Enriching lives through art and craft


Arrowmont announces John Polly, the spring Appalachian Craft & Culture Fellow

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is pleased to announce the spring Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellow: John Polly, a Campbell County woodworker and turner. Polly begins his Fellowship on March 15, 2020 with the start of a three-month on-campus residency to work and learn in Arrowmont’s supportive environment.

I am excited and honored to have been selected as one of the Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellows at Arrowmont,” said John Polly. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to develop personally and to explore the Appalachian craft and culture. I was born and raised in Eastern Kentucky and have spent my entire life in the Appalachian region.



Polly was taught basic woodworking skills by his dad at as a young child. He learned a true appreciation of how to work wood with limited tools. From a very early age, Polly learned to utilize available resources, reuse and upcycle with minimal tools to create useful items from wood. Nearly everything he has made was sourced from sawmill lumber or processed from discarded trees. Several furniture pieces in his home as well as custom built items have been constructed utilizing this process. Polly is also an avid bowl turner made from stock not suitable for lumber.



After retiring from a career as Associate Warden at Big Sandy Kentucky and work at the FMC Federal prison in Lexington, KY, Polly now pursues his passions for wood working and community engagement.  Recent projects include constructing bunk beds for kids who otherwise sleep on a floor or couch through the First Baptist Church of Jacksboro’s volunteer program, Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Polly also worked closely with the Campbell County Culture Coalition on several projects including a mural in Campbell County Courthouse and outdoor book boxes located throughout the county.

Polly enjoys teaching woodworking basics to adults and kids. After first encountering Arrowmont and learning of the Preserving and Teaching Traditional Appalachian Craft initiative at the 2018 Louie Bluie Festival in Campbell County, Polly participated as an instructor in three ArtReach on the Road events, attended his first National Workshop, and participates as a volunteer at the School.


John Polly is excited to explore traditional hand tools during his Fellowship this spring. “During my Fellowship at Arrowmont I intend to construct wood craft with minimal tools focusing on hand tools, processing and using materials in the traditional methods and techniques.  I plan to document each step of the process to preserve the craft.



The Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellowship was established as a program of Arrowmont’s initiative, Preserving and Teaching Traditional Appalachian Craft. The Fellowship offers traditional craft artists and cultural elders the opportunity, time, and space to learn, reflect and share their knowledge of traditional craft. The Fellowship includes lodging and meals, studio, stipend plus resources to attend conferences or other educational opportunities. During their tenure, Fellows will present a public lecture and mount a small exhibition of their work. The Fellowship is open to Central Appalachian traditional craft artists and cultural elders such as storytellers. Preference will be given to the non-classically educated artist.

For more information about the Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellowship, visit arrowmont.org/appalachian-craft/fellowship/ or email Fran Day, director of institutional advancement, 865.436.5860, fday@arrowmont.org.


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