Tryon Fine Arts Center kicks off annual fund drive

Published 12:46 am Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One of the founding families of the Tryon Fine Arts Center – one of the founders of the Town of Tryon, really – is being honored with a new category of giving this year as the arts center’s annual campaign gets underway.


TFAC kicked off its 2015 Annual Fund with a reception at the Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul & Mary) concert March 12, celebrating the growth of one of the finest performing arts centers in any small town, anywhere.

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Like the forsythia, the Tryon Fine Arts Center is blooming.


Performances on the Veh Main Stage this season have all been sold out, the 150-seat Peterson Amphitheater is about to kick off its third season, and TFAC’s Classic Film Series is growing in popularity.


In addition, Gallery I has, over the past six months, showcased several outstanding exhibits focusing on the rich history of Tryon.


TFAC’s sponsorship of Arts in Education programs is bringing the arts to hundreds of area students. TFAC provides special Main Stage performances for students, runs a juried art show for local high school painters and sculptors, and provides competitive mini-grants to area teachers.


TFAC is also home to the Pacolet Junior Appalachian Music (PacJAM) program, where a few dozen talented players are learning Appalachian banjo, fiddle and guitar.


All of this rich cultural activity is perhaps just what the Erskine family members envisioned when they gave the first, large donations in the early 1960s to kick off a campaign to build the Tryon Fine Arts Center.


The Erskines first set eyes upon Tryon in 1885, staying at McAboy’s Inn (Mimosa) in Lynn. The patriarch, Charles Erskine, his wife Emma, sons Hal, Ralph, and Malcolm, daughters Violet and Susan, returned in 1892 and explored on horseback from Franklin to Brevard, but they found nothing they liked better than a small hill in Lynn with panoramic views.


There they built a substantial home, called Lynn Cote, and Emma, a writer, artist, and entrepreneur was instrumental in the building of other famous homes in the county, including Mosly Hall and a series of houses along Highway 108.


The family went to work to help enrich their adopted town. Just to mention a few endeavors, they founded a school in Lynn, helped build the Congregational Church in Tryon (son Hal, was an architect and designed the building), and bought property, had Donald Ross design a golf course and donated it for the Tryon Country Club.


In 1962, Violet Parish-Watson, Charles Erskine’s daughter, left a bequest of $25,000 toward the construction of a Tryon Fine Arts Center. Her siblings, nieces, and nephews, Erskines, Hayneses, Rogers and Bartols, added substantially more. In her will, it was requested that no fewer than 100 other individuals contribute to match her funds, ensuring broad community support for the project. Erskine descendants who continue to live in the area include: Carroll P. Rogers, age 103, Meg Rogers, Nell Rogers Campbell, Mimi Bartol Pospisil, Christopher Bartol, Pamela Bartol Kennedy and Andy Haynes.


One can well imagine all the Erskine clan, if they could see it today, would be proud of the center they helped to found, to see it enriching the town in so many ways 53 years after their gifts made it possible.


Tryon Fine Arts Center, which continues to rely upon the community’s generosity to be able to operate, has honored the Erskines this year by creating a new giving category – The Erskine Artists – for gifts of $250 and up. To commemorate this new level, there will be a special reception in the Mahler Room for all donors at the Erskine Artist level and above, at 6:30 p.m. on April 3, with performer Noah Guthrie, who will open the 2015 Sunset Amphitheater Series with a concert at 7:30 pm.


The Erskine name now resides in the pantheon of those honored in the Annual Fund legends – The Farwell Friends, $5,000 and up; The Sassoon Circle, $2,500; The Society of 100, $1,000; the John Landrum Guild, $500; and Melrose Members, $100.


The 2015 Annual Fund campaign is underway through May 8. If you have any questions about TFAC or giving opportunities, contact Susan Brady at 828-859-8322, or by email at


Tryon Fine Arts Center is a nonprofit organization that operates and programs a 300-seat performance venue and 150-seat amphitheater for music, opera, theatre, dance, and lectures on Melrose Avenue in Tryon, N.C. In addition to presenting programming for a wide variety of audiences, TFAC also makes the arts accessible to local students through education and outreach programs.


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