Brasstown, to those who know it, has always been a fun place. When the Folk School started in the 1920s, one of the suggestions its founders made to the local community was forming some clubs to bring folks together. Soon there was a women’s club, and a farmers’ club, and the group of whittlers who became the famous Brasstown Carvers.
Another group of older gents formed the “Sons of Rest.” They dutifully drew up bylaws and elected everyone in the club to an office. There was the President, several Vice Presidents, two Secretaries, a Treasurer, a Sergeant-at-arms, and a Banana Keeper, to which storekeeper Fred O. Scroggs was always elected, since he possessed Brasstown’s only bananas.
As soon as you make the turn at Clay’s Corner, you know something is up. There are hay fields, flowers, welcoming porches on old buildings, and a big red sign. It’s made of iron, framed in graceful forged S-scrolls. The letters for “John C. Campbell Folk School” are cut out and through the spaces you can see green grass, golden autumn trees, old buildings with red doors and people painting at easels, hanging dyed wool to dry, picking banjos. At the top of the sign, there are soaring upward curves and finally, against the sky, there are stars.
People all over the world know your personal motto as a Folkschooler: “I Sing Behind the Plow.” This affirmation of joy in work, of art in the everyday, of hope in the face of challenge, helps us in times of trouble and reminds us that we have within us a lot of what it takes to make things better. It also helps us give ourselves permission to enjoy the process.
But the big red sign with the stars helps to remind us of another thing: that the individual work we do and the things we create are for others. Our works don’t mean much until we share them. The talents we have and discover only become “gifts” when we pass them on. Clay Spencer and I designed the sign inspired by a favorite Danish Folk School song translated in the 1920s by our founder Olive Dame Campbell: “Love life. Hate no one. With joy and sorrow, hope and faith, you shall build here on earth a bridge up to the stars.”
The economy has diminished our attendance, but together, we have spent the tough times getting better: you have helped us build a needed new house, fix up our historical buildings, install energy efficient systems and open the magnificent new Clay Spencer Blacksmith Shop. I hope you will help your Folk School now with a gift for its future.
As we celebrate our Folk School’s 85th year, we need more than ever to keep it strong through good times and bad, because what it can give is more important than ever.
Love from Brasstown,