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Feature Articles

April 2011

Folk Art Center in Asheville, NC, Features North Georgia College & State University

The Folk Art Center of the Southern Highland Craft Guild on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville, NC, is presenting the exhibit, Changes & Continuity: Past, Present, Future, highlighting the relation between North Georgia College & State University and the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The exhibition will be on view in the Center’s Main Gallery through May 15, 2011.

Visual Art instruction began at North Georgia College, Dahlonega, GA, in 1965 when Bob Owens was hired to teach art appreciation and art education for teacher education majors. Owens held an MFA from the University of Georgia in ceramics but he was also proficient in drawing and painting. He soon introduced courses in each of those areas and interest in the classes quickly grew. By 1971, Owens had persuaded the college administration to approve a department of fine arts that included both visual art and music. Owens became the first head of the Fine Arts Department.

Owens guided the department’s growth until his retirement in 1997. In the beginning, facilities for both art and music were makeshift - wherever space was available across campus. For instance, during several early years art classes were held in what was formerly a maintenance garage while music was taught in a building that was once a student dorm. Over the course of Owens’ tenure, new facilities for the department were constructed, degree program offerings expanded, new faculty members hired, and student enrollment increased.

Between 2000 and 2011 the department has gone through significant changes: because of increases in student numbers in both programs, visual art and music were given individual department status; new facilities designed for art studios and art classrooms were made available to visual arts; additional faculty were hired; and degree offerings were expanded. The department now has 200 majors in four degree programs. Studio courses in both ceramics and fibers continue to be important offerings, in addition to those in drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, and computer design.

Connections between the Southern Highland Craft Guild and North Georgia College were in place from the earliest days of the department. Owens became a juried member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild in the late 1960s. His ideas about the importance of involvement in crafts organizations like the Guild led to the Fine Arts Department of NGC becoming an Education Center Member of the Guild in 1977. Tommye Scanlin, who was one of the first faculty members Owens hired for the new Fine Arts Department at NGC, was also a Guild member.

Owens remained involved in the Guild until his death in 2004. Scanlin continues to work with the Guild through participation in exhibits, demonstrations, and currently serves on the board of trustees. Pam Sachant, current head of Department of Visual Arts at the university is on the Collections Committee for the Guild, maintaining the over thirty-year connection between North Georgia College & State University and the Southern Highland Craft Guild.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Center at 828/298-7928 or visit (

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