It may be higher learning but this folk school is seated in the soul
John C. Campbell Folk school at Brasstown may be the only place on earth where you can jump into a course called “It’s Time To Try Blacksmithing” and follow up with “Hammering a tune on the hammered dulcimer.” Founded in 1925, the basic curricula of making things that matter as much to the heart as to anything else hasn’t really changed all that much.
John and Olive Dame Campbell had come to the mountains of the South in 1908, as humanitarians, to study the region, collect ballads and contemporary handcrafts. After John died in 1919, Olive and her friend Marguerite Butler voyaged to Europe to look at Danish “schools for life.” They returned wanting to offer the same kind of “learning and living” opportunity in the Appalachian Mountains.
Today, true to its original zeitgeist, Campbell School offers weekend or week-long classes in traditional and present-day arts and crafts, cooking, gardening and nature studies. There’s also a generous helping of song, dance and wonderful vittles, if you’re so inclined–basically enough community and headlong fun to fill several crates of memories.
The Folk School offers more than classes for those passing through town. A destination unto itself, the Craft Shop at the Folk School offers carvings from the renowned Brasstown Carvers and a wide variety of craft items for sale from over 300 regional and national artists. Visitors are also welcome to explore the grounds during daylight hours and stroll the nature trails. Viewing Doris Ulmann’s photographs from the early 1930s and works from the school’s archives in their History Center make the trip to Brasstown well worth the time, even if you decide to postpone sculpting a tear-drop fiddle ‘til next year.
Recently, the Folk School opened a new space: Olive’s Porch in nearby Murphy, NC. Named after the school’s co-founder, the location at 27 Peachtree Street features classroom space, a retail shop showcasing the work of Appalachian artists, and a studio space dedicated to the Artist in Residence Program. Created by feedback from community listening sessions, and building on the spirit of our Fall Festival, Olive’s Porch offers a way to celebrate Appalachian heritage all year long.
Find out about the great plethora of Campbell classes taught by celebrated masters, visit their Craft Shop’s online store, and read more about the school’s history by visiting www.folkschool.org.