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Arts & Entertainment Cultural art classes in Cherokee

The Oconaluftee Institute for Cultural Arts (OICA) is seeking higher student enrollment in their Associate in Fine Arts Program. Located in Cherokee, the OICA offers a twoyear AFA degree that can be used to move to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at a senior institution.

“When OICA reaches 25 students we will become part of Southwestern Community College’s program,” said OICA Program Coordinator Jeff Marley, “and they will support the institute here in Cherokee. Right now we receive start up money from the tribe.

“Our goal is to get enough students to be supported through their tuition and by state funds. Then we will become part of the college as a satellite campus. Our next level will be to include courses from Western Carolina University. We are taking baby steps at this time to eventually become a bigger and full-fledged program.” said Marley.

OICA is fully accredited by SCC. The institute is a still part of SCC and has to go through the same accreditation process as all the other SCC programs, but won’t be funded by SCC until enrollment increases, Marley said.

Cherokee artisan Dean Reed explains an ancient pit fire technique to Doreen George (center) and Jessica Gagne (left) and how using different kinds of wood can create different colors on the surface of pottery.“It is a unique program,” adds art instructor Bryan Kane, “because students are learning foundation arts from Cherokee generational artisans here on the boundary giving them the opportunity to learn traditional native art forms. It also has an excellent mix of traditional and contemporary arts. Our curriculum matches the credit system in higher education.”

Art Foundation courses help develop skills by using a variety of materials and studio techniques. Students also learn the history of art around the world as well as that of the Cherokee culture. Studio courses include:

Printmaking - history, techniques and processes; projects will include the Cherokee Syllabary and language.

Weaving - loom and non-loom techniques; weave structure and fibers, etc; loom set-up; basketmaking, beading, finger weaving and twinning.

Sculpture - wood, clay, and non-traditional materials; history and methods; material and tool selection; shop safety. Ceramics - functional and non-functional clay forms; history; hand building and wheel throwing techniques; surface design, glaze and firing technology; and more.

“This isn’t your typical art program,” says Marley. “You get more information about older traditional techniques, the way it was done before technology and before electricity and gas kilns. Something we do that other schools don’t do is to supply students with art materials. It is traditional art, but it is sustainable and it’s environmentally friendly. It is also a program that gives you insight into the Cherokees, but also the history of this region.”

The OICA provides a lifelong, multi-cultural learning experience with local and Cherokee artists in an environment equipped with professional tools and materials for traditional and contemporary learning, skill development and expression.

Tuition for OICA and SCC courses are affordable at a fraction of university or private college tuitions. To learn more about the OICA go to www.southwesterncc.edu/finearts.


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