LEAF Highlights & Milestones
1995-2015 : Celebrating 20 Years!

In our fast moving world, we often move on to the next thing or next event and forget to stop, embrace and celebrate our successes. LEAF has been out in the community creating and building programs, community & collaborations.

LEAF Highlights 2015-2014


•LEAF Celebrates the Spirit of New Orleans 10 years post-Hurricane Katrina at the 41st Festival.

• 1st LEAF Downtown AVL welcomed 15,000+ families & friends from all neighborhoods AND Bootsy landed the Funk Mothership in Pack Square Park: August 1st-2nd!

• LEAF awarded for the 3rd consecutive year BEST OF WNC Mtn Xpress Awards: #1 Music Festival! #1 Festival for Kids! #1 Festival for Camping! #Outdoor Fair/Event Selling Arts/Crafts-Arts & Entertainment

•1st Bootsy Collins Funk Dynasty Day at New Mountain- FUNKtastic!

•LEAF Awarded Grants: South Arts Regional Touring Grant for Cedric Watson, NC Arts Council New Realities Grant, NC Arts Program Support, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation: Southern Exposure, Art in The Park, and City of Asheville Youth Development Grant. These grants fuel LEAF’s mission.

•U-LEAF Mobile Community Stage, created by AVL Design Build Studio Students, unveiled at LEAF Downtown.

•LEAF Southside Drummers receive 1st official LEAF Uniforms sporting a NOLA Mask inspired by Chief Shaka Zulu

• 2nd LEAF Arts & Park Summer Camp at Grant Center with 93 kids was a success with so many artists!

• LEAF Celebrates it’s 40th Festival with Global Gratitude, performing artists representing 30 countries

• International miracles do happen! All 18 of the LEAF International Costa Rica (Bribri & Ngabe-Bugle First Nations) kids & musicians & parents are granted visas 10 days before the festival. Rainbow Mountain School hosts LEAF International for a extraordinary cultural exchange for several days including homestays.

• LEAF Downtown AVL is officially announced to the community

• AVL Design Build Studio 2015 summer project awarded to LEAF for the U-LEAF Mobile Community Stage

• LEAF Delta Jazz Band collaborates & studies with Preservation Hall Jazz Masters and Mardi Gras Indians on the 2nd Bi-Annual NOLA Musical Journey

• LEAF International Tanzania St. Joseph Dancers win 2nd in the 1st Annual Arusha Inter-School Cultural Competition

• LEAF Southside Drummers led by Imhotep is officially established

• Tribal Reunion at Ngabe Comarca Capital! LEAF International brought LI Ngabe Kids, Parents, & Artists from Costa Rica to their homeland in Panama for their 1st exchange and journey out of Costa Rica

• 1st LEAF International Cross-Cultural Exchange Adventure with LEAFers going to LI Costa Rica & Panama

• Burton St. One Mic Studio is in full action with LEAF Schools & Streets Classes

• 40th LEAF Festival Theme announced: Global Gratitude with a special feature of Tribal Tributes

• LEAF awarded NEA Tribal Tribute grant bringing R. Carlos Nakai, LEAF International Bribri & Negabe-Bugle and the Warriors of Anikituhwa to share Native American traditions with Artspace Charter School.

• LEAF Schools & Streets awarded South Arts Grant for Cedric Watson to share creole traditions with Asheville Middle School.

• EMErgence makes its grand electronic music appearance at the LEAF festival.

• LEAF International Rwanda Skype Concert with LEAF Office


• LEAF Schools & Streets Wesley Grants Southside Drummers Skype Cultural Exchange with LEAF International Haiti-Prosjekt Haiti Drummers

• LEAF International Cultural Teaching Artists Exchange with LI Costa Rica and LI Guatemala

• LI Guatemala’s 1st End of Year 2 week Music Camp at 2 schools. In the 2nd school, older students were transformed into teaching artists.

• 2nd EMErgence: Electronic Music Experience Connecting Local Youth with Music & Technology week long immersion happened at Burton St. One Mic, Asheville High School, New Mountain, & one eve at Echo Mountain. [support by Dan Lucas Foundation, Ben Gradison Funds & equipment support by Michael Selverne & LEAF Friends]

• 3rd Annual Masquerade Ball at Zealandia Castle supporting of LEAF Schools & Streets

• 39th LEAF Festival’s theme was “Celebrate Unity. Inspire Every Voice”

• LEAF Schools & Streets awarded South Arts Grant for Middle Grounds representing many Middle East countries to Erwin Middle School

• IREX fellow from Macedonia works with LEAF Schools & Streets Aug-Nov

• LEAF awarded for the 2nd year BEST OF WNC Mtn Xpress Awards:
             #1 Music Festival! #1 Festival for Kids! #1 Festival for Camping!

• LSS Pritchard Park Summer Series on Wednesday with AVL Downtown Assoc.LIHaitiweb

• One Mic at Burton Street w GO launched [supported by Ben Gradison Funds]

• 1st LEAF Summer Camp at Grant Center with 60 kids was a success!

• LEAF International Haiti & Prosject Haiti came to LEAF for a 10-day Cultural Exchange

• LEAF International Haiti Gals were inducted into the Bootsy Girls Foundation

• LSS Tri-Series Cultural Exchange led by Billy Jonas with YWCA, North Buncombe Middle, & Beth Ha-Tephila

• “Free Your Funky Self” at LEAF May hosted super stars of FUNK

• Grants received to support programs: Swannanoa Community Foundation, South Arts & Grassroots

WNCFeaturePic• Rising Appalachia visits LI Costa Rica Bribri as LI Ambassadors for Song Exchange

• LI Kenya launched in partnership with TWAAF [supported by Ben Gradison Funds]

• WNC Mag features LEAF: “The Givers: Positive Reinforcements” 

• Easel Rider participates in AVL’s MLK Peace Rally

• LEAF on Mtn Xpress Big Ideas Timeline of AVL’s History

LEAF Highlights 2013-2010


•LEAF Schools & Streets and Moog Foundation partner to create EMErgence: Electronic Music Experience for Youth, funded by Dan Lucas Foundation.

•LEAF International Bequia Kids on Pans’ 1st international trip, LSS cultural exchange and performance to October LEAF.

•Acoustic Syndicate Album Release celebrating 20 years.

•LEAF awarded BEST OF WNC Mtn Xpress Awards: #1 Music Festival! #1 Festival for Kids! #1 Festival for Camping!

•LEAF International Costa Rica launched with the Bribri and Ngabe First Nations in August.

•LEAF Schools & Streets awarded South Arts Grant, in partnership with the NEA and NC Arts Council, brought Samite of Uganda to AVL Middle School’s AVID Student.

•LEAF brings to life and back to the streets The Easel Rider in partnership with City of AVL Parks & Rec.

•LEAF Schools & Streets partners with AVL Downtown Assoc. for Pritchard Park Summer Events

•LEAF Jazz Band at Delta House went to New Orleans by invite of Preservation Hall & opened Congo Square Festival.

•Hanes Foundation Grant Awarded to LEAF Schools & Streets Jazz at Delta House

•NEA Grant for “Voices of Traditions” featuring Mavis Staples, Lizz Wright, Yungchen Lhamo, & others at May LEAF Festival.

•Dan Lucas Foundation 3-Year Grant to LEAF International to expand to Costa Rica and connect all of the LEAF International Latin America Programs.

•Festivals.com selected Spring LEAF as “Greatest Event of The Day”

•Loose LEAF Tea at Dobra Tea House connects people to global cultures through tea and music in honor of LEAF International.
DobraSitarTabla DobraZahiyahLeaf DobraRiver DobraMbiraLeaf

•LEAF International Haiti launches with Prosjekt Haiti and Boukman Eksperyans in Port Au Prince.


•LEAF International Guatemala Young Musicians came to LEAF’s 35th Festival.

•Mickey Hart’s LSS Kids Drum Workshop at 35th Festival.

•LEAF in Schools & Streets kicked off Summer Music & Arts Residencies.

•LEAF became an “Assest Infused Organization” through Developmental Assests Training.

•NEA Grant funded “Celebrating the Blues” featuring Taj Mahal and many excellent Blues musicians at May LEAF Festival.

LEAF Executive Director Presents at TedX Greenville

•LSS Jazz Kids opened for Preservation Hall Society at May LEAF.

•LEAF moves offices to William Randolph School in Asheville to expand LSS.

•Abigail Washburn Benefit Concert for LEAF Outreach.

•LI Rwanda: Patrick joins National Ballet of Rwanda and Daniel performed for The First Lady of Rwanda’s birthday.

•LSS brings artists to William Randolph students in Enrichment Fridays.

•LEAF joins National Guild for Community Arts Education.

•Mountain Xpress Best of WNC: Live Show of 2012 – Local Performing Arts Event

•LSS partners with Black Mountain Childrens Home for LSS programs.

•The first Zealandia Masquerade Ball supporting LEAF Outreach.

•Grants awarded to support LEAF Arts Education by South Arts, Ramble Charitable Fund, Dan Lucas Foundation, Beattie Foundation & Grassroots Grant


•Mayor of Asheville issues designates November 6 as City Schools Champion Day and includes LSS.

•LSS awarded Asheville City Schools Foundation Non-Profit Champion for 2011

•Mountain Xpress Best of WNC: Live Show of 2011 – Local Performing Arts Event

•Ben Sollee Benefit Concert for LSS

•LEAF App available on iTunes

•LEAF receives third NEA Grant to present Sweet Honey In The Rock®

•Litchey Guitar raises funds for LI and LSS

•LI Columbia partners with D-Street Studios.


•LI India partners with Wilmington Yoga Center

•LSS nominated for Asheville City Schools Foundation Champion’s Award.

•First Downtown-After-Five youth performance with LSS Klondyke Coyotes.

•LEAF’s 30th festival!

•LI partners with the Playing for Change Foundation.
(Dream of Intore Culture & Music Center in Rwanda begins.)
•LEAF presents to National Endowment Council for the Arts in response to the NEA’s first groundbreaking study on the impact of outdoor arts festivals in the U.S., “Live From Your Neighborhood” (one of only two organizations chosen in country!)

•LI awarded NEA Caribbean Traditions Grant.

LEAF Highlights 2009-1995


•LI Rwanda gets boys off streets and into a home!

•LSS has served over 20,000 youth!

•LI Tanzania partners with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots.

•Pisgah’s LEAF Amber Beer and LI Dynamite Coffee brewed and served.

•LEAF receives first NEA Expressiones Latinas Grant.


•LI partners with Sister Cities in Xocen Mexico.


•LI Panama and LI Guatemala begin.

•LSS partners with Children First and grows to work in five housing communities.


•LI launches projects in Rwanda and Bequia.


•First LEAF CD!


•LEAF transforms into a non-profit organization.

•LEAF in Schools & Streets created.


•Washington Post recognizes LEAF as “the multi-cultural mix-n-match festival.”

•New York Times Travel features LEAF on front page.



Celebrate LEAF!

Some words of praise and gratitude from LEAFers, performers and supporters:

“Dear LEAF Staff, thanks for another amazing Festival. Coming up for the week to work with Swannanoa Valley Montessori was truly magical. Even after 20+ years of making the pilgrimage, the festival still blows my mind with the quality and diversity of programming, the professionalism of the staff, and the creative energy of all the attendees. My personal highlight this year was bonfire jamming with Cedric, Leigh and Marcus on Wednesday night at Hilltop. Sol Driven Train is proud to be a part of the LEAF family!”

– Joel Timmons, Sol Driven Train

“…Just wanted to say thank you so much for having Dangermuffin at LEAF DT, it was an absolute honor to be there and to have an opportunity to bring some energy at the 4pm timeslot.  We recognize Pack Square as a sacred place, and we’re sort of blown away at how y’all had the opening ceremony blessing the spot from a Cherokee elder- one of our songs is loosely based on a Cherokee creation myth- Ancient Golden Star.  We have a deep reverence for all things ancient and wise.  Also the vibe of your whole staff, everyone working there seemed to be a family and I found this to be rare and special.  So, just wanted to again reiterate how grateful we are to have been a part of LEAF DT.”

– Dan Lotti, Dangermuffin

“What I witnessed this weekend at LEAF Downtown is the core of what connects us all as indigenous people that represent one tribe. Everyone I had the honor to meet was so very kind, friendly, and appreciative. Sgi Tsa for offering this opportunity and for holding sacred space for all to come and be in the spotlight. And to connect with a larger vibration that is the heartbeat of the people. Both ceremonies were very powerful for me and I stood on that stage and realized the largeness of path before me and the amount of people who are seeking this land as their connection to the future. It was/is a very humbling and precious epiphany…Because you provide such immaculate space, and the spirit and energy of what you offer is good,clear, and apparent, I am honored to serve you and the community in a good way.  Sgi Tsa for honoring my Tsa la gi (Cherokee) people and our ancestral roots here in these mountains. Also for the many other tribes who once walked this land and one that does now.”

– Yona FrenchHawk

“LEAF is the positive and supportive environment that encourages me to push my creative boundaries. Within this unique place the natural process of self-actualization and discovery is accelerated. I return each LEAF with new skills, ideas, and costumes to explore and discover the performative possibilities within this magical vessel.”

– Madison J. Cripps, Cripps Puppets


“LEAF has become our semi-annual family retreat – a time to replenish and reconnect with individuals and as a family.  I often liken LEAF to my temporary utopia… the ultimate escape… a safe and loving environment… a large extended family reunion including members that you have yet to meet.  Every October and May, there is a sense of coming home when we are pulling up to Lake Eden… LEAF is something very special.”  



“If you’re open to new experiences and want to get away, LEAF is the perfect place to start. The sights and sounds of LEAF felt like being a world away, and it was worth it. There is something magical about seeing nature at its best. I could see how having that view as a backdrop unites people, music and art.”

-Lashawnda K. Becoats,
Q City Metro-Charlotte


“LEAF was an amazing experience. At one point we sat on a hill with David Wilcox, playing music, with the most amazing view, and it was one of those magical moments we will remember our entire lives. We’ve always loved LEAF, and have wonderful memories of going with our daughter, but it was really special to have Danny  perform. Thank you for all the love and energy you’ve created there. LEAF will always hold a special place in our hearts.”    

-Liz & Danny Ellis


“Every time I come to LEAF my spirit is renewed and outlook on life lifted. I have marveled at what this very humble yet powerful festival manages to achieve. Harmony, community building, cultural expression and celebration of creativity. All across different ethnicity, nationality, ideology, generation, gender, orientation, class and political identity. An incredible gathering of amazing people, creating fun transformative music, poetry and stories. This is indeed worthy of celebration.”

-Masankho Banda of Malawi


“LEAF is our family’s religion. It is where we taught our  boys tolerance, and how to be part of a positive community.”

-Kippy Perkins


“LEAF aims to ‘connect cultures and create community through music and art’ in the great outdoors.  A cultural mélange of musical styles awaits visitors to this festival, which seeks to expose folks to new music and a diverse array of cultures.  African, Appalachian, blues, bluegrass, Cajun, Celtic, Texan and moresounds will emanate from four stages and a jam tent over the weekend.”

-Michael Kornfeld,
Acoustic Music Scene

A Glimpse Into LEAF Press Stories