Introducing The Highland Arts Academy – Part 1


Does creative learning in a tranquil environment sound good to you?  If so, you may be interested in a brand-new event in Highland County.  The Highland Arts Academy is a program of the Highland County Arts Council.  Four week-long artisan workshops and several activities are planned to begin in late July of 2019.  32 participants in limited class sizes of eight will have the opportunity to learn new skills or increase their knowledge of a technique from experienced teachers in one of the following categories: basketry, barn quilt painting, pottery or stained glass.

Arts Council Board Member, Donna Bedwell, has the details.  She says, “A lot of other states have schools like this that are modeled after, like, a folk art school, and Virginia does not have very many, and I’ve always felt that the mountains of Virginia – we live in such a beautiful county.  This is an opportunity to showcase the beauty of the county through art and highlight some of the talent of the people that live in this community.”

“The workshops will be held on Monday through Friday, July the 29th through August the 2nd.  Pottery classes, have a little bit different schedule, just simply because that’s going to be dictated by the time necessary for pottery to dry and for the kiln process and so forth, so they will begin, actually, on Monday, July the 22nd, and they’ll run Monday through Wednesday of that week, and then they’ll reconvene on July 31st through August the 2nd, and we structured it so that each individual needs to participate the entire week, and we did that because we want to give a person the time to design and create and finish their project and have something tangible that they can take with them as a memory of their week.”

The workshops will be spread throughout Highland County.  Ms. Bedwell says, “For instance, the stained glass is going to be taught over at Liz Devenny’s studio in McDowell, and then, Margie Boesch will be teaching the barn quilt painting at her studio over in the Blue Grass Valley.  The high school has been very gracious in allowing us to use their pottery studio over there.  They’ve got four wheels and a kiln, so our pottery students will be doing both thrown and slab pottery, and that’s gonna be led by Lorraine White and her daughter Heather Scott, and then basketry, of course, which is going to be taught by Judith Saunders, and she’s going to be teaching that discipline at The Highland Center in the Arts Council Board Room.”

“On Friday, the last day of the workshops, which is August the second, we are going to have a show and tell at The Highland Center from 1:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon that will be open to the public so that individuals can come in and see what was created here in Highland throughout the week.”

For those interested, there are some additional incentives.  “The other thing we’re going to be trying to showcase is we’re going to give people a bit of a taste of Highland culture while they’re in the area as well,” Ms. Bedwell says.  “So, we’re going to try to reconvene everybody together in the evenings Monday through Thursday for farm-to-table style meals at various venues, and we have a lot to showcase here in this county in terms of our local product.”

The meals will be followed by special activities, too, such as clogging demonstrations, star gazing, local music, maple syrup and cider tasting.

In Part 2, we’ll have more on registration and pricing for the 2019 Highland Arts Academy.

Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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