Arts & Artisans
John C. Campbell Folk School
Stroll the grounds of the John C. Campbell Folk School, and you’ll be serenaded by a symphony of unique sounds: the hum of a potter’s wheel, the tap-tap-tapping of a silversmith’s hammer, the sublime notes of a mountain dulcimer. You’ll soon realize that these are more than just the busy noises of art being created. They’re the sounds of people from all walks of life re-creating themselves in one of America’s most inspiring settings.
Founded in 1925 by Olive Dame Campbell, the idealistic widow of the missionary John C. Campbell, the school is the North Carolina version of what was originally a Danish idea, the folkehojskole or "folk school," which had been instrumental in transforming the Danish countryside into a vibrant creative force.
In fact, each day at 7:45am, everyone participates in the leftover Danish custom of MorningSong, joyfully greeting the day with singing, the sharing of folklore and camaraderie. After a hearty breakfast at 8:15, the students then go off to their respective studios to begin their work.
But the atmosphere in Campbell’s "classrooms" is far different than the hyper-competitive one you experience at college or grad school – or at work, for that matter. Here, people with varying levels of talent learn simply by doing – each at their own pace. And because most classes are limited to 12 students, Campbell’s expert instructors have ample time to sit down and work with each individual.
In the afternoons, students are given the freedom to visit the shops and studios of local artisans for inspiration – Campbell is located near Brasstown, a haven for professional craftspeople – or simply to buy a keepsake. After dinner at 6, the evenings are filled with dance and singing, or the chance to visit studios and see the work of fellow students.
By the end of the week, it’s time for the Student Exhibit, where students display the results of their efforts and admire the creations of newfound friends. And then it hits them what they’ve accomplished in the course of only one week: They’ve created their own work of art. They’ve had a chance to experience the rich traditions and history of the Appalachians. And perhaps most importantly, they depart with the kind of inspiration and sense of renewal that only a place this special can provide.
The list of class options is extensive. And gift certificates are available in any amount, to be used toward tuition, lodging and/or meals.
As you might expect, Campbell is also a delightful day destination. In fact, the Craft Shop at the Folk School offers carvings from the renowned Brasstown Carvers and a wide variety of unique items from over 300 regional and national artists including pottery, furniture, weaving, glasswork, basketry and much more. The shop also has an ever-growing collection of books for artists and collectors.
added: December 3, 2008
updated: December 22, 2008