Enriching lives through art and craft

HOLIDAY AND COMMUNITY CLASSES: Introducing Students Debi Veranth and Vicky Walker


In this series we introduce you to some of the faces of Arrowmont: students, instructors, staff, work- study students, volunteers, and donors.  We explore the lasting value of the experiences and relationships that are created when individuals step out of their comfort zone and participate in the Arrowmont experience.


HOLIDAY AND COMMUNITY CLASSES: Introducing Students Debi Veranth and Vicky Walker

As our 2018 National Workshop season draws to a close, some students are surprised to learn that Arrowmont does not shut-down when these workshops are over. Arrowmont is known as an educational center that hosts arts and crafts workshops taught by nationally recognized artists in the summer and the fall. However, outside of the national workshop season, Arrowmont pursues and maintains our founding mission which is to serve and bring arts and crafts education to the Gatlinburg and Sevier County region. Holiday and Community Classes are one way Arrowmont preserves its original mission.

Beginning in December and running through March, Arrowmont’s Community Classes are offered in several media and are taught by Arrowmont’s Artists-in-Residence and local and regional artists. Community Classes are open to all ages and skill levels.  Unlike Arrowmont’s National workshops, Community Classes usually take place in the evening and on the weekends to increase accessibility to community members.  There are short-term classes and long-term classes.

As I thought about Arrowmont’s Community Classes, I was reminded of recent conversations that I had with dedicated Community Class participants, Debi Veranth and Vicky Walker. While Debi and Vicky can be seen year-round on Arrowmont’s campus volunteering their time in the Arrowmont library or development office, they also frequent the Arrowmont studios as students themselves in both National Workshops and Community Classes.

Debi Veranth retired to Gatlinburg in 2010 by way of Tampa, FL where she served for 33 years in the Hillsboro County Public School District as educator, assistant principal, principal, and eventually Director of Administration for the entire district. With an interest in clay, Debi learned about Arrowmont prior to moving to Gatlinburg through online articles.  Upon arrival to Gatlinburg, she knew that she wanted to serve her time in a place that allowed to pursue her interest in clay further.  Arrowmont became that place for her. Before she joined Arrowmont as a volunteer, she began taking community classes as a way to connect with people in the community.


While the community classes are open to all levels, based on Debi’s experience, they are particularly inviting to students who are just beginning. They functioned in that way for her. Debi said,

“When you are in a community class, it is a little more relaxed [than National Workshops]. You know, it is a give and take without even verbal sometimes. You just watch what they’re doing and you try it. There’s no pressure…”

Debi recalled a Community Class that she took with Shawn O’Connor on wood-fired ceramics in 2011.  The memories that Debi lingered on most from that class was the fellowship and comradery that she shared with her classmates as they sat around the wood kiln as it fired.  After connecting with people through community classes, Debi learned that a volunteer was needed in the Arrowmont media center. Now 7 years later, Debi still volunteers her time working to improve our library.  From digitizing our card catalog and connecting us to the local Anna Porter library, Debi has done so much for Arrowmont as a volunteer and member of our community and it all started with a Community Class.

Vicky Walker retired to Gatlinburg in 2015 by way of Nashville, TN. While she worked as a paralegal in her professional career, Vicky considers herself a life-long crochet-er.  Prior to her permanent move to Gatlinburg, Vicky learned about Arrowmont through vacationing in the area and visiting the former Arrow Craft store.  Like Debi, after retirement and moving to Gatlinburg, Vicky wanted to serve and volunteer her time in a place that was related to her own interests in art-making and fiber-work. Vicky said, “I wanted to volunteer my time where we really serve to feed the soul and I think that is what Arrowmont does.” Vicky volunteers in the library with Debi and in the Development office.

Vicky has taken both National and Community Classes as a way to be exposed and inspired by other individuals who are also creative. Currently, a working fiber artist herself, Vicky said,

“When you work by yourself all the time, there is a limit to where your mind can go. And when you get around people who think very differently than you – it gets you out of that.”

Listening to both Debi and Vicky’s perspectives reaffirmed that Community Classes at Arrowmont serve many functions and truly are available to all people.  Whether you are a complete beginner who wants to try something new or a working professional artist who wants to engage with a creative community, Arrowmont’s Community Classes can achieve both.

While Arrowmont’s Community Classes are taught by practicing artists in the same studios in which National Workshops are held, the classes are of various lengths and prices so that our local community can participate in them. Vicky said, “[Taking Community Classes is an] inexpensive, short term way to introduce yourself to something that you have never done before. So why not try it?”

Whether you take a Community Class at Arrowmont to be introduced to a new skill, improve a practice, make a new friend, or join the Arrowmont community, we would love to see you on campus this winter.  You will not want to miss what we have in store this Community Class season.

For more information on Holiday and Community Classes, visit https://www.arrowmont.org/workshops-classes/classes/

Early registration is open now! Call 865-436-5860 to register.

You may find Debi Veranth’s ceramic work at Cliff Dwellers Gallery and fiber work by Vicky Walker at the Smoky Mountain Spinnery.

Paige is a former Artist-in-Residence who works on staff as Administrative Supportive Coordinator in Institutional Advancement.



ART WORKSTENNESSEE ARTS COMMISIONTENNESSEE FOR THE ARTSTennessee Specialty License PlatesEAST TENNESSEE FOUNDATIONWindgate Foundation Arrowmont is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number SLFRP5534 awarded to the State of Tennessee by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

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