Gatlinburg’s Arrowmont truly is a school of art education set against one of most ideal artistic backdrops – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Arrowmont’s school of arts and crafts is a tool for anyone to make use of who wants to expand their art education. One- and two-week courses highlight the curriculum and artists the world over make up the school’s revolving faculty.

Arrowmont SIgnLocated on a 14-acre residential campus in Gatlinburg, TNArrowmont offers a series of weekly classes. They include instructional courses in books, ceramics, drawing, fiber, metals/jewelry, mixed media, painting, paper, photography, warm glass, wood-turning, and woodworking.

Arrowmont is open year round. Browse the artwork of worldly artists in the school’s five galleries. The Marian Heard Library and Resource Center includes print and electronic materials and work is always on display from Arrowmont’s permanent collection there for those looking for more research opportunities. The Artist Outfitters Store provides all the art supplies and tools that a student might need.

Over the years a number of area schools in the Smoky Mountain region have benefited greatly from a sharing learning initiative offered through Arrowmont. ArtReach, a program in partnership with Sevier County Schools, gives 1,000 students from grades 4-12, the opportunity for a full day of in-depth, art classes at Arrowmont each year.

Arrowmont recently marked its 100th birthday as a center for art education in the Smokies. At first, Arrowmont taught area children from a general education curriculum in a settlement school setting. Before long though mountain handicrafts found their into the school’s teachings. These teachings were infused into each child’s regular education in order to preserve the skills of the residents whose livelihood depended on more agriculturally-based teachings. Arrowmont’s signature summer workshop program was launched in 1945 and the school welcomed people from all over the country who were interested in furthering their art education against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains. Today, more than 130 classes in contemporary art and crafts are offered throughout the center’s seasonal sessions.

Arrowmont operates Monday – Friday from 8:30 am to 5 pm, and on Saturdays from 8:30 am to 4 pm. Hours expand to seven days a week during the spring, summer and fall workshops programs. During winter classes, the galleries, resource center and the book/supply store are also open extended hours.

Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community

There are several staples in the Smoky Mountains: gem mining, hiking, waterfalls and craft shops.  In Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community (GSACC) is the home to 100s of crafts and artisans that have established a community on Glades and Buckhorn roads right outside of town.  Potters to woodworkers, painters to glass blowers, crafts of every shape and size.  People from all over the country come to the GSACC to shop and pause in wonder at the amazing works of art that are being turned out in and in some cases handed down to the next generation.

When you visit Gatlinburg, you will see signs for the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community everywhere – plastered on some of the buildings and on each and every trolley.  Finding the GSACC is just as easy.  When you get to traffic light #3 turn up 321 and head toward Cosby, TN.  You are going to travel 2.7 miles from traffic light #3.  This will put you at the traffic light that is the turn off to Glades Rd.  Once you have made the left hand turn onto Glades, you are now in the GSACC.  You are now ready to experience one of the best arts and crafts communities in the southeast.  As you drive along Glades road you will find that you are passing small galleries, craft shops and in some cases small craft malls.

The owners of these shops are the artists and crafters.  In most cases the person that turned out the works of art that you are viewing is the person that you find sitting behind the counter.  The best part is that in some cases you might catch them working while you are at their shop.  You can watch the painter put brush to canvas and get creative, you can watch the potter at their wheel turning clay into a vessel or a vase or maybe you will be able to watch the woodworker with chisel in wood discovering the creature or creation that is hiding in the grain of the wood.

As you watch them work, take the time to talk to them about their craft.  There is a reason that they are working in public.  They want to talk about their art form.  They want to explain to you why they work in the medium that they work in, they want to talk.  Get them in a discussion of the piece that catches your eye.  They will tell you the story of the photograph they took that they created the painting from.  Instead of rushing through each of the shops at a break neck speed, try spending time in each shop.  And if you have the kids with you get them involve din the discussion.  Let them ask questions and you might find that you have opened their eyes to a whole new world.

Next time you find yourself in Gatlinburg, head to the Arts and Crafts Community.  Follow one of the trolleys out of town to Glades Road and spend the day touring hte craft shops that line both sides of the road.  Get some early Christmas shopping done and don’t be afraid to ask questions and get to know the artists that run the shops.