OICA is gone, but not really

by Nov 6, 2012COMMUNITY sgadugi, Front Page0 comments

Staff, students relocate to SCC Swain Center





The Oconaluftee Institute of Cultural Arts (OICA) is no longer.  But, its staff and students are not out in the cold.  They have simply relocated to the Southwestern Community College Swain Center and are keeping the spirit of the school alive there.

Sheila Creed, a SCC Fine Arts student and former OICA student, works on a press in the school’s printmaking studio. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

Jeff Marley, former director of OICA, is now the Fine Arts coordinator at SCC Swain Center.  He said the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians alerted them earlier this year and related that, due to budget issues, the Tribe would no longer be funding the OICA program.

“Luckily, since they’ve (SCC) already been working with us, they decided to take on the program,” he said.

Marley related that the Tribe, SCC and others created a Memorandum of Understanding  (MOU) for the Tribe to fund OICA for five years.  “This would have been the sixth year so had the Tribe provided funding it would have been beyond that MOU so they had definitely met their obligation.”

Connie Hogan, a student in the SCC Master Potter Certificate program, works on a piece in the school’s ceramics studio.

No staff members were displaced as a result of the move and Marley stated that they have actually been hiring new staff for the expanded program at SCC.

Marley said changes to the program have actually been minimal.  “The only thing that changed was we have become a little more inclusive with the entrepreneurial aspects of it.”  SCC combined the program from OICA with their existing Heritage Arts program to form the SCC Fine and Heritage Arts program.

Last semester, there were nine students enrolled in the program, and this semester they have increased to 15.  Three students are scheduled to graduate in December, and Marley said they are expecting to gain four to five students for the next semester.

Jeff Marley, SCC Swain Center Fine Arts coordinator, shows a drawer containing Cherokee syllabary letters known as sorts that are used in the school’s printing press.

“We’re still offering the same things with printmaking, ceramics, weaving, and sculpture,” he said.  They have also added a Master Potter Certificate program that is non-curriculum based.

Students graduating from the main program receive an associate’s degree in Fine Arts.

Marley said their main goal is to continue to expand the program and number of students and they are adding a certificate program in printmaking.  Through an agreement with RTCAR (Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources), the program is also going to be offering classes on gathering of resources for baskets and dyes.

The printmaking studio currently has one press and the school is set to purchase another one soon.  Students use the press to make prints of their artwork as well as prints using the Cherokee syllabary.  Currently, the program has syllabary letters in size 14pt. and 18pt. and will soon purchase larger sizes including 24pt. and 36pt.

“We’re also looking at establishing an interpretive center here at the school that would highlight all of the traditional artist sites in Cherokee, sites in the region like the John C. Campbell Folk School, Penland, the Fine Arts Museum at Western, and Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual.  Basically, make this more of an arts campus.”

Marley added, “We took the focus of Native arts that we had when it was OICA and refined that so that now we can work with HandMade in America more, work with other festivals and things that we’re able to do here.”

“The focus of Native arts is still there.  That’s part of what we do.”

For more information on the Fine and Heritage Arts program at SCC, visit the school’s website at www.southwesterncc.edu.