HERITAGE ARTS – a learning vacation at Southwestern Community College in the land of the Cherokee!

I recently attended the local Quarterly Chapter Meeting of the Trail of Tears Association, which was held at Swain Center Southwestern Community College, Almond, North Carolina. The speaker was Jeff Marley, a professor at Southwestern Community College, who will teach you how to print in Cherokee.

Jeff gave us a tour of the arts program which includes pottery making using three different kilns for firing: gas, electric and wood-fired. The clay is local and the techniques for making the pottery are both traditional and contemporary.

The school is located about 75 miles from Asheville, NC, on the edge of the Eastern Band Cherokee Indian Reservation. It has a  Casino and Museum in Cherokee.

The school has a summer art program that features ceramics, pottery, photography, drawing, printing and “Cherokee Language Printing.” The classes cost around $25; and $50 for a 5 week independent study course. Jeff will help you design your own course if you want. Beats a lot of things you could be doing and it is interesting.

Printing in the Cherokee language struck me. You use Cherokee fonts and print on an old-fashioned press.

Cherokee language fonts.

You set the type by hand in boxes, you place it in the press, you run the press by hand, make a proof and then do as many copies as you want.

A very old press.

If pottery is your thing, there is a large class room;

Pottery Classroom

resulting in as much pottery as you can make:



The Swain Center  offers hands on instruction in techniques that you would not get elsewhere. How many wood-fired kilns are there? Where else can you learn to set type in the Cherokee Language and then print posters, books and stationary in Cherokee. You may need a translator.

The Cherokee property, not a reservation, is the home of the Eastern Band of Cherokees; the ones who were left and who bought their property, after some of their ancestors were forced to move to Oklahoma where they became  the Western Band. There are museums to see; and of course Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee, NC.  and the art community of Waynesville, NC. Don’t forget the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.

You can fish, hunt, sail, hike, etc.

The real point of this blog is to encourage people to check out community colleges wherever they happen to be; or happen to be going. You can frequently gain access to college facilities and can learn something new.



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