Lori Cozzi's journey leads her to Black Mountain Center for the Arts

Shelly Frome
Special to Black Mountain News
Lori Cozzi, who served as the executive director at ArtSpace Charter School for 12 years, is now in the same role at Black Mountain Center for the Arts.

As if guided by poet Emily Dickinson, Lori Cozzi, the new director of the Black Mountain Center of the Arts, has always “dwelled in possibility.” It began in her childhood in Delray Beach, Florida when she was first taken by arts-and-crafts and the ways things could be put together and went on from there.

“My mother also happened to be creative,” she said, “especially with sewing and macramé which I also delved in and even began drawing imaginative floor plans for houses. I played the flute in grade school and became aware of the process of music composition. When I went on to college at Florida State I got a summer job at Luria’s Camera Shop. One day someone returned a Canon  camera that I bought and the very next semester I took photography classes.”

Her delving began to settle down when, all through the rest of her college days she worked in after-school programs to make money and realized how much she loved children. Their laughter, sense of wonder and, no matter how her day was going, the moment she encountered “the kids,” they always brought her joy.

Cozzi always found them to be “curious, funny and loving. Soaking things up while engaging in crafts and painting, drawing and mixed-media.”

It was during this period in her life, that she first envisioned a connection between children and opportunities for enrichment.

As a matter of course, she went on to pursue a Master of Art Education, exploring the entire gamut this time.

“I just loved art history,” she said. “I remembered escaping from the heat in Tallahassee and going into the auditorium for a cool, dark lecture and coming upon larger than life slides. All that evolution, artists’ influence on each other, what drives someone like Van Gogh to paint day after day, plus their personal stories were  fascinating to me. So naturally I thought of combining aesthetics, history and technique with creative projects. Intrigued with the potential of art as also a means of giving children a way of understanding the world during different times.”

She found a chance to employ this concept during an “art-in-the-cart” assignment in Tampa where she was able to link up with a fourth grade history teacher’s work. Moreover, during breaks and in tandem with her husband, she ventured forth into these mountains, drawn by the crisp, clean vistas and an impulse to go camping, trail-biking, and backpacking.  

“By 1995, taken by the pull of this area, we were both ready for a change," she said. "We decided that we loved Asheville and I had never lived anywhere where there were seasons. So I got a position in Saluda, which is a wonderful, nearby little mountain town. There I taught elementary art and further integrated what the kids were learning in other classes.”

Black Mountain Center for the Arts Executive Director Lori Cozzi stepped into the role after serving as the executive director at ArtSpace Charter School in Swannanoa for 12 years.

This quest led to a stint at Black Mountain Elementary School teaching fourth-graders followed by a 16-year tenure at Artspace in Swannanoa, a progressive charter school that afforded her art-and-curriculum-vision full reign as director for the past 12 years.  

As it happens, having served on the board of the Center of the Arts, where she was involved in several other projects such as helping foster a collection and presentation of old-timer stories with students entitled Way Back When, Cozzi was more than ready to take on a new challenge when previous director Gale Jackson recently retired.

In this role, her vantage point expands into the world of dance and theater—maintaining and trying out different forms—collaborating with the museum next door and aligning programs, enhancing the pottery, painting and drawing programs, adding a new mural outside the building glorifying the arts in the style of Thomas Hart Benton, working with adults as well as children this time, and so much more.  

“All in all, I never had a plan," Cozzi said, looking back on her journey. "I went where these wonderful opportunities presented themselves to me. I tend to want to try new things after a few years, learn and grow, and just want my life to always be in the arts.”