For years, I’ve heard glowing reviews from colleagues, teachers, artists and friends about Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and for years I’ve dreamily combed over the course catalog. This summer, with my daughters away at camp, and an admired instructor on the Arrowmont schedule, I seized the opportunity to finally attend.
The nine hour drive from Little Rock was happily interrupted by a weekend of gallery hopping with an old college friend in Nashville (scroll down to see previous post if you are interested in Nashville galleries). I then headed to Gatlinburg, TN on Sunday. After battling the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg traffic, my arrival at the secluded and serene Arrowmont campus was a relief. Making me feel welcome, Cynthia at the Registrar’s desk had a nametag, map, and instruction sheet ready and waiting. After depositing my belongings in Hughes Hall, I headed to dinner where meeting students who would soon become peers was quick and easy. My worries about not knowing anyone here faded as I joined several diners, all excited about the upcoming week at Arrowmont.
During dinner, a student who has attended over 20 classes here shared tales and tips with our table of plebeians. Afterward, we all headed to an auditorium for Orientation which included guidelines, class information, a history of Arrowmont, and an introduction of the teachers. It become immediately clear, as if I hadn’t noticed in the course listing, the teachers are world class. It was also clear that Arrowmont is a highly organized, well run program. I liked knowing our time here would be used wisely, and that there were multiple opportunities to learn, from artist lectures, to studio tours, to an extensive and beautiful library (see photo on left).
Each night at Arrowmont, there are artists lectures beginning soon after the incredibly healthy and delicious dinners. OK, OK, side note, I can’t delay this any longer, I know this blog is about art but I must talk for a moment about something else very important: FOOD. The food at Arrowmont is incredible. I had zero expectations…of all the great things I’ve heard about the place, I didn’t pay attention to reports about the food and as I was more interested in the art class experience. I simply purchased the meal plan with my enrollment in order to save time by avoiding downtown Gatlinburg for meals. There were multiple salads served each meal, several freshly prepared vegetables, vegetarian options at every meal, soups, homemade desserts, and delicious coffee, tea, and beverages available throughout the day. I cook often at home, and having three healthy vegetarian meals provided each day was a delightful surprise.
At 7:00, on the first night of lectures, we heard 15 minute presentations from Pinkney Herbert (who came out dancing and jamming on a harmonica), Andrew Kuebeck, and several of the artist residents. As soon as Pinkney’s harmonica sang, I knew the evening lectures should not be missed. So, there were daily lectures, films, instructional time in the studio, open studio time, group critiques, and reading assignments. And just when one might need to get out of the studio (and take a break from the oil paint fumes, in our case), Arrowmont wisely provides an event called “Studio Stroll” on Thursday evening. Brilliant. Get your target audience hooked on yet ANOTHER medium. I can’t decide if I became more enamored with enameling with Mary Chuduck or felting with Stephanie Metz. I’d heard these artists lecture earlier in the week so by the time I visited their studios on Thursday evening, I’d developed a great appreciation for the process and their work.
Overall, on top of the incredible instruction, unparalleled course offerings, and scrumptious food, Arrowmont is a place where artists can build a community of peers who inevitably feed our ideas. It is a place that elevates the direction of our work and softens the sense of isolation artists often feel. Whether you are a newcomer to the arts, a hobbyist, or a professional artist, this place is a heavenly balance of on the job training and summer camp. In addition to technique with materials, we can glean from the faculty tips about lecturing, teaching methods, and gallery business. We can learn about ourselves, our goals, and more about our own work. And we can experience the feeling of really getting away from it all while conversely getting a ton of work done. And that, to me, makes every moment at Arrowmont time well spent.
Thank you for reading! Up next, I’ll describe our painting class, lessons, and work samples in more detail in “Arrowmont Part 2: Painting with Pinkney Herbert.”