John C. Campbell Folk School a chance to learn

Published 10:29 am Thursday, May 25, 2017

By Andi Bedsworth


Summer is a time for traveling near and far. Many people plan their yearly vacation to a popular resort, home state to visit relatives, or to another country to see famous attractions. However, there is another reason to travel. A small percentage of people travel to learn something new, and there are great places to do this. One of those places is the John C. Campbell Folk School nestled in the mountains of Brasstown, North Carolina.

Established in 1925 by Olive Dame Campbell and Marguerite Butler, this school was modeled after other learning centers abroad called “folkehojskole” (folk school). These had long been operating in the rural life of Denmark and helped transform the Danish countryside into creative and vibrant communities.

Email newsletter signup

Olive and John Campbell talked of establishing such a school in the rural southern United States as an alternative to universities and colleges that drew young people away from the family farm. After his death, Olive and Marguerite Butler traveled abroad to learn more and eventually opened the school in Brasstown.

Offering classes almost every week of the year and many weekends, the school offers non-competitive learning experiences for adult students looking for a new type of vacation.

Now if you think learning is hard work and not something to do on vacation, you might not realize how magical the school really is.

Set on a picturesque campus of historical buildings which house classes in everything from basketry, blacksmithing, painting, photography, writing, cooking, homesteading, nature studies, fishing, book arts, woodturning, jewelry, pottery and much more, this school is a bustling haven for creatives looking to be inspired and have fun. Besides taking classes the folk school offers friendship and fun in the form of contra dances, folk music concerts, live artist demonstrations, tours to local attractions such as artist galleries, private studios, and even a winery.

The folk school provides three meals a day to all students and teachers in a communal dining room that foster community and fellowship.

The food is often locally sourced, some even from the gardens on the campus which are picked right before being prepared making every meal fresh and hearty. Cooking classes of many types including bread making, Italian cooking, jams and jellies, chocolates and much more are very popular at the school as are classes in beer brewing and bee keeping.

The school draws artists and hobbyists from all over the country looking for an experience a little different than the usual travel destination.

Though the school is not any less photogenic than many vacation hotspots, and it is not unusual to see people taking photos and visitors stopping in to see classes in session as these are not your average school subjects. This is where you get to learn something fun and interesting. The offerings are diverse and change from week to week and give students a chance to learn in an inspiring and open learning environment.

Check out for more information.

Andi Bedsworth is owner of Art To Go, which brings free art opportunities to children in the community.