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GSMA Welcomes New Interpretive Products and Services Director

Posted by | 09.26.2017
Frances Figart with Dukkha (left) and Ivy.

Upon the retirement of Steve Kemp in September, Frances Figart has officially become Great Smoky Mountains Association's new interpretive products and services director. Please join us in welcoming her to the GSMA team.

Frances has always focused on words, language and communication. While editing the monthly magazine for the National Tour Association based in Lexington, Ky, in the 1990s, she became passionate about ecotourism and sustainable travel. This led her to live alternately in Canada and Costa Rica supporting a kayak tour operator as director of marketing and communi-cations for several years. In 2010, she returned to her hometown of Winchester, Ky, to help her mother die with grace and dignity.

After this transition, Frances moved to Asheville, NC, in 2013 to start life anew. With her sights set on working again in magazine publishing, she was hired by the city's popular arts and culture monthly, The Laurel of Asheville, and became its editor.

One of the first regional connections Frances made upon moving to Asheville was with Discover Life in America, another or our park’s partner organizations. For several years, she was a volunteer editor with the nonprofit, which works to inventory the many species that call the Smokies home. It was DLIA Executive Director Todd Witcher who suggested that Frances apply for the GSMA position.

“I'm excited to be involved again with association work and to help this award-winning team in educating visitors and inspiring the preservation of the cultural and natural resources of this incredible national treasure,” she said. “Getting to attend the Members Weekend in Townsend and meet the life blood of this association was most inspiring. The passion of GSMA members is tangible; you can see that they place our park at the top of their lists when it comes to what is important in their lives.”

Not only has Frances worked in publishing, but in late 2016 she published her own book, Seasons of Letting Go: Most of what I know about truly living I learned by helping someone die, which is a collection of essays that were originally created as a blog. She lives on six acres in the small mountain community of Flag Pond, near Big Bald, Rocky Fork State Park and the Appalachian Trail at Devil Fork Gap with her husband, artist and four-time AT thru-hiker John Philip Beaudet, two cats, Grendel and Oki, and two Australian Shepherds, Dukkha and Ivy.

Frances works at GSMA headquarters in Gatlinburg, TN, two consecutive days each week, usually Tuesday and Wednesday. She can be reached by email at

GSMA Copyright October 2017