Weathering the Storm

Resized art fundraiser fits the needs of a new era

Old Tobacco Barn, Jane Voorhees

The Bridges of Madison County is a fluffy fictional construct that “happened” in the Midwest. But the barns of Madison County are not only real, but also really worth preserving. 

Or so says the Appalachian Barn Alliance, whose stated goal is to “capture Madison County, NC, agricultural history through photos, oral histories, and architectural details of significant barns in Madison County.” The nonprofit sponsors an Annual Historic Barns Photo Contest and various tours, including self-guided driving tours and (during non-pandemic times) van tours, curated with detailed archival information administered through Mars Hill University.

The mostly disused tobacco barns run thick in the rural county. More than 10,000 of them brood scenically in their own shadows, some still standing tall and others just shells inhabited by the melancholy mountain light. Barns that have weathered multiple centuries make ideal subjects for landscape painters, including those who belong to The Saints of Paint, a local group that sells select canvases for worthy causes. The Saints have reconfigured their typical VIP gala (which usually attracts hundreds) to a socially distanced exhibit and online sale.

“Once again my group of dedicated artists are collaborating with the Appalachian Barn Alliance to raise support and awareness of [ABA’s] educational mission,” says Saints of Paint spokesperson John Mac Kah. “The disappearing landscape often is a theme of our Saints events. The rural agrarian lifestyle and the historic structures, some dating back to the 1700s, are of great interest to us.” 

“Pastoral Palette Resized — Rural Spaces for the Soul” happens during October and features Mac Kah and more than two dozen other noted painters. Although the typical party-style fundraiser had to be framed in a new way to fit the restrictions of the COVID era, organizers have worked hard to pull it off. 

“We are very proud to be a part of this,” says Mac Kah.

The Saints of Paint will host their 2nd annual “Pastoral Palette” fundraiser benefitting the Appalachian Barn Alliance in Studio #234 at Riverview Station in Asheville’s River Arts District (191 Lyman St.). The opening event happens Sunday, Oct. 4, 10am-5pm, in 15-minute time slots from 10am-2pm (confirm a viewing time by e-mailing or by calling Sandy Stevenson at 828-380-9146). Featured artists are: Chris Bell, Tony Biddix, Cecil Bothwell, Christine Enochs, Mark Henry, Dana Irwin, John Mac Kah, Ruthanne Kah, Rebecca King-Hawkinson, Susan Kokora, Bryan Koontz, Cathy Mandeville, Deborah Squier, and Jane Voorhees. The studio display and online sale runs Oct. 5-31. Studio hours are: Sundays, 12-4pm; Mondays, 10am-5pm; Tuesdays through Saturdays, 2-5pm. For more information, see