The Tools to Reconnect

Hendersonville synagogue hosts art pop-up in parking lot 

The woodcarver in his “cave.”
Portrait by Karin Strickland

Ron Weintraub serves sundaes in style. Rather than use a Dollar Store ice-cream scoop or, worse yet, a flimsy dessert spoon, the woodturner fashions his own utensils from slabs of cherry, walnut, or laminated hardwood. 

“My favorite ice-cream flavor is peach,” Weintraub tells Bold Life from what his wife calls the “cave,” a studio space outside their Mills River home. It is here that Weintraub turns live-edge bowls and a line of pragmatic, though aesthetically dazzling, tools like pens, razors, and, of course, those scoops. “They’re unique but functional,” he notes. 

Since moving to Henderson County seven years ago, the crafter has carved a niche for himself, selling his pieces in high-traffic venues like Hunters & Gatherers in Brevard, the Asheville Visitor Center, and the Grove Park Inn’s Gallery of the Mountains. This month, he will also peddle his wares at Art in the Lot, a new pop-up art fair hosted by the Agudas Israel Synagogue in Hendersonville.

As a member of the congregation, Weintraub sees the event as a way to fundraise for the temple, which, like other faith-based organizations in town, has experienced a drop in donations because of COVID-19. However, the showcase is also an opportunity to reunite with community members after more than 15 months of strictly virtual gatherings. 

“During the pandemic, all of the synagogue’s services were on Zoom and YouTube,” says Weintraub. “You get tired of that. You just don’t get the same interpersonal relationships you get with live interactions.” 

Much to Weintraub’s excitement, the art fair is scheduled just two days after the temple’s very first in-person — though still masked and socially distanced — service since last March. “It’ll be great to actually see people again,” he notes. 

Though event organizer Zsa Lobel is eager to welcome congregants back to the synagogue, she explains that the pop-up is more about reconnecting the congregation with Hendersonville as a whole. “We wanted an opportunity for the community to come in,” says Lobel.

As such, the majority of the 30-some participating artists are not congregants and, unlike the synagogue’s Mountain Jewish Festival, there will be little emphasis on faith. Instead, Art in the Lot will be exactly what it sounds like — a chance for local, mid-career artists to sell their work in a safe, outdoor setting. (Though Agudas Israel will be charging for booth rentals, the temple will not be collecting a percentage of the artists’ sales.)

Art in the Lot will also be a chance for Weintraub to give customers the dish on his journey from an employee-benefits consultant — his full-time job before retiring — to a sought-after craftsman. 

“I went to the Mountain State Fair one year and made a honey dipper at a woodturning demonstration. After that, I thought, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” Weintraub says matter-of-factly. The rest is history. Or, better yet, the rest is peach ice cream served using a handmade scoop.

Art in the Lot is scheduled for Sunday, June 6, at Agudas Israel Synagogue (505 Glasgow Lane, Hendersonville). All community members are welcome to shop from 10am-3pm. Masks are required. For more information about the event, visit agudasisraelsynagogue.org.

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