Exploring Campus with Carol Parks

Exploring Campus with Carol Parks

*Feature work by Jenne Carmical

Carol is a North Carolina Certified Plant Professional and a member of the Buncombe County Master Gardener Volunteers. She has studied at the Forestry School of Haywood Community College and UNC-Asheville. Also a watercolorist, Carol is an experienced Folk School assistant and instructor who loves helping adults learn about art and nature.

On the week of our reopening after closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carol joined us to teach her class Campus Sketch Crawl. Read below to hear her thoughts on being back in the studio and to see the artwork of campus her students produced!

BW: What’s your history with the Folk School? How did you first get involved?

CP: During my corporate years, I wrote and edited craft books. I worked with a number of project designers who taught at the Folk School and I always wanted to go there but never had the time! When I retired from that career I signed up for a class and immediately loved the place: the people, the setting, the creative spirit, and the pervasive happiness always present on campus.


Little Rock House by Carol Parks


BW: How long have you been teaching?

CP: I began by assisting in teaching a few classes around 2008, and then dreamed up the tree ID/watercolor journal class which I began teaching in 2011 with Marilynn Brandenberger. When she retired Annie Cicale stepped in as co-instructor.

That class came to mind after I had taken a dendrology class some years ago. I had gone back to school and launched a new career as a gardener. I had coerced my husband into taking a class (easy coercion) and bringing me along as his guest so that I could spend the week exploring and sketching the trees on campus. That class led to several others, mostly about trees, that I’ve taught under the Nature Studies department. And it led to trying to establish a Treasure Trees program on campus to honor and protect the many historic trees that live there.

BW: What’s your favorite part about teaching?

CP: The best part about teaching is seeing students become excited about the subject! It is hugely rewarding to watch them become inspired by each other’s work. The ultimate payback is having a student produce a piece of work I wish I had done myself – and this almost always happens.

Pattie drawing a flower at the main entrance
Pattie Bagley painting an iris at Keith House

BW: Can you tell us more about your class, Campus Sketch Crawl? How did the class turn out? The work was beautiful.

CP: There is such a wealth of subject matter on campus to paint – beautiful landscapes, interesting architecture, weird little oddities, and fascinating people. I have always wanted to come for a week and just go out and sketch it all. So the point of this class was to enable students to do just that. In the process, they were helped to fine-tune their drawing and watercolor skills, and stretch themselves by experimenting with untried media and techniques, and by tackling subjects about which they weren’t so confident.

They met every challenge with good cheer, including that of working around the COVID restrictions and dealing with the monsoon rains early in the week! And they were inspired by, and learned from, each other’s work. It was a wonderful and memorable class!

Work by Phil Brown, Work Study student

Work by Pattie Bagley, Resident Artist in Basketry, Brooms and Chair Seats

BW: Where is your favorite spot on campus?

CP: Impossible to narrow down favorite campus spots to just one! I particularly love the mountain view from the Orchard House back porch, and the walk through the woods on the Mill House trail, and the campus view from the back deck of Hubbell House, and the trails through the woods between the Dining Hall and Davidson Road.

BW: How did you feel being back on campus the first week of reopening?

CP: Being back on campus for post-shutdown pioneer week was PURE JOY! I was nervous about complying with all the COVID protocols and dealing successfully with all the new technology. The students seemed to feel the same way: JOYOUS at being back on campus at its springtime best, at gathering with like-minded people, and just feeling the creative spirit that was everywhere around us.

Mill House Door drawing
Mill House Door by Orlando Saavedra


BW: What’s your favorite piece of work you’ve ever created?

CP: Oh that’s a tough one. I have painted several pieces I like especially well. Two because they are memories of wonderful occasions/places: one I painted at Cataloochee Ranch, where my husband and I spent our tenth wedding anniversary, and one at Acadia National Park in Maine (my other soul home) where I caught some fabulous late-day light on Somes Sound and the mountains beyond. Another favorite is just a leaf but done with an outrageously experimental technique that just happened to work.

BW: Is there a particular season or time of year that inspires you to create?

CP: For me, there is something inspiring about every season. Winter has its subtle colors and its calm, spring has its fresh new life, autumn has its blazing colors and crispness. I like to paint in Maine in the summer, where there is the wildness of the ocean and the skies – more than just the sea of green that constitutes summer here.

BW: What’s your favorite Folk School memory?

CP: Every trip to the Folk School has produced a favorite memory! But probably the most memorable week was in January, I think 2010. I was to assist in teaching a painting class. We had a week of snow in Asheville, with more in the forecast. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to get to Brasstown but did just in time. Sunday night we had about 18 inches of snow, and then the temperature dropped to 10–12 degrees for two nights.

The poor Work Study kids were out all day trying to clear the mulched paths, but it all froze to ice at night. It was so miserable trying to get to the dining hall that you were almost (but not quite) tempted to skip meals. The people were amazing! The dining hall staff camped in Bidstrup for several nights to keep us fed. Everyone made a great adventure of it, no one complained. It was a perfect example of the Folk School spirit.

Upcoming Class

For the Love of Trees – Identifying, Sketching, and Journaling

October 31 – November 6, 2021

Join a professional gardener and an illustrator for walks around campus to identify many of our local tree species in their autumn glory. Then learn to sketch those trees and their leaves, seeds, bark, and fruit, and enhance your sketches with ink and watercolor in your own personal tree journal. We will do a moderate walk each day. All levels welcome; the only prerequisite is the ability to draw simple objects.


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