Local storyteller and Black historian Ronnie Pepper sits on the steps of the Main Branch of the Henderson County Public Library.

28th Annual ‘Arida Arts Symposium’ to Celebrate Black History

Featured photo: Local storyteller and Black historian Ronnie Pepper sits on the steps of the Main Branch of the Henderson County Public Library. (Photo provided by Ronnie Pepper.)

By: Benjamin Rickert
Marketing and Communications Dept.

The 28th annual Arida Arts Symposium of Blue Ridge Community College will take place on September 29, 2023, featuring local storyteller and Black historian Ronnie Pepper. 

The symposium was established in 1993 to honor North Carolina artists and their many contributions to the arts. Open to the public with free admission, the event is funded by the Gamil T. Arida Endowment Fund through the Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation.

This year’s symposium, the first since 2019, begins at 10 a.m. in Blue Ridge’s Bo Thomas Auditorium with a two-hour morning workshop themed around Henderson County Black history. A 6:30 p.m. reception with light hors d’oeuvres will precede the 7 p.m. special presentation featuring Pepper’s poetry and a monologue.

“My late husband, Gamil Arida, started this endowment to be used for enhancing the arts at Blue Ridge Community College and the community,” said Ann Arida Talley. “I am so pleased to see his vision realized with the honoring of storyteller Ronnie Pepper at this year’s Arida Arts Symposium.”

This year’s featured artist, Ronnie Pepper, is known across Western North Carolina for his storytelling performances and knowledge of Black history. He is the president of the Henderson County Black History Research Committee – a group that documents the local accomplishments of the Black community. Pepper is active throughout the community, serving through the Marable Mentoring Program, Hendersonville Housing Authority Board, Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee, Henderson County Walk of Fame Committee, 7th Ave Community Garden Committee and the Contemporary Missionary Baptist Church.

“We are excited to welcome community members on-campus for an unforgettable evening to celebrate the art of storytelling and local history,” said Trina Stokes, executive director of the Educational Foundation.

In addition to showcasing area artists, the Arida Arts Symposium celebrates the life and memory of Dr. Gamil T. Arida, a lover of the arts and a Flat Rock resident from 1989 until his passing in 1992. Dr. Arida was a multi-talented creator of paintings, sculptures, music and pottery. He taught philosophy at Blue Ridge Community College where he also founded a philosophy club. Community-minded, Arida served on the boards of both the Hendersonville Symphony and Blue Ridge’s Educational Foundation.

More information about the Arida Arts Symposium, including past featured artists, is available at www.blueridge.edu/arida. For questions about the event, please contact M.C. Gaylord at 828.694.1779.