Graham and Swain County NC schools, local artists participate in Arrowmont’s ArtReach-on-the-Road

This week, over 350 students in Graham and Swain County, NC school systems participated in Arrowmont’s educational outreach program, ArtReach on the Road. Their bus will drop them off at Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center for a day of workshops in traditional Appalachian craft.

ArtReach on the Road offers workshops in a range of media that have a significant history in Appalachia, led by local artists and craftspeople. Graham and Swain County students who have never been in a studio setting experienced an immersive day of arts education September 30 – October 4, 2019. Participating schools include Robbinsville Elementary, Robbinsville Middle School, Robbinsville High School, Swain Middle School, and Swain High School.


Five working, professional local artists will provide traditional Appalachian arts and crafts instruction:

Julia Gartrell will focus on traditional quilt block patterns, creating paper quilt collages in her workshop. Gartrell is an artist and educator based in Durham, NC. She received an MFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in art from Kalamazoo College. Her work explores notions of “making do”, material plasticity, and radical approaches to repair. She has participated in residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center, the Power Plant Gallery at Duke University, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Ox-Bow School of Art, and others. Gartrell has exhibited nationally and internationally, and currently adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University.

• Diane Kelly will lead her workshop on traditional napkin baskets, using dyed reed accents. Before moving to the mountains, Kelly was a paralegal, and has a BS degree in Justice and Public Safety. A basket-maker for 16 years, Kelly has taught at Tri-County Community College, at the Stecoah Township Center, and at the local library. A resident of Robbinsville, NC, Kelly sells her baskets at local shops and at area festivals, and is a self-professed “basket case.”

• Mike Lalone will use ¬¬instruct students to combine clay pinch pots to make three-dimensional portraits. Based in Murphy, NC, Lalone has been working in clay for over 30 years. His long teaching career includes starting a ceramics program at Dr. Phillips High, and teaching at the John C. Campbell Folk School for over 15 years. He was honored by the Daniel Clark Foundation as an exemplary instructor, and he was awarded the Kessler Foundation award for excellence in art education. Lalone’s work has appeared in Clay Times magazine, is exhibited regionally and nationally, and is included in collections in China and Japan.

• John Polly will emphasize the importance of wood crafted products in the early Appalachia homestead in his woodworking classes. Polly was taught basic woodworking skills by his dad at a very early age. He learned a true appreciation of how to work wood with limited tools, and has made countless pieces of furniture, odds and ends, and turned wooden bowls through the years. He enjoys teaching woodworking basics to adults and kids.

• Linda Thompson will introduce students to weaving on various looms. Residing in Warne, TN, weaving began for Thompson in 1984 on an old two harness rug loom. A single mother of two, there wasn’t much room for Thompson’s passion for weaving until her children graduated from high school. She then studied weaving with Karen Donde in Asheville, NC, Linda Hofacker in Lexington, KY, and at the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has taught at Morehead State University as an adjunct instructor, and worked at Fort Boonesborough in the weaving cabin, providing education to area youth about weaving and the experience of early settlers.

ArtReach on the Road will be directed by Kelly Hider. Hider received her BFA from SUNY Brockport in 2007, and an MFA from the University of Tennessee in 2011. She is a founding member and resident artist at the Vacuum Shop Studios, in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has experience teaching a variety of collegiate and K-12 classrooms, including Middle Tennessee State University, Walters State Community College, Summer Art Academy at the Knoxville Museum of Art, and Community Classes for kids and adults at Arrowmont, the Arts & Culture Center, and the Knoxville Arts & Fine Craft Center. Previously the Gallery Manager at Arrowmont, Hider is excited about her new role working on the ArtReach on the Road initiative.

ArtReach on the Road is modeled on Arrowmont’s celebrated ArtReach program, a rural arts outreach initiative established 25 years ago that has served over 25,000 Sevier County school children. ArtReach on the Road is designed to help modern students in Central Appalachia learn about and appreciate their culture and the importance of craft in their daily lives. It also addresses the preservation of traditional craft knowledge—knowledge that is disappearing as the region becomes urbanized and practitioners often do not transmit their skills to future generations.

For more information about ArtReach on the Road, visit or email Kelly Hider, youth education program manager,


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