The Sculpture Culture Comes to Fayetteville – Part 8

Written by Stone Samuels

August is here already, and the kids will be heading back to school very soon. This time of year marks the end of the summer for the younger generation. Even with the ending of summer for our children, there are still things for them to see and do in the way of visiting the sculptures Downtown; if they have not yet done so.

That is one of the great things about art. It is not just for one group of people, but for everyone to admire and appreciate. Thanks to The Arts Council and the city of Fayetteville, N.C., we have just that.

The amount of time that this wonderful artwork will be exhibited in the area is falling short, and although this is unfortunate, due to the great success of these exhibitions, there should be many more slated to come.

When writing this installment of the Sculpture Culture series, I decided to change it up just a little and show the culture in a different light – literally. The photos that were taken were shot at night. When you need to get out of the house, venture Downtown and check out the nightlife.

Going out at night and viewing the sculptures in the Downtown area gives a person a whole new appreciation for the work that is put forth by the various artists who have donated their work to the area.

Over these past months, having the sculptures in our area has brought me back fond memories of living in New York City as a younger man. Living in that area, seeing amazing artwork sometimes gets lost, because it is always there for you to see on a daily basis. For this journalist, having these amazing pieces of art to see daily brings back a taste of home.

The sculpture that we are covering this month is called, “Be Still and Know” by a sculptor named John Merigian. With a title like that, it makes you wonder what the sculptor was thinking as he was putting in his work?

Sculptors, artists, photographers, and various other creative-minded people go through a lot of different thought processes to bring their work to fruition. In this sculptor’s case, he likes to keep things rather simplistic and easy on the eyes.

About John Merigian

John Merigian grew up around the inner city of Detroit. The streets of this city are as tough as they come. Growing up in this area, there are many pitfalls for a person to fall into, but luckily, he was able make his way toward the positive things in life; this is where he picked up his love for art (and sculpting in particular). There are many artistic influences in the Motor City. John attended Cranbrook High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where he received a full scholarship. He worked with sculptor Michael Hall during his senior year at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He went to gain a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan. He went on to gain a master’s degree in Sculpture from Wayne State University in his hometown of Detroit.

John uses his sculptures to show the relationships and connections between people. The sculptures demonstrate both human internal and external realities and relationships. His sculpture displays usually have more than one item within the display. The one here in Fayetteville is a single sculpture.

John has his work displayed in my different venues around the nation; galleries, parks, private collections, and so forth. John’s work is sought after by many. Hopefully, the Arts Council and the city of Fayetteville can come together and get more of this artist’s work for the people of Fayetteville to look at and appreciate.

The Sculpture Culture Comes to Fayetteville – Part 7

Written by Stone Samuels

Wow – where has this year gone? July is here already, and thoughts of the stars and stripes run through my mind, as always. July is the month that we gained our independence and became the United States of America.

Keeping independence in mind, we as a people have the right to create as independents, or as a collective. Collectively, the Arts Council of Fayetteville and the city of Fayetteville decided to bring a group of independent artists work to historic Downtown.

These creative works are nothing short of amazing, and continue to bring positivity to the area. More and more, folks have heard about the sculptures outside of Fayetteville, and have ventured here to see what the buzz is all about.

The featured sculpture for the month of July is called, “Natural Embrace.” This very cool work of art was created by another North Carolina metal sculptor/painter by the name of Paul Hill. With Fayetteville being a military town, it is only fitting that the July exhibit was created by a veteran. This wonderful piece holds no military significance other than its creator.

By looking at this truly amazing sculpture – made of Corten steel and other handmade materials – you get the sense of a very large, mechanical Venus Fly Trap that could come to life at any moment.

The sleek curves of the stems give it a very sleek look, along with very ornate green petals attached to the ends of the metal stems. This is another one of those pieces that you have to gaze at from different angles, and also at different times of the day, to get all the little nuances of its beauty.

This wonderful sculpture is sitting on the corner of Person Street – adjacent to the courthouse. It will not matter if you are driving, or just strolling about, “Natural Embrace” will catch your eye and engage your mind with thoughts of, How neat and imaginative is this?

The Artist of “Natural Embrace” – Paul Hill

Paul Hill is a North Carolina painter/metal sculptor by way of Tyler, Texas and Ohio. He went to Kent State University in 1966 to study Fine Art and Design. Those studies were cut short from 1967-1971, during which time Paul served in the military. He returned to Kent State University to finish up his studies through 1974.

Paul worked at various jobs until 1985 – in various advertising agencies. He always had the idea of wanting to sculpt and paint the things that he wanted to do. He had visions that he needed to express, but working at a nine-to-five job would not allow him to do so. He stopped painting sometime in the early 1990s. This is when he picked up a blow torch, and started sculpting in metal.

He has become a great sculptor, and his work is sot after by many organizations. His exhibits can be found up and down the east coast. Getting back to him being a veteran, Paul has a large piece in Veteran’s Park, here in Fayetteville. What a feather in this veteran’s cap to have his work on permanent display in one of the most iconic military towns in America.

This gentleman put his time in to serve something bigger than himself. His work outside of the service has been special, and deserves all the acclaim it is has garnered. Our hats are off to you, sir. Thank you for your service to our great country, and for all of your amazing works that can be gazed upon for many years to come.

Many of his works can also be found in private collections. Folks that have seen his different works of art have witnessed something great.


The Happy Mind Matrix

Written by Erika Reichenberg

“At the end of the day, everything starts in your mind, because if you don’t change your mind, nothing’s going to change,” says personal growth strategist and empowerment speaker Billie Crutcher, who began working with adults who wished to help themselves.

Many people have numerous obstacles to work through but don’t know where to start­ –  which can lead to feeling overwhelmed. That’s where Coach Billie comes in, along with her partners, Natasha Connell, Wayne Smalls, LaTricia Smith, and Jacqueline Howard. They are all like pieces to a puzzle, and once connected, can make all the aspects of a healthy and happy life come together.

Natasha is a Certified Fitness Trainer, as well as a specialist in Nutrition and Exercise Therapy at Transcend Normal Fitness, LLC. Her goal is to motivate people to achieve a healthy and vital lifestyle; one could say she is the “fitness” piece of their puzzle.

Wayne’s puzzle piece pertains to leadership training, coaching, and motivational speaking. He is the President of L. Wayne Smalls & Associates, LLC, as well as a certified speaker, trainer, and coach with the John Maxwell Team.

LaTricia is the creative and relationship-cultivating piece of the puzzle. She is a wedding officiant for the company, A Stronger Bond, which helps those in need of relationship coaching, education, and enrichment.

Jacqueline is the spiritual part of the puzzle. She is a certified Christian Life Coach, as well as a retired educator of 33 years. “When you’re talking to someone and walking them through an issue, and they finally see that you believe in them…” says Jacqueline as shakes her head at the thought of many people not believing in themselves. “If you can just be there with them until they get that, they’ll start believing in themselves, and that’s when the transformation happens.”

After working with families, and teaching in early childhood education for more than 13 years, Billie realized from working with students that most of the time, the parents were the ones who needed the help and guidance; not just with their children and parenting.

“It really came down to their personal issues and, sometimes, professional struggles,” says Billie. Because Billie wanted to help people through their struggles, she went back to school to secure her degree in psychology, but she soon realized that she wanted to work with people who were ready to help themselves to go further in life.

“I really wanted to work with people who were motivated to accept abundance in their life, and secure their wealth for the future,” says Billie. “For me, it always comes down to – if the adults are well, then the children and the elders are well— because we are the ones who take care of them. We have to be healthy – forward thinking and forward moving; not only in our finances, but our hobbies as well.”

“No matter where people are, I’m able to reach them in that way, and help inspire and empower them, because for me, it’s always about people having the tools so they can do it for themselves,” Billie says as her partners nod in agreement.

“For me it’s not a one-time thing. Whatever people get when they come to the Happy Mind Matrix, that’s going to last them through their entire life. Everything we impart, teach, and give others are things that continue on – because the legacy is in everyone; they’re going to be different. It just truly changes people, and they know they have their power,” says Billie. “At the end of the day, we always want people to be able to do things for themselves, whatever it is.”

The Happy Mind Matrix started off as a small, “Find Your Happy” event in the Cliffdale Library – with people ranging in age from 18-80. Now, it is a fun tour in numerous areas, such as Fayetteville, N.C.; Raleigh, N.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Atlanta. These events are for adults, by adults, to help people build a blueprint for life. This event covers all the aspects of a happy and healthy life: how to make people aware of what brings them joy, as well as appreciating the little things that are constantly overlooked because everyone is consumed in some way with their big goals in life.

The Happy Mind Matrix event will be held in Fayetteville, N.C. on Saturday, July 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on 351 Wagoner Drive (off Sycamore Dairy Road). This event will include light snacks, a relaxation corner, a happiness and fun center, as well as learning principals to master mindfulness, purpose, relationship-building, life balance, stress management, and positive thinking skills which everyone can use. If you’re curious about what you can do to find your happy, check out the Happy Mind Matrix.

A Table in Every School

Written by Robin Minnick

Before he ever made his job-related move from New Jersey to Fayetteville, N.C. in 2009, Rich Perez was on the phone making arrangements, finding a location, securing memberships – all in order to ensure the establishment of a table tennis club; ready to have its first meeting the very week he moved in. It’s the measure of his passion for the sport.

Worldwide, table tennis is second only to soccer in popularity, as Rich is happy to tell, partly due to China’s large population and their love affair with the sport. When a Chinese youngster excels in table tennis, or another sport, their whole family’s life can change. They’re sponsored to schools specializing in the sport, and their families even receive financial support. Rich would like to see the United States follow suit – sort of. He’d like to see more support for table tennis as a national sport; he’d like to see it in every school. His love of instruction is nearly as strong as his love for table tennis.

Thursday nights at the Massey Hill Recreation Center, headquarters for the Cape Fear Table Tennis Club, can be crowded.  Usually, there are four tables set up for play, according to Rich. This night, there was an “instructional table” in the back room, as well as five tables set up for play in the main room. Rich and league coach Tony Murnahan work with three youngsters in the back.

“Hold the paddle right…if it’s too close, open it a little bit,” instructs Rich, a lilt in his voice. “Get the snap in it, too. High five!”

Tony directs 6-year-old Samuel’s returns while Sai, also 6, collects the orange ping pong balls they use. Sai keeps up a running commentary, “Surprise that ball! Kill it! Kill it! Surprise that ball!”

When 9-year-old Susanna takes over, the level of play changes. She returns the ball readily, keeping the volley going for a dozen turns. There are 10 kids training at the Club, and Rich is happy to report that Susanna is rapidly becoming a local favorite. She and Samuel are his children.

They start kids at 5 or 6, the usual age for hand-eye coordination to kick in. More important than age is the player’s ability to balance a ball on the face of the paddle. They start with trying to keep the ball on the paddle for 10 seconds, then 20, 30, 40, etc. – up to 90 seconds. The next step is being able to bounce the ball up and down with the paddle.

“Table tennis is the only sport where a 6-year-old can be competitive with an 80-year-old,” explains Richard. “It requires only reflexes, hand-eye coordination, and knowledge of the spin.”

“It’s a workout for your body and your brain,” he adds. The combined workout sends extra oxygen to the brain and even helps develop brain cells. New research shows playing ping pong can ease or delay symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Most of us are familiar with the game; many grew up playing it. Few of us, however, take it as seriously as some of the players do here.

Cape Fear Table Tennis Club is sanctioned by the United States Association of Table Tennis (USATT). It holds three-four tournaments per year. Players work their way up the ladder via tournaments, earning ratings which are used to place them in competitions.

Rich’s main goal is to build players; whether they compete for honors, or play for fun. There’s no difference between the game referred to as ping pong and the sport of table tennis, except the degree of gravity.

“Ping pong,” reminds Rich, “is what it’s called when you’re just fooling around in the basement. If you’re serious about it, it’s table tennis.”

He’s serious enough to make his own paddle. A cheap paddle costs about $100. The materials he uses cost upwards of $250. Both sides are covered in rubber, which can run from $30-75 for each piece. The wood – bamboo, cypress, koto, or the most popular, hinoki – can cost $250 alone. The middle layers consist of a carbon fiber fabric with sponge in between. The materials makes the game more spin-based.

Table tennis is the only sport where players can compete with whatever rating they have. That is part of what led Richard to challenge himself to try out for the USATT National Team. The other, he confesses, was that it was a joke. He didn’t expect to be taken seriously, but within a short time of teasing his friends to sponsor him at a tryout in Raleigh, N.C., he had a fully-funded GoFundMe account, and a shot at the team. He entered, despite the fact that his ranking of 1,500 was 1,200 behind the national champion’s, and 600 points behind those of his direct competitors.

The March 25 trials were held in Morrisville, N.C., home to the biggest club in the nation, the Triangle Table Tennis Club; 25,000 square feet of professional, full-time playing space. The rules require a player to compete against three others to work his/her way through a match. Unfortunately, Richard was the first out.

“It’s about what I expected. My goal was to win one game, and I came close, but…” he shrugs. He’d given it a shot, and he had fun. “I got to pretend I was a pro for a day.”

Would he like to try it again? The answer is at first an uncertain “yes.” He says he’d have to start now to be in training – with a strict regimen of diet and exercise – like a boxer – if he’s going to try again. Then, he suddenly looks up – his eyes brightening – and says, “No, wait. I am. I’m going to do that.”


As a rule, ARRAY writers don’t put themselves in their stories. However, when the interview was done, Rich Perez turned the tennis tables on us and, after introducing us to proper paddle positions, he invited – well, insisted – we play a little.

It had been a long time since we played during the first years of our marriage, but it came back. Dave’s use of his left hand forced me into returning the ball with a backhand. Neither of us could figure where to stand at first, or how to serve the ball. We persevered, with Rich’s encouragement, and spent about 20 minutes volleying, dropping, fetching, and serving. Without noticing the effort, we worked up a small sweat and raised our heart rates. No wear-and-tear on the feet or spine, and a lot of laughter at ourselves.

It was definitely fun, and that was Rich’s gift to us; a gift of his passion for a sport that he simply wants to benefit everyone.

Paddle positions:

Upright on edge (or perpendicular to the table) is Neutral.

Turned slightly forward (or inward towards the center) is Closed.

Turned slightly back (or outward) is Open.

The Cape Fear Table Tennis Club,

a USATT sanctioned club meets

Mondays and Thursdays, 6:45-9:00 p.m. at

Massey Hill Recreation Center

1612 Camden Road, Fayetteville, N.C., 28306

New players of all ages are welcome.

Photos & Captions

Please credit all photos: by Dave Minnick


by Dave Minnick

  Ping Pong balls!

by Dave Minnick

  Rich Perez trains his daughter Susanna

by Dave Minnick

  Susanna Perez skillfully returning a serve

by Dave Minnick

  Sai Meka training hard

by Dave Minnick

  Rich Perez in action

by Dave Minnick

  Rich Perez practicing for a weekend tournament

by Dave Minnick

  Samuel Perez at practice

by Dave Minnick

  Rich’s latest paddle

by Dave Minnick

  A busy night with the Cape Fear Table Tennis Club at the Massey Hill Recreation Center

by Dave Minnick

  Rich Perez


E.J Snyder Doc

Written by Olivia Burke

            E.J. “Skull Crusher” Snyder is a U.S. Army veteran, extreme survivalist, motivational speaker, and an all-around loveable guy.  He is best known for his survival success on the Discovery Channel’s, “Naked and Afraid,” and is the only man who has completed the challenge three times! E.J. is also the host of, “Dual Survival” – a show that follows him and Jeff Zausch as they take on the world’s most wild and unforgiving places.

E.J. learned his survival and outdoor skills from the formal training he received in the U.S. Army. He also honed his skills through being a survival instructor for 20 years; it’s what led to him dedicating his life to becoming the best survivalist he can be.

In addition to having these impressive qualifications and skills, E.J. is also a husband, and a father of two. I sat down with E.J. and talked with him about his career, upbringing, life advice, and more!

Can you tell me a bit about your life, what you do, and how you got into it?

“I joined the army after I grew up in North Jersey. My parents divorced when I was very young. Joining the army was probably the best thing for me. I spent 25 years in the Army. I saw combat in the Gulf War in ‘91, and in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004-2005. When I retired from the Army, I went into being a survival instructor for the United States Army as a contractor for about six years.

My dream as a child was to be an actor and a stuntman. My mother didn’t support my choice. She thought I’d starve and wouldn’t make it. Right before I retired from the Army, I started doing TV; different things – producing, independent films, acting, stunt work, and trying to figure out how to be a military tech advisor – a new career from the Army. I moved here (Fayetteville) with my family. My wife’s folks retired here at Fort Bragg – this was my first duty station. Her mother got sick, so we moved back here. That’s when I found work as a survival instructor – my two worlds collided.

Discovery channel happened to find me. They recruited me for a show called, ‘Dual Survival,’ where I was to be the replacement for the host. They ended up picking another guy over me. I wound up going on a show called, ‘72 Hours.’ When I came out of that race, we didn’t find the money, but I got a phone call from Discovery saying that they had a brand-new show called, ‘Survival’. I had no idea about the naked part.”

How do you teach the lessons you’ve learned to your family, kids, etc.?

“I’m a people-watcher, so what I’ve learned through the military was by watching these leaders. What I’d witness in their leadership, I’d adapt the good stuff into mine. You can lead in three ways: first is by example. I tell [people] to watch me, then mimic what I do, emulate it, and when we’re sitting down at dinner having a beer, ask questions.

I’m bound by God to help anyone who asks for it – I believe that firmly. If they’re open to receiving that message, and applying it, I just ask that they repeat that – give it to somebody else. You can do it by example, your own mentoring, teaching, and ask others to do the same. The other way I do it is by [motivational] speaking.”

Do you ever talk about politics or faith on your platform?

“I speak about faith all the time. I’m a Christian and I hear God’s voice loudest in the wilderness. I don’t like the bonds of rules – church should be happening wherever. I can disciple to people in a way they don’t even know, because they don’t see it coming. I don’t have to mention God’s name, but I give glory to God all the time. For me, I’m very spiritual. I’m not confined to a church, although I find it to be very awesome. I see God in people, and in the birds that sing in my backyard; that’s where I really connect to God.”

Can you tell me about your family?

I have a wife. We’ll be married for 25 years in a couple weeks. We’ve been roller-coastered, but we love and stay true to each other. I value her and thank God every day that she’s in my life, because I’d be lost without her. I have two kids; a 22-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter. They’re two of the greatest gifts in my life. They’re so kind, mature, and helpful. They’ve been very supportive of my dreams. “

How do you balance the things you do work-wise with the things you do with your family?

“I’m always working, so I learn lessons, and pass them along – that’s my gift back to everybody. When I come home, I take my phone and put it in a basket (I’ll go back every now and then and check it to see if I get an email or something). I do that as a symbol of how I’m not at work anymore – I’m home. I make sure that when we’re together, we plan fun events. It’s quality over quantity.

What’s your favorite thing about your current situation?

            “Inspiring people – especially kids. If I make a positive impact on at least one person, that’s a win. Knowing I helped somebody in this world – that’s my favorite thing about it all, because that’s why I’m here. To me, that’s very fulfilling.”

The Sculpture Culture comes to Fayetteville – Part 6

Written by Stone Samuels

We are flying through 2017, and June is already here. Summer is upon us, and that means that the number of sculptures is getting smaller and smaller. When we started this project, it was clear that there was much to be learned from; about both the sculptures and their artists. As the writer of these articles, the knowledge that I’ve been gained has been invaluable, in putting together my research for these articles.

The success of these sculptures should draw other types of artists who work in different mediums. Hopefully, this will prompt The Arts Council of Fayetteville to expand, and to bring more projects to the downtown area, which is ever-expanding.

We are once again showcasing the work of sculptor, Rob Lorenson. Having a chance to see his work up close and personal has made this writer go even deeper into researching his work, and I have to say that I am truly impressed with his work. His work will talk to you and have you trying to figure out, “What was he thinking?” At least, that is what it does for me.

Come to the downtown area, have some lunch, take a walk around, and enjoy the sights of these amazing sculptures. Give yourself a chance to expand your mental palate, and add to your plate of knowledge. You will not regret the experience. If nothing else, it will give you another topic for dinner conversation.

Coming downtown and viewing the sculptures can also give us an opportunity to cultivate new acquaintances, and even new friendships. These sculptures, in their own way, can help to bring people from different walks of life together on something to talk about, and that just brings us all one step closer.

Rob Lorenson –“Tall Trikaya”

Rob Lorenson is a very accomplished sculptor that has a lot of different works; many in different galleries and exhibits all over the country. He is a very well-educated and talented man, who has his beautiful works in over 200 various collections; both private and public. His work varies in size; from small table top pieces, to full large-scale sculptures. Rob earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Northern Iowa at Cedar Falls, and he earned his Masters of Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University at DeKalb.

He lives and works in southeastern Massachusetts. He has been a Professor of Sculpture at Bridgewater State University, and has been teaching sculpture to students, since 1999. Effectively, what Lorenson has done over his career as an educator, and as an artist sculptor, is to give lovely pieces of art to the world. Also, he has passed on the tools for many young artists to carry one artist’s view of the art world into the future. These young students must be in awe – learning how to sculpt from such an accomplished sculptor.

Looking at his sculptures, you can see the meticulous work and long hours spent refining each little detail. The “Tall Trikaya” sculpture seems to be suspended in time. You get the illusion of pieces of the sculpture are being suspended in the air. The yellow-painted aluminum stands out because of its shape and size. If you want to get the full effect, you should look at the sculpture from a variety of different angles. When you look at Rob’s body of work, you can see a theme to it, but in the same sense, they are all different.

If you are an artistic individual, you can get a sense of who Lorenson is as a sculptor, or if you are just the casual viewer, you can see that this very talented man is a rock star in the art world. Do yourself a favor and come downtown, and take a very long gander at this wonderful sculpture. “Tall Trikaya” is on the corner of Rowan and Green Street.

Natasha Williams: A Bright Star

Written by Amy Garner

Natasha Williams is bigger than life—her presence brightens up the entire room.

She was in town briefly recently, and we got together to chat and take a few pictures. We met up at the ARRAY office at Revolutionary Coworking, and she quickly morphed from your standard running-errands-attire of sneakers, khakis and T-shirt into this amazing figure-gripping black-and-white symmetrical dress, killer heels and perfect lipstick. Perfect, ya hear me? Her personality revealed itself in the confident strength of her posture and the lift of her chin. Before she even said a word, I knew she was poised and articulate. She wore it in her face and her walk.

Now a New York-based actor, Natasha is a Fayetteville girl, born and raised. She is known for her work on “A Log Story,” “The Big Shot-Caller,” “30 Rock,” “My Parents Are Crazier than Yours,” “The Delivery Man” with Vince Vaughn and “Orange is the New Black.” A1989 Cape Fear High School graduate, she went on to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.

University North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.

Natasha got her first big break in a national tour of the Broadway musical “Once on This Island.” That role led to a part in a European revue tour called “The Sound of Motown.” She has also appeared in commercials for Publix Super Markets, Bojangles’, Popeyes and H&R Block, among others. Her biggest spot yet was a national American Express commercial for Blue Cash titled “Salad Bargaining” in which she is featured as a flight attendant serving Tina Fey.

Natasha maintains ties to Fayetteville and is a member of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, The Arts Council of Fayetteville, and Group Theory, Inc., a community-based organization where she recently participated in a school backpack giveaway program that is held annually. “That project means a lot to me. I feel like we are really helping to line local students up for success,” she says. “And that is very important in this community and in others all over the country. We need to share our resources and make sure our young people have all the tools necessary to go as far as they possibly can.”

Natasha appeared at FSU’s Fine Arts Week in April and presented her signature workshop “What’s Next and How Can We Help.” Sponsored by FSU’s theatre program, Natasha stressed career pathways in theatre, TV, film and commercials. “I approached this visit to FSU and to Fayetteville in a very personal way. Fayetteville is my home and I feel very bonded with the people who live here,” she says. “I wanted to make sure that my message gave FSU students a very clear message about working in the industry and building a career.”

I welcome your feedback and suggestions. You can reach me at

New Fayetteville Chamber ‘Shoots Straight’

Written by Robin Minnick

On March 24, the Greater Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce announced a new CEO and president would be taking position in April. Once Christine Michaels has completed her move from Florida to Fayetteville, she will step into her new role heading up the Chamber.

While she brings nearly 20 years’ experience of association management with further background in communications economic development, and government relations, one of the most important assets she brings to Fayetteville is prior experience with three chambers associated with a strong military presence. She comes here from the Greater Brandon Florida Chamber, which supports MacDill Air Force Base, but she has also served at the Melbourne Regional Chamber of East Central Florida, and the Alexandria, Va., chamber. Her experience in these locations make her uniquely qualified to lead the Greater Fayetteville Chamber.

Ms. Michaels generously made time during her busy moving process to answer a few of ARRAY’s questions.

ARRAY: What do you see as essential to helping the two communities, civilian and military, work together as self-sufficient partners to mutual benefit?

Ms. Michaels: I think open communication is essential to a strong working relationship between the military and the business/civilian world. I have found the relationship becomes strongest when the military is kept aware of community efforts to support their personnel, and finds a welcoming environment such as Fayetteville. And likewise, when members of a military installation serve side by side with community groups and offer briefings and ways for non-military to become involved, as is most welcome!

ARRAY: You have noted elsewhere that when you became head of the Greater Brandon Florida Chamber, you “reorganized everything.” From what you’ve seen so far, do you think you will need to do that here?

Ms. Michaels: I have been very impressed with the direction of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber. I think we are in a growth mode, and ready to work closely with other organizations in the community. I also think that we are returning to our roots, that is our members, and will be offering programs to help them succeed in business. I see myself as someone who can bring best practices, experience and new ideas to a chamber that is ready to be active!

ARRAY: In a quote to the Chamber, you mentioned being impressed by their enthusiasm and determination to move forward. What else do you see that our city has going for it, in terms of the future?

Ms. Michaels: I was recently told that there are states who do not have the benefit of having a community as large as Fayetteville to call their own. The sheer size of the city, county and surrounding areas and the constant influx from the post make this a vibrant area. The cultural offerings, festivals and events, the Crown Complex, the new baseball stadium, Civil War museum and other resources which are planned will add to the area’s “destination” appeal. More importantly, it seems as though the people and community leaders want the city to be a leader in the state and to be prosperous and thrive. It’s usually attitude and determination which can overcome any challenges to get there.

The mission of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber is to “be a catalyst in growing a healthy business community through its advocacy of business friendly public policy, the fostering of diverse innovative business initiatives, through strong collaborative partnerships and delivering valuable programs and services to our members.” As the transition begins and interim CEO Darsweil Rogers steps back, the question arises: How will this change affect the Chamber’s mission?

Along with her experience with other chambers, Ms. Michaels brings ideas from the national association and her colleagues, as well as best practices. She says, “I think our membership will be pleased once I am able to get feedback and assess what our members really want and need.”

Michaels sees her previous work at the regional level as valuable in helping the Fayetteville Chamber increase its role as advocate and leader in the dialogue between other community organizations and individuals to help bring them together in pursuit of common goals.

“I look forward to getting to know the entities and people in the Cumberland County/Fayetteville area so that we can find our common ground,” she says.

Currently Ms. Michaels is busy with the herculean task of packing up to move and finding a new home. Eventually she will be joined in Fayetteville by her nonagenarian mother and the four-legged portion of her household. Ms. Michaels is actively involved in animal rescue work. She has mostly cats right now, but she’s taken in dogs and farm animals, too. It’s been her passion for many years. History, the arts, and gardening are among her other interests. That’s good, because there’s a wealth of all of that here.

And she’s ready for it. “I hope to engage in local groups as soon as I get acclimatized,” she says.

Ms. Michaels paints a refreshing picture of a city leader who is accessible, involved, enthusiastic, and eager to engage. Her background cites tested and proven ability, and it includes experience uniquely pertinent to Fayetteville’s needs. Her “final answer” highlights what she is offering our city.

ARRAY: Finally, what do you see as your personal strengths, both as a person and as our new Chamber of Commerce CEO?

Ms. Michaels: I am by nature a humble person, but if pressed to give my strengths I’d say they include being both a big idea person but also being practical enough to chart a course to make that idea a reality; and I am a patriotic and loyal person who sets high ethical standards; and I am a “straight shooter.”

Seems right on target.


The Sculpture Culture Comes to Fayetteville Part 5

Written by Stone Samuels

Wow! It looks like time is truly flying this year because here we are again and it is already May. We are already almost half way through 2017 and we are featuring our fifth sculpture in our series of ten. This month we will be featuring the work of Sculptor, Painter and Illustrator Charles Pilkey and a piece named “The Tree of Good and Evil”.

This sculpture stands at ten feet, with highly detailed elements welded all around the tree. He doesn’t stop there – the metal is painted. This work was inspired by a parable in Old Testament in the book of Genesis. It is a metaphor for man’s strange relationship with technology.

Brilliant is a word that does not give complete credit to what this journalist sees in this wonderful work. It is complicated and whimsical all in one. Having looked at, studied and photographed this piece of art from every conceivable angle it is still very hard to describe what is being seen in front of my eyes.
It is located at the back of the Arts Council building on Maxwell St. in the parking lot. The way in which the sculpture is situated,  the viewer can look from variety of different angles to give yourself the best chance of coming up with your very own description or analysis of what you are looking upon.

Warmer weather and larger groups of people making their way to the downtown area is helping to improve the downtown scene. One of the coolest aspects of going downtown is that there are a lot more young people, making the area more vibrant. They are getting the opportunity to see great works of art that they might never get to see any other place around the world.

Charles Pilkey

The Tree of Good and Evil

Charles Pilkey grew up in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. Married with one son and three cats, he makes his home not far from Charlotte, in a town called Mint Hill. Charles is a educated man who was not always a sculptor – in fact, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelors of Science in Geology in 1978.

That is a long way from sculpting.

However, he also holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from East Carolina University, an Masters of Fine Arts degree from University of Missouri, and MLT ASCP from Central Piedmont Community College. He is a learned and diverse individual with a multitude of skills and creative energy that translates into amazing works of art.

He also taught Stone carving and welding classes at Kyushu Sangyo University in Fukuoka, Japan from 1998 to 2005. He lived in Japan for about 15 years. He has also been doing Freelance Scientific Illustrations since 1994. During his time teaching he must have had a lot of influence on young artists. Pilkey has been part of 10 international sculpture symposia. Pilkey works in steel, bronze, stone and terracotta. His works can be seen on campuses, in parks, museums and in other public spaces. He has works displayed in China, Italy, Japan, Korea and Turkey. He also has pieces displayed in the United States.

Looking back at the “Tree of Good and Evil” there is a lot of thought and creativity put into this piece. There are many people out there that should be very happy at his accomplishments. It has been a pleasure covering this exceptional piece of art.

The city of Fayetteville and the Arts Council are showing the citizens that they are committed to bringing new and different exhibits to town, in the ever-changing scenery of the art world.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Sculpture Culture where we will continue to bring you another piece of this amazing art.

The Sculpture Culture comes to Fayetteville Part 3

The Sculpture Culture comes to Fayetteville Part 3
Written by Stone Samuels


Well, here we are already on our third installment of the Sculpture Culture and all of the interest that they have garnered in the short time that they have been in the area. In my estimation, the sculptures have been drawing more and more people to the downtown area.

Bob Doster - Falling LeavesOver the years drawing folks to the downtown area has always been a challenge, but that has been changing over time with new businesses coming to the area. The downtown area has been growing, and as a result more people and businesses are looking to move to the area. Fayetteville downtown is not the same as it was when I was a young soldier stationed at Fort Bragg.

The Fayetteville Arts Council (Work in Progress Initiative) has given this journalist and photographer a chance to gain some valuable knowledge about a very different facet of the art world. It has been a very nice learning experience, something that I am always looking to find.

Having the sculptures in the immediate downtown area is helping to bring more and more people out to check out tremendous pieces of art. Looking at each sculpture, you get a different story from each piece of art and another story from the mind of the sculptor.

These amazing sculptures vary so much in the way they are done and it would be incredible to be inside the head of one or all of the sculptors as he/she as they are coming up with their concepts. That would make them even more incredible to behold.

This month we will be focusing on a flowing piece sitting on Hay Street near the Wine Café. The name of the sculpture is “Falling Leaves”; sculpted by internationally known sculptor Bob Doster, this brilliant work of art is made from Corten Steel.

Just imagine – sitting outside of the Wine Café having a glass of wine with a friend and discussing the merits of this piece. It does not get much better than that: being able to sit outside and view it in this beautiful weather only adds to the allure of this beautiful sculpture.

Bob Doster - Falling LeavesBob Doster
Falling Leaves

Life-long South Carolina resident Bob Doster has been an artist for more than fifty years. He is an internationally acclaimed and award winning artist. He is also the owner (since 1977) of Backstreet Studio in Lancaster, SC, and operated by Bob and his wife, Cherry Doster. Bob has artwork in many different venues around the world: museums, galleries, parks, corporates offices, and both public and private collections.

Mr. Doster is heavily involved in the art world. His Avant Garde Art Center is a non-profit that helps out in the community with all types of programs including Summer camps, Concerts, Youth work study, Mask-making, Soles for Souls and so many more. He is a known entity in his community and far beyond, having been featured in magazines and newspapers all over the country.

Bob was educated at both the University of South Carolina and at Clemson University, holding art degrees from both universities. He has worked with more than 150,000 students of all ages and backgrounds; when you think about the amount of students that he has come in contact with, the numbers are quite overwhelming, but these associations will reach far into the future. His influences could usher in the next Auguste Rodin of Paris or Donatello of Florence, Italy.

Bob has sculptures that are very playful and some that are truly complex. In either case you will find something that will catch your eye.

Having found such an internationally known sculptor that is virtually right next door has been real eye-opening experience because you do not get to see the work of someone with such an impressive body of work both as a sculptor and as a scholar in small-town America. We are glad that one of Mr. Doster’s fine works of art is gracing the downtown area of our fine city.

Next month we will be continuing with our series with our next sculpture. Stay tuned for another amazing piece of art.