Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community Announces Name Change

Artéria CollectiveA new name for a local arts and culture non-profit is both value-rich and a portent

[Asheville, N.C.] — Asheville Writers In The Schools and Community (AWITSC), a nonprofit arts and culture organization committed to social justice and racial equity, will enter the new year with a new name: Artéria Collective. Founded in 2011, and originally focused on writer residencies in local public schools, their work, and how they do it, has expanded and evolved as it served the mission of igniting social change through the power of arts, culture, and restorative self expression. The renaming process included many gatherings of program participants, staff, Board and community members, almost all Black, Latine, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC).  The result reflects the organization’s commitments to language justice, to creating an ecosystem of BIPOC artists and art spaces, and modeling interdependant community relationships of care and love. 

Artéria. This is, at first, a word play with the noun “art” (English) or “arte” (Spanish) and the Spanish suffixes  e-r-i-a or r-i-a, which can mean the “place where something is made”.  In Spanish, arteria means artery or vessel, which evokes the  blood which flows through a body from the heart, essential, energetic and life affirming. 

A WOTS/VDLJ squad outing with Ember Rose Phoenix (center) and Lau Malintzin (Far Right).

“When I think about the work that we do, I think of us being the drum beat and the heart of a collective of vessels that are connected,” says Lau Malintzin, Program Coordinator for Word on the Street/Voz de les Jóvenes (WOTS/VDLJ).  “Our jobs are to provide oxygen but, in this case, art and healing throughout our bodies and communities. Artéria is a pump that fuels art and  is constantly renewing.”  

Collective. For Ember Rose Phoenix, Holistic Health Coordinator, this is a group of individuals working together without hierarchy AND with shared values, care and integrity. Individuals whose gifts, talents and opinions are honored while they maintain sovereignty and agency. She believes that people want something different than what they find in a capitalist, white supremacy culture but don’t know or believe that something different is possible.

“We’ve re-imagined what can be possible in the world and changing the name of the collective is necessary to stay in integrity with how we are moving,” says Phoenix. “I think the name change is necessary because the iteration of what Asheville Writers in the Schools was back then, which seemed to be a brilliant and necessary thing, is not what it is anymore.“

Over the past years, Artéria Collective’s staff has grown from three to thirteen. This reflects the growth and impact of programming including literary, visual, musical, and audio arts, with such community based initiatives such as WOTS/VDLJ, which has provided a safe, healing and artistic space for BIPOC teens since 2016. Artéria Collective has also developed a training curriculum for BIPOC artist mentors to place them in school and community-based residencies, in addition to curating showcase events providing intentional opportunities for celebrating youth artistic expression, alongside activities that include educational lectures, workshops, performances and similar social events celebrating BIPOC artists and their work.

In 2023, an exciting new partnership with Buncombe County Government will convene a team of BIPOC youth media makers to document the work of the Asheville/ Buncombe County Community Reparations Commission. Also in the plans for next year, and beyond, are paid youth internship opportunities with local arts organizations, and the development of workshops for BIPOC artists.These will enable them to serve as educators for institutions such as private schools and white-led organizations desiring arts-infused workshops that address topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. All of the organization’s work has been and will be in collaboration with public and private schools, county and city departments and initiatives, community based organizations and nonprofits, and private arts enterprises.  

“We seek to become the premiere source for supporting arts activities from and for the BIPOC community in Buncombe County and Western NC,“ says Sekou Coleman, Executive Director, “creating an ecosystem of BIPOC artists and art spaces that fuel a more sustainable and vibrant arts community for all.”

Sekou Coleman (Right), presenting Story Craft, one of the many artistic programs under Arteria Collective.

As Artéria Collective launches its name and new logo, it will move from the Arthur R. Edington Education and Career Center in Southside to a new and larger location near the Shiloh community, both historically Black communities. Look to, or @arteriacollective on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with the new website as well as programs for BIPOC children, youth and adults, and  opportunities for the greater community to engage with arts and culture activities that authentically reflect and center the BIPOC lived experience,