"You always start something hoping it will last," says Jennifer Pickering, "but you don't really know if it will."
Pickering organized the first Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) in 1995, when she was 28 — on land she grew up on, and lives on to this day. Her father, George Pickering, created Camp Rockmont there in 1956 after purchasing the property from Black Mountain College. "You're really starting it for that moment, and then when you get to 15 years you're very grateful."
A devoted traveler, Pickering always intended to use LEAF as a platform to introduce people to other cultures through the music and arts. "At the time I really didn't realize that music and the arts are the most powerful tool for preserving the cultures and for passing them on...and, a lot of fun," she says. "The thing that keeps us going as staff is how much the people who come to LEAF really value it as an experience, as a family tradition, as a friend tradition — we hear stories about what a difference it makes in their lives."
Besides two festivals each year, Pickering also oversees LEAF In Schools And Streets and LEAF International, programs that take the artists from the stage into the community. "A community is only as healthy as the youth in the community are," she says, "and music and arts are a great way to support the kids, to give them a positive direction."
— Robin Tolleson