There are those who fervently believe the road to happiness is paved with shiny new cell phones, Sony PlayStations and high-definition plasma TVs. The citizens of Gatlinburg, Tennessee have yet to receive this memo.
In a town where old-fashioned letter writing, chatting with one’s neighbors and taking long, meditative walks are the order of the day, Gatlinburg offers another rarity to a materialistic nation. Here you'll find a community of do-it-yourself arts and crafts artisans. In Gatlinburg, the locals will happily tell you that DIY stands for Dream It Yourself.
These dreams occur among an eight-mile stretch of road within Gatlinburg known endearingly as the Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Community. It is the largest group of independent artisans in North America. Established in 1937, it’s here that arts and crafts enthusiasts, advocates and aficionados get to experience, first-hand, the hands-on approach to cultivating fine art. Forget about DirecTV, wireless Internet and downloading MP3s. The eclectic members of this vibrant community have a passion for whittling, painting, sewing, weaving, carving and just about every other form of crafting.
In an area heavily prided for its gorgeous natural landscapes, Gatlinburg takes equal pride in producing antiquities with ease. Whether it’s candles, baskets, brooms, quilts, pottery, jewelry, dolls, ceramics stained glass, fine photography or silversmiths, the Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Community is a massive one-stop shop. If you love exploring, discovering and buying you can do so at will without a pesky commission-driven sales clerk watching your every move. Virtually year round, the Community holds informal workshops for children and adults of all ages. The only requirement: a zestful curiosity and interest for creative expression.
After you have visited a wide range of enchanting shops it’s time for food, drink and relaxation. All can be had within the vast, quaint confines of the Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Community. A delightful multitude of restaurants, cafes, tearooms, candy shops and soda fountains are within reach of the surrounding businesses.
For those requiring a more academic approach to fine art creation, you’re cordially invited to attend The Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. Arrowmont, a visual arts education center for adults and children, is the Oxford University for aspiring artisans. In addition to weekend seminars, Arrowmont offers one- and two-week workshops for beginners and advanced craftsmen (and women), along with weekly classes for local residents.
You receive a first-class fine/visual art education, on Arrowmont’s pristine and historic 14-acre campus. Workshop and class topics are as varied as a vegetable garden in the English countryside. Subjects include ceramics, fiber, metals, jewelry, painting, drawing, photography, warm glass, woodworking, books/paper and mixed media. Workshops are open to those 18 years and older, with class sizes no larger than 12 students. Arrowmont’s attraction lies in its old school adage: creativity and hard work are never mutually exclusive.
An equally prestigious feature in Arrowmont’s pedigreed portfolio is its esteemed Artist in Residence program. Along with offering 160 rotating workshop artists and instructors of national and international acclaim, the 11 month residency affords visiting artisans a monthly salary shared housing with private bedrooms and meals, a private studio and, at term’s end, the opportunity to showcase their work in Arrowmont’s acclaimed Artist Outfitters Store.Visit Gatlinburg now and you'll find that, when it comes to arts and crafts, ingenuity is both a state of mind and a state of play.
Bennie McCann is Reservations Manager of Volunteer Cabin Rentals specializing in cabins near Pigeon Forge. Visit the main website to book cabins for weddings, vacations, reunions and other special events.