tayler Drattlo



Kate Pope

Max Kast and Trey Bailey at the TWFE Grand Auction

WALTER’s roundup of gatherings, celebrations, fundraisers, and more around Raleigh.

87 Storybook Tales 89 DAR Awards 89 First Friday at CAM 90 TWFE Grand Auction 92 TWFE Wine Dinner

To have your event considered for The Whirl, submit images and information at

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 83



WIN i 22 20


Join us for our fifth annual WINi summit celebrating young women, diversity, and innovation. Hear female leaders in our community share their career journeys — from overcoming obstacles and pushing boundaries to achieving their goals. Guests will also participate in a workshop with the UNC’s Innovate Carolina designed to sharpen problemsolving skills and creative thinking.

Sunday, March 13 Market Hall, Raleigh For more information, visit



2022 WINi Panelists Meet the four inspiring women leading this year’s talk. CARY HEISE Executive Director & Founder, Designed for Joy Cary Heise is a serial entrepreneur and Founder and Executive Director of the Raleigh nonprofit Designed For Joy. With a mission to provide immediate, living wage work for Raleigh’s most vulnerable women, the DFJ team has hired over 70 women in crisis. Cary is passionate about using the Designed For Joy platform to empower and equip all women who walk into their studio doors. Those who need dignified work, board members, volunteers, interns, and shoppers all get an invitation from her to grow and gain experience as a positive change maker and community leader.

DAISY MAGNUS-ARYITEY Co-Executive Director, Code the Dream Daisy Magnus-Aryitey moved to the U.S. from Ghana at the age of 4. She lived in New Mexico, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York before settling in North Carolina in 2009. She wrote her first line of code in a Code the Dream class, and within a year was working as a full-time software developer at Duke University. Daisy has played many roles at CTD, from a student in the initial CTD pilot to CTD Director to Board ViceChair. She has a Master’s in Education Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

DAWN BLAGROVE Executive Director, Emancipate NC Dawn Blagrove is an attorney, Executive Director of Emancipate NC, and adjunct professor for the Criminal Justice Department of Fayetteville Technical Community College. She obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and graduated from North Carolina Central School of Law. After graduating law school, Blagrove worked for eight years as a post-conviction staff attorney with North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services. Her experiences fuel her passion for educating youth and the public about challenges in the criminal justice system. She is also a proud co-sponsor of the Capital City Chapter of Jack and Jill of America.

EMILY NEVILLE Founder & CEO, Reborn Clothing Co. Emily Neville is a 2019 graduate of the Park Scholarships program at North Carolina State University. While in college, Emily started the first Boys & Girls Club in her home region of Harnett County, as well as her company, Reborn Clothing Co. Reborn has continued to grow since its infancy in 2018, most recently, through a popup shop in North Hills. Reborn serves as the solution to consumer and corporate textile waste across several industries, including upcycling spent grain bags for a growing number of national breweries, and for the clothing in the back of your closets through Reborn Closet. Emily believes that business can and should be used for good.

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 85


Courtesy Raleigh Dance Theatre (ON STAGE); Alya Jakubowicz (FAMILY PHOTO)

STORYBOOK TALES On December 11, Raleigh Dance Theatre took to the stage for this first time in two years. Guest artist Luke Potgeiter from Carolina Ballet joined for The Dancing Princess choreographed by RDT founder Ann Vorus. Fairy Doll, a Russian ballet from the early 19th century, was a new production for the group.

Luke Potgeiter, Natalie Clyburn


Ava Munn, Noah Braun, Marius Diaz

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NOW AVAILABLE IN N BOOKSTORES Author John Sharpe sits down with citizens of Raleigh to capture their candid recollections of life during the mid-twentieth century, from the introduction of IBM and the creation of the Research Triangle Park, to the integration of the school system, read unique perspectives from: Bill Berryhill Frank Daniels Dick Daugherty Billy Dunlap Jim Goodmon Kendall Harris Virgil Hicks Joe Holt Phillip Horwitz Earl Johnson Jackie Murdock Joe Sansom Wade Smith Sis Strong Ben Taylor Joe Webb Sherry Worth Ford Worthy Smedes York Steve Zaytoun

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THE WHIRL DAR AWARDS On January 14, Jaquelin Santos Ventura and Ainsley Reid McCurry received the Good Citizens Award and scholarship from by the Caswell-Nash Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

Anne Strickland, Jacquelin Santos Ventura, Teri Phillippi

courtesy DAR and CAM

FIRST FRIDAY AT CAM On December 4, CAM Raleigh opened up for First Friday for the first time in two years. The museum featured work by Alun Be, Kennedy Carter, Lakea Shepherd, Mikael Owunna, Oliver Wagner, and Scott Hazard.

Escape to the

SANDHILLS The Home of American Golf® beckons all visitors. From world-class golf to local shopping and dining, our welcoming Southern hospitality is why people have been coming home to the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area for more than 125 years. Plan Your SANDHILLS Escape today!

Julia Einstein with guests

Guests at the Lakea Shepard exhibit

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 89 WALTER Magazine Jan - March 2022 Half Pg Ad.indd 1

11/19/21 2:26 PM

THE WHIRL TWFE GRAND AUCTION On February 5, a Grand Auction culminated the 29th Annual Triangle Wine & Food Experience, a three-day event featuring chefs and winemakers from all over the world. The culinary celebration benefits the Frankie Lemmon School and Developmental Center. This year’s event saw 2,000 attendees over the three days and raised $2.2 million for the school.

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4301 Lake Boone Trl Suite 206 Raleigh, NC 27607 919-615-0054

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Spring Breaks Loose From an impromptu getaway for two, to a spring break with the family, we have packages on the island of Wrightsville Beach that are perfect for any occasion. Our Rendezvous Package is ideal for that special weekend, greeted with wine upon your arrival, dinner in our award winning restaurant, and breakfast in bed. 844-891-9707 Andrew Zimmern

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 91

THE WHIRL TWFE WINE DINNER Joseph Patterson and Kellie Falk, along with Carlton Midyette and Marjorie Hodges, hosted friends for a dinner featuring chefs Michael Zolomonov and Matt Kelly, and wineries K. Laz Wine Collection and Ad Vivum to support Frankie Lemmon School.

March 13 – 2 pm “Freedom Park: The Inspiring Story of How a Monument to Freedom is Built while Confederate Statues are Coming Down” Part 2: Speakers, Reginald Hildebrand and Reginald Hodges $15 Supporters /$20 General

March 27 – 11:30-2 pm “Come Sunday” Jazz Brunch Shana Tucker and ChamberSOUL, and brunch from a local restaurant. Supporters/General: $40/$50 - Band and Brunch $25/$35 - Music Only Kids 12 and under $15 for Brunch; Free Show

For tickets visit:

Just a short drive away, there’s a perfect place to escape for the day. Our 100 year old historic house is a storied venue for events and programs that will spark your mind, and feed your senses. If you prefer, you are welcome to roam our 26 acres of gardens and grounds, or picnic on our lush lawns. We’re conveniently nestled in the heart of Southern Pines, a quaint town, which boasts a host of restaurants and cute boutiques that also offer something for everyone. So next time you have the urge to get out of town, put us on your GPS. You can experience a real getaway, but still get home in a single day.

Joseph Patterson, Matt Kelly, Michael Solomonov, Kellie Falk, Marjorie Hodges

Jen Kelly


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Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities 555 E. Connecticut Ave. Southern Pines, NC A 501(c)(3) organization

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Harvey’s newest book, The Wedding Veil, will be released on March 29.


Thursday, APRIL 28 Join WALTER at City Club Raleigh as we host Kristy Woodson Harvey, a New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including Under the Southern Sky and The Peachtree Bluff Series. Over dinner and drinks, she’ll share stories from her latest novel, The Wedding Veil. Set at the Biltmore, this historical-contemporary novel is about Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt of Biltmore, a present-day family, and the famous, missing Vanderbilt veil.

Tickets and more information at WALTERMAGAZINE.COM/BOOKCLUB


NC State Student Media / University Archives Photographs (PLAYERS); Getty (BASKETBALL); Bob Karp (WOMAN); Trey Thomas (HOME)

Take WALTER to go! There’s always something to discover on our website and social media. FOLLOW US @WALTERMAGAZINE




IF YOU CAN CALL IT A GAME A pandemic ritual to connect with friends turns into a celebration of the players that give college basketball its true spirit.

8 STORIES THAT TEACH US ABOUT RALEIGH’S BLACK HISTORY Read about an early feminist, an ardent baseball player, and efforts to reclaimed neglected Black neighborhoods — and the memories they hold.


Step inside this modern family home full of warm wood finishes, textured decor, and quirky thrifted baubles.

The Art & Soul of Raleigh | 95


Etched in Stone A tucked-away monument offers a place to reflect by EMILY GAJDA photography by FORREST MASON


misty spring morning in rural North Carolina: driving northwest from Raleigh, as farms line each side of Old N.C. 86, John’s Woods Road appears seemingly out of nowhere. A grassy shoulder off a dead-end road turns into an open field, where dark shadows peek through the fog, just barely hinting at what lies beyond. It’s quiet here, a spot that’s easy to miss — unless you know what to look for. In this field, visitors can find North Carolina’s own take on Stonehenge, called Stone Knoll. It’s just outside of Chapel Hill in a little unincorporated community known as Calvander. Here, looming stone slabs arranged around a circle mark each of the cardinal directions — north, south, east, and west — and boulders spiral out from its center, widening into the clearing.


The communities around Stone Knoll refer to the landmark as “Hartleyhenge” in honor of its creator, John Hartley. An architect and builder in nearby Carrboro, Hartley was known for marrying living spaces with nature and making room in his tucked-away subdivisions for outdoor gathering spaces. Stone Knoll was built in the mid-1990s as part of a neighborhood with the same name. Hartley made few comments about the installation’s meaning before his passing in 2011 — but words and symbols carved into the brass plaques there offer a hint of its purpose. Each of the immense slabs display the footprints of a “spirit keeper” — animals that some Native American cultures believe guard the directions and seasons — along with a fitting poem. The eastern slab, for example, features the footprints

of an eagle and Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning.” In the center of Stone Knoll, a raised flat slab holds the four spirit keepers together in harmony and showcases second poems about each one. As spring approaches, consider these words from a poem Hartley wrote for the season: The air is cool, moist, and fresh as we reach out, feel our strength, rise above the tree tops and look upon the abundance of the Great Mother. Our vision, sharp and clear, illuminates all that encircles us and, filled with the wisdom of knowing our true course, we soar. Find Stone Knoll in the field north of 228 John’s Woods Road, Chapel Hill.

4401 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27612

(919) 571-2881


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