Arts and Handicrafts
Like many of the settlement and vocational schools founded in Southern Appalachia during the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s Pi Beta Phi Settlement School used traditional handicrafts production as a means to improve its patrons’ economic conditions. For over sixty years, Gatlinburg artisans produced woven textiles, baskets, chairs, brooms, and a host of other handcrafted items for the settlement school’s Arrowcraft program, and in return received the cash they needed to improve their homes, send their children to college, and purchase heretofore unavailable luxury items. As Gatlinburg became more economically sophisticated in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and as the need for Arrowcraft declined, Pi Beta Phi redirected its efforts away from the production of traditional handicrafts and towards the promotion of general arts and crafts literacy. The resulting University of Tennessee-Pi Beta Phi Summer Workshop of Crafts and Community Recreation proved immensely popular, both nationally and internationally, and paved the way for the founding of the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (1968).In the essays that follow, we will explore the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School’s arts and crafts legacy, focusing specifically on the Arrowcraft Program and its economic/social benefits; the Summer Workshop of Crafts and Community Recreation; and the settlement school’s modern-day legacy, the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. We will also focus briefly on the American Arts and Crafts Revival, which provided the philosophical underpinnings for the fraternity’s arts and crafts ventures.