Dear Folk School family,
It has taken me fifty-plus years, but in May, I experienced my first class at the Folk School. It was well worth the wait! I enrolled in the organic gardening class with Jane Burke, an extremely knowledgeable instructor who filled my mind with new gardening ideas, provided useful growing methods and gave helpful insight into the heart and soul of the Folk School.
Although I was excited about my class selection, I had a secondary reason for taking the class. At the suggestion of the Folk School’s board of directors, I took the class as part of my interview process for the executive director search. Ultimately, this class experience led me to another first-time experience: addressing you now as the “new guy” who hopes to cultivate a relationship with each Folk School family member.
“Cultivation” is a term that’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in North Carolina as the grandson of two farmers who embraced a way of life that mimics the mission of the Folk School. As an arts administrator for the past 20 years, I have cultivated arts organizations to be able to meet the needs of their constituents and to help secure those organizations’ futures. Both forms of cultivation are important to the future success of the Folk School.
During my week in class, I found myself waking early in order to make my way to the garden—my personal entry point into the spirit of the Folk School. After my routine garden inspection, my mornings consisted of coffee in the Keith House, Morning Walk, and Morning Song. Each experience fostered my connection to the Folk School and a growing confidence that leading the school was the new adventure I wanted to experience.
For the majority of you who have explored your creativity through the many offerings at the Folk School, you understand my attraction to the energy and influence of this special place. As a newcomer, I had much to learn, both in the studio and from the overarching influence of the folk school model. At every turn, someone was there to elevate my experience by offering simple directions, sharing their past Folk School experiences, or inquiring how my week was going. By mid-week, I had discovered that my true attraction to the Folk School was clearly the people who bring the studios, dance floors and stages to life. I experienced a profound spirit of community and met like-minded individuals who nurture learning and personal growth on all levels.
Continued growth, either in the garden or for this enduring institution, requires individuals willing to engage and nurture the many needs of the Folk School. I thank you for your past support of this amazing place and know that your continued support will ensure its future. Please remember that support can come in many forms; the easiest is telling a friend about the many rewards of attending a class or event at the Folk School. Your support in any form or at any level is greatly appreciated.
Jerry Jackson is the Executive Director of the John C. Campbell Folk School.