Tried and True, Exciting and New

Words from the new executive director of Arts Council of Henderson County

Mel Ailiff is working to expand opportunities.
Portrait by Amos Moses

The La Vie en Rosé Art & Wine Festival may bear a French name, but the gala fundraiser at Marked Tree Vineyard in Flat Rock last month featured a Latin cultural theme in visual art and dance. “We are working on increasing accessibility to the arts for our youth and [promoting] greater cultural and artistic experiences,” says Melissa “Mel” Ailiff, the new executive director of the Arts Council of Henderson County, the event’s sponsoring nonprofit. 

Meanwhile, Music on Main, a free event featuring local bands, will keep select Friday nights hopping through mid and late summer. The beloved Street Dances, a showcase of clogging, square dancing, and other traditional forms held on Saturday nights for an unbelievable 106 years — the dances began as a welcome-home celebration for returning WWI soldiers — will happen July 13, July 27, and August 10, also on Main Street.

Ailiff, director since February, says joining the Arts Council “is a chance to contribute to the community I cherish, particularly to events I hold dear, like Art on Main [celebrating its 65th anniversary in September].”

Part of the group’s mission, though, is to “reimagine our older and existing initiatives,” especially when it comes to community building.

“I have been immersing myself in the organization’s history and activities to better understand how we can enhance our impact,” says Ailiff. “My vision for the Arts Council is to establish a dedicated space that supports the growth of [the county’s] young and emerging artists.”

Ailiff adds that “strengthening our educational offerings is a priority, and we aim to provide more opportunities for community members to engage with the arts.” She reveals that she and council members are already “setting our sights on 2025.”

Arts Council of Henderson County, Flat Rock, 828-693-8504. See for a list of summer events, exhibits, calls for artists, and updates about Art on Main (Sept. 28 and 29).

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