From the Desk of Jan Davidson: Lifelong Attachment

The nineteenth century Danish thinker N. S. F. Grundtvig proposed that the purpose of the Folk School would be to “awaken, enliven, enlighten,” or, as the twentieth century Jamaican thinker Bob Marley put it, “lively up yo’ sef.”

Today is a great day to be alive anywhere, and especially at the Folk School. Full of promise, it offers the journey of discovery, the thrill of learning, the joy of companionship, and the satisfaction of accomplishment. The scenery’s really nice too. The bluebirds have returned, looking for a pleasant place to spend the year. The Martin family is expected soon for their annual visit. Their little Folk School houses are ready to receive them. Yours is too. Yours is not in a gourd on a pole.

There are folks painting, playing the fiddle, gouging spinning logs into bowls and spinning wool into yarn, writing funny stories and baking pies, and that’s all within the length of two football fields from where I’m having some of the pie.

A lot of people have a lifelong attachment to the Folk School. This sense of belonging sometimes starts at an early age. At the end of last summer’s Little/Middle Folk School, some grandparents had arrived for show-and-tell. Their young’un, leading them across the campus, suddenly took them on a detour with the cry “Let me show you my studio!”

We’re a folk school. So while we love our objects, our tunes and our pies, we are most interested in what the experience does to our folks. The schools were at first just for younger folks, but soon expanded to all adults, because the need to come alive can dawn on us at any age. When it does hit us, we need vehicles to jump on and ride. Like a Harley* or the Folk School.

In fact, age is one of our secret ingredients. In any dance or concert there are people from infant to quite grown up. In almost any class here, you will be learning alongside people not of your generation. The discovery of friendships at the Folk School knows no age boundaries.

When you support the Folk School’s annual fund, here are some of the things you will be doing: keeping up all the craft studios, equipment and spaces; supporting Little/Middle Folk School, a summer program for kids from 2nd grade through High School; supporting the Work/Study program, in which folks exchange mostly manual labor for school time; teaching Appalachian music in after-school programs; repairing and remodeling of studios and houses—if you’ve ever owned and loved an old house, you know how it is. We’ve got a couple dozen of them that we love and are devoted to preserving.

Most of all, you will be sustaining a unique institution that brings joy to thousands of folks, whether they are in Brasstown or not.

Love from Brasstown,

Jan Davidson,
*known in our family as a “Davidson”

Learn more about ways to support the Folk School.

The (BIG RED) Heart of the Folk School

Jan and Nanette welcome three newlywed couples to the Folk School’s Big Red Heart
(Line up includes: L-R: Julie & Harry, Nanette & Jan, Robert & Keather, Hannah & Ted)

Do you know about the heart of the Folk School? The people, the creativity, the tradition, the camaraderie, the music, the home cooking, the smell of Keith House when you first walk in? Arguably, these are all elements that make up the intangible heart of the Folk School, but I am talking here about the tangible Big Red Heart. This is the heart that documents Folk School couples with the Sharpie of Destiny, turning their love into legend. I sat down with Folk School director Jan Davidson this Valentine’s Week to find out a little bit more about the myth and magic of the Big Red Heart.


CP: What is the Big Red Heart? Who made it?

 JD: Dana Hatheway (who was at that time the Resident Artist in Woodworking) made the Big Red Heart. I believe he was having an anniversary with his wife Marcia Bugg (who was the Resident Artist in Clay). They had already been married many years and it just occurred to Dana that it would be cool thing to make a Big Red Heart. So he cranked it out on the band saw, painted it red, and stuck a dowel through the middle of it like an arrow. The dowel was even originally fledged with a little bit of pink boa feather. It sticks all the way through the heart and you can spin the heart in your hand.

Continue reading The (BIG RED) Heart of the Folk School

Come see Jan Davidson Read David Rakoff’s Book in the Big Apple

David Rakoff and Jan Davidson at Grand Central Station
David Rakoff and Jan Davidson at Grand Central Station

On July 17th, I’m very honored to be one of the readers of David Rakoff’s last book, the verse novel Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish at Barnes and Noble, Union Square, New York City, beginning at 7 p.m. and estimated to conclude at 10 p.m., an ambitious deadline given the vast amount of laughing and crying that will undoubtedly intersperse our solidly professional recitation of the text. It will be fun, and I hope you will be there if you are in NYC.

This day presents another occasion for an Oyster Bar meetup. So at Noon, July 17th, Nanette and I will be there, and a bunch of David’s friends and other Big Apple Folkschoolers already signed on. Come if you can. Please RSVP to if you are coming so we can arrange reservations.

Love from Brasstown,

David Rakoff was a very special friend of the John C. Campbell Folk School. Read about his experience here.

David Rakoff weaves a basket at the Folk School
David Rakoff weaves a basket at the Folk School
Donate to the John C. Campbell Folk School’s David Rakoff Scholarship Fund here

Nantucket Atheneum with Jan Davidson and Friends

Jan will be at the Nantucket Atheneum Monday, July 1, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. for a showing of our “Sing Behind the Plow” documentary featuring the Folk School, followed by a Q&A with Nanette and a wonderful concert. Read their article below or visit their website for more information.

Jan Davidson
Jan Davidson
From the time that John C. Campbell married his bride, Olive Dame, whose family has lived on Nantucket since 1867, they shared a dream: to improve the quality of life in Appalachia while preserving its rich traditions. After traveling the region in a wagon, both realized that education – a non-competitive folk school – was the answer.  Olive Dame, through her determination after her husband’s death, opened the doors of the John C. Campbell Folk School in 1925 in tiny, rural Brasstown, North Carolina.  The 50- minute documentary, Sing Behind The Plow, captures their story, the history of Appalachian culture, and the visionary work of John and Olive Dame Campbell.
The film will be followed by a musical performance and a Q&A with Jan Davidson the Director of the John C Campbell Folk School, his wife Nanette, the school’s Resident Artist in Cooking and leader of Dame’s Rocket Morris Dancers.  Joining Jan in the family band is his daughter Chloe, singer and Chocolate Lounge manager in Asheville, NC, bassist and Asheville chef Joey Leccese, and Jan’s nephew, Davidson Mulkey of Brooklyn, who is a musician and lighting technician for the NY Metropolitan Opera. They will play songs and fiddle tunes from the Southern Appalachians.
John C. Campbell Folk School provides experiences in non-competitive learning and community life that are joyful and enlivening. Located in scenic Brasstown, North Carolina, the Folk School offers year-round weeklong and weekend classes for adults in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing. Folks come together in this haven, tucked in the beautiful western North Carolina mountains, to have creative and fun learning experiences. The Folk School’s motto, “I sing behind the plow,” reflects our desire to find joy in our daily lives.