Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation protects, preserves and enhances the national attraction with the help of local artists.
For the second year, Saints of Paint and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation work together at the Zealidea Estate to raise money for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Donations go toward backlog maintenance and reopening businesses across the parkway, according to Communications Director for the Blue Ridge Parkway Rita Larkin.
“The Blue Ridge Parkway itself has $500 million worth in backlog maintenance. And that can range from the road to small buildings to bridges, all kinds of stuff. So we work with the national park service to select projects that maybe wouldn’t get funded through the government if we didn’t step in,” Larkin said.
Larkin said the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation relies on donors to fund the list of projects needed to maintain historic preservation and wildlife. She said getting a Blue Ridge Parkway license plate is also considered a donation and a way to help the foundation.
“The Saints of Paint approached us and it seemed like a really neat way to do it because what they do is they go out on the parkway at overlooks and then paint the overlooks and paint beautiful things so they approached us and it just seemed like a really nice partnership,” Larkin said.
Larkin said the gallery will be open to people who bought tickets for a small party where they can look and purchase the art on the first night. On the weekend it will be open to the public. Half of the proceeds go to the artist while the other half goes to the foundation.
“The Saints of Paint are a group of artists who are collectively using their talent to help raise funds for groups that are dedicated to preserving the environment, caring for animals and working for positive social change. We host shows annually in partnership with non-profit groups of our choosing whose work we find inspirational,” said Christine Enochs, a co-founder of Saints of Paint organization and artist in Asheville.
According to Enochs, the gala can be an amazing way for artists and supporters of the parkway and non-profits to show their support.
“We see the parkway as an amazing gem right in our backyard, which also happens to provide endless inspiration for landscape painters. It really is the perfect partnership for us as painters. There are so many beautiful areas that inspire artistic creativity. Not only at the vistas and overlooks, but also on many of the hiking trails and other areas accessed by the parkway,” Enochs said.
Enochs said Saints of Paint chose to partner with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation in order to help get involved with the protection of the parkway.
“It’s so much more than just a scenic drive. They help protect native plants and wildlife, including pollinators, educate the public about the area and how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, have kids programs to get them involved and so much more. We are hoping to help them continue their mission and outreach while protecting the natural resources that encompass much of the parkway,” Enochs said.
Andrew Laughlin, an assistant professor of environmental studies at UNC Asheville, said that the biggest concern for maintaining the parkway could be the number of visitors that come to the national park.
“As a road, it connects the Shenandoah National Park with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As an ecosystem, it is a narrow protected area that meanders through forests and urban areas. And as a place for recreation, it creates opportunities for people to get back into nature,” Laughlin said.
According to Laughlin, the Blue Ridge Parkway houses many plants and animals that need to be protected as well as a high traffic area.
“Stay on the trails, do not go off-trail. Clean up after yourself. Follow the sign. Respect the wildlife and keep your distance. This is their home,” Laughlin said.
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation depends on the gala, among other events, to make the parkway healthy and be adaptable to its many uses.
“We’re kind of at a point where there are things that can’t be fixed and because they can’t be fixed, the public is losing access to these things that are really part of the Parkway and part of the beauty of the Parkway or part of the history of the Parkway. So the fact that the park service isn’t receiving enough money to keep those things maintained, it’s really a detriment to the public and what they can do on the Parkway,” Larkin said.