John C. Campbell Folk School|
By Anne Jenkins -
American Roads Travel Magazine
Map of campus drawn by Annie Cicale -
used with permission of John C Campbell Folk School.
En plein air painting workshop - Photo by Keather
Weideman of John C. Campbell Folk School.
North Carolinas art scene buzzes
and everyone knows the Made In America branding is an enormous economic engine
in that state. You can tour around and
practically fall over art studios, galleries and art walks. They are particularly and
justifiably proud of their Appalachian heritage and crafts. But there is one outstanding
example of honoring their heritage arts at the John C. Campbell Folk School in the rural, isolated setting of Brasstown in the
Western North Carolina mountains. Im going to call it the JCC to keep it short!
The JCC has a fascinating history. The
short version is John C Campbell, born in Indiana and raised in Wisconsin, felt a calling
to humanitarian work. He brought his new bride, Olive Dame of Massachusetts, to the
mountain region of Southern Appalachia. They traveled during 1908-1909 in a wagon and he
interviewed farmers and studied mountain life from Georgia to West Virginia. During their
travels she collected ancient Appalachian ballads and studied the handicrafts of the area.
When John died in 1919, Olive and her friend, Marguerite Butler, traveled to Europe and
studied folk schools in Denmark. The folkehøjskole - folk high school - system, was well established in Denmark. They were
instrumental in changing the Danish countryside into a vibrant and creative place.
Fiber lessons in action - photo by Anne Jenkins
return to the States, they started the search for the right location. They talked with
Fred O. Scroggs, a local storekeeper, to see if there would any interest in this sort of
place in Brasstown. He set up a meeting a few weeks later and over 200 attended. The
people of Cherokee and Clay counties pledge labor, building materials and support. The
Scroggs family donated 75 acres of land. And thus was born, the JCC. The concept of the
folk school is non-competitive - no grading, credits or testing one against the other. The
form of instruction and teaching is discussion, conversation
and demonstration. The school started in 1925 and is going from strength to strength. It
is certainly recognized as a leader in its field.
A woodcarving class - photo by Keather
Weiderman of John C Campbell Folk School.
Their workshops are varied and
interesting. The whole place has a relaxed, small university feel to it. The living
quarters started out pretty sparse and dormitory style but are continuously being upgraded
to a very comfortable and private accommodations. When
we toured they were just about to complete houses comprising of private apartments. There
is also a campground for RVs on the property. The meals are served communally and
apparently some very lively discussions take place over the table.
The range and list of workshops they
offer is awe inspiring and way too many to list them all in this space. They include
fiber, old time fiddle, clay, painting, blacksmithing, cooking, story telling, weaving,
marbling and paper art, illustrated journals, woodworking, quilting, glass beads, spinning
and dying, candle making, chair making and much more - you get the picture! They also have
visiting instructors for each week and the credentials of their staff is legendary.
A cooking class on bread making talks things through -
photo by Anne Jenkins.
In the impressive and comprehensive
catalog they give a sample week at the folk school from the Friday evenings
start through the final Sunday lunch. You can be as involved and active as you wish - or
you can opt to attend meals and workshops only. The day typically starts with a morning
walk at 7:15 a.m., morning song at 7:45 a.m., breakfast 8:15 a.m., class time 9-noon,
lunch at 12:15 p.m., class time 1:30-4:30 p.m. a variety of events such as artisans studio
tours, campus tours and the like take place at 4:45 p.m., supper is served at 6:00 p.m.
and at 7 p.m. most evenings there is music, stories, dancing and craft demonstrations.
Old time fiddle lesson- photo by Anne Jenkins
There is an interesting small museum of
the history of the school on site and we spent a happy while there. There is also a
glorious craft shop which has the other accolade of being a founding member of the
Southern Highland Craft Guild. The shop features work of instructors, local and regional
artists and also has a great book collection. I could have spent hours and lots of dollars
just on the books!
There is also a nice map of walking
trails on the campus with cool names like Herb Garden Trail and Blackberry Loop Trail. It also gives the description and inspirations for
the Rivercane Walk which makes for a good read.
Lesson in photography - Photo by Keather Weideman
of John C. Campbell Folk School
Before I visited JCC, Id heard it
praised and also described as a place beloved by the Birkenstock crowd, but
when I went there for a day I found it is so much more. There is a homespun, crafty feel
and everyone seemed to really be in to the whole scene. You could see the enjoyment and
inspiration in peoples faces. The high level of dedication and expertise of the
instructors and the staff permeate the place. It has the good feel of a place of
learning, with no snootiness and I immediately wanted to sign up for every workshop
available. The tranquil, rural setting is a delight and Id highly recommend
visiting, or better yet, sign up for a workshop and learn in a fabulous and relaxed
Their website is www.folkschool.org
and they are located at 1 Folk School Road, Brasstown, NC 28902. Call (828) 837-2775 or
(800) FOLK-SCH. For any additional information on classes or on planning your stay, call
Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.