Saturday, June 30, 2007

John C. Campbell Folk School


John C. Campbell, born in Indiana in 1867, and raised in Wisconsin, studied education and theology in New England. Like many other idealistic young people of his generation, he felt a calling to humanitarian work.

At the turn of the century, the Southern Appalachian region was viewed as a fertile field for educational and social missions. With his new bride, Olive Dame of Massachusetts, John undertook a fact-finding survey of social conditions in the mountains in 1908-1909. The Campbells outfitted a wagon as a traveling home and studied mountain life from Georgia to West Virginia.

While John interviewed farmers about their agricultural practices, Olive collected ancient Appalachian ballads and studied the handicrafts of the mountain people. Both were hopeful that the quality of life could be improved by education, and in turn, wanted to preserve and share with the rest of the world the wonderful crafts, techniques and tools that mountain people used in every day life.

The folkehojskole (folk school) had long been a force in the rural life of Denmark. These schools for life helped transform the Danish countryside into a vibrant, creative force. The Campbells talked of establishing such a school in the rural southern United States as an alternative to the higher-education facilities that drew young people away from the family farm.

After John died in 1919, Olive and her friend Marguerite Butler traveled to Europe and studied folk schools in Denmark, Sweden and other countries. They returned to the U.S. full of purposeful energy and a determination to start such a school in Appalachia. They realized, more than many reformers of the day, that they could not impose their ideas on the mountain people. They would need to develop a genuine collaboration.

Several locations were under consideration for the experimental school. On an exploratory trip, Miss Butler discussed the idea with Fred O. Scroggs, Brasstown's local storekeeper, saying that she would be back in a few weeks to determine if area residents had any interest in the idea. When she returned, it was to a meeting of over 200 people at the local church. The people of far west North Carolina enthusiastically pledged labor, building materials and other support.

In 1925, the Folk School began its work. Instruction at the Folk School has always been noncompetitive; there are no credits and no grades. Today, the Folk School offers a unique combination of rich history, beautiful mountain surroundings, and an atmosphere of living and learning together.

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From Basketry to Writing, you can choose from over 830 weeklong and weekend classes each year in a broad variety of areas. Your creative learning vacation is enhanced by knowledgeable instructors and small classes. Whether you are a novice or an expert, you will find the class that's right for you. Come explore your creative side in our non-competitive, hands-on learning environment!

You’re welcome to explore our beautiful campus during daylight hours in a free and self-directed tour. On most weekdays and several weekends year-round, people like you are learning craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography, and writing in small classes scattered across campus. Class times are typically 9am-Noon and 1:30-4:30pm. You will likely be able to peek into studios at the classes being held there.

The Folk School offers numerous nature trails open to the public during daylight hours. You'll find many interesting points on the scenic paths: the Rainbow Bridge, the Herb Garden and the Corn Maiden just to name a few.

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Identified by Rand McNally Atlas as a "Best of the Road" destination, the Folk School is only two hours from Asheville, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, and is just a day's drive for half of the residents of the U.S.

We're located in westernmost North Carolina, seven miles east of Murphy, NC, off U.S. Highway 64, just north of Georgia's state line.

Documentary on the School: Sing Behind the Plow-John C. Campbell Folk School, can be viewed on UNC-TV at http://www.unctv.org/folkschool/.

Follow the link below to see the many different classes you can take. They also have a wonderful craft shop.

John C. Campbell Folk School







Special Thanks to John C. Campbell Folk School for allowing use of their text and graphics.

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