Creative Learning in a Tranquil Environment

Written By: Donna Bedwell

artisans. creative expression artisans. creative expression, barn quilt painting barn, Barn Quilt Trail, basketry, broom making, community, crafts, Highland Arts Academy, Highland County Arts Council, learn something new, mountain location, photography, pottery, print making, rural living, scenic beauty, slower pace of life

Developing the headline for the Highland Arts Academy was an easy task. Visitors to our county remark first on the scenic beauty and then the peaceful, slower pace of life you experience in this rural environment.

The Highland County Arts Council recognized these comments as an opportunity to showcase the area as a destination by holding workshops in the creative arts. As a result, they created the Highland Arts Academy in 2019.

The goal of the Arts Academy is to provide an opportunity for people to learn a new skill or perfect an old one while immersing themselves in the craft alongside other individuals who share their interests. The Council held four workshops in 2019 that included instruction in basketry, stained glass, pottery, and barn quilt painting. 

Inspired by the success of this experience, the Council planned eight more workshops throughout a two-week period during the summer of 2020. 

Then, COVID interrupted those plans. 

The Council canceled those workshops but wanted to maintain some of the momentum gained in 2019 and decided to use 2020 as a year to adapt and grow.

The Council consulted the workshop instructors and determined shorter, outdoor events with limited participation could be held safely, so they scheduled four workshops throughout the Summer. And, they filled up quickly! These included barn quilt painting, basketry, Eco printing, and broom making.

Planning for the 2021 Highland Arts Academy incorporated the experience gained from these two years. Feedback from both participants and instructors indicated three-day workshops spread over the Summer were the most popular. Participants can now take more than one – and often do since they are not all held at the same time. 

The 2021 schedule is now underway!

Workshops in Eco Printing and Broom Making were held in June. Those remaining include:

July 19- 21, 29 & 30: Pottery – Potter Heather Scott will lead the first three days of this workshop. She will instruct the group in the techniques of both wheel-thrown and hand-built pottery. After creations have been kiln-dried, the workshop will resume on the 29th & 30th when Lorraine White will teach participants the art of glazing.

July 22 – 24: Print Making – Local artist Karen Milnes will share her talent for print making in this three-day workshop. The Arts Council owns a print making press and is excited to cultivate more future users of this equipment.

August 6 – 8: Barn Quilt Painting – Barn quilt artist Margie Boesch will hold a half-day, morning workshops at her studio. Many of her paintings adorn barns in Highland, and she helped create Highland County’s popular Barn Quilt Trail.

August 12 – 14: Basketry – Judith Saunders is back by popular demand to share her love of basketry with beginners or experienced enthusiasts. Judith is an award-winning artist who has been featured in galleries and exhibits around the country.

August 19 – 21: Photography – Elizabeth Larson has over 30 years of experience as a professional photographer and has been teaching workshops for the last 12 years. She will be leading “Taking Better Pictures with a DSLR Camera,” which will explore and help participants capture the scenic beauty of the county’s landscape.

The instructors for these workshops are talented, experienced artisans who want to share their love of creative expression. One of the many advantages of participating in workshops is networking among peers. You obviously learn new skills and methods from the instructor but also from others in the session. Workshops provide hands-on experiences with tools and materials not easily obtained on your own.

Give yourself a reason to learn something new while enjoying the beauty and creative inspiration of this mountain location. Whether you call it a vacation or simply want to spend time immersed in your craft of choice along with other people of similar interest, these workshops give you the chance to explore new horizons. While there is only limited space left in these workshops, more are being added for Fall, and the Council is currently developing a schedule for the 2022 season.

Make Highland County your destination this year, and experience creative learning in a tranquil environment!

For more information on these or upcoming workshops, their instructors, or to register, visit

About the Author

Donna Bedwell


Related Articles

Fall 2022 Leaf Report – Round 2

Fall 2022 Leaf Report – Round 2

We've already seen a few snowflakes dancing around in the air. Is this a sign we're going to have a Highland County winter of old? Maybe... But for right now, our mountains are still popping, even on snow-cloud-overcast days! If you haven't made it to Highland to take...

Fall 2022 Leaf Report – Round 1

Fall 2022 Leaf Report – Round 1

Our Highland County mountains are putting on another show for us this year! Here are a few pictures from local photographers showing our county's current colors! I believe the mountains still have a lot of changing to do throughout the county, so stay tuned for next...

Highland County Generational Farmers – Dorothy Stephenson

Highland County Generational Farmers – Dorothy Stephenson

*I recently sat down with Dorothy Stephenson to discuss being a young generational agriculturalist. This is the fourth installment of a four-part series on the subject: Generational Farming in Highland County.*  Dorothy Stephenson is among the sixth generation to...