Faculty Members

Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins

Faculty Member

Beverly Thomas Jenkins was born and raised in Texas, and moved to East Tennessee in 1980. She grew up in a family that engulfed her in the world of art at a very early age. Her father, an artist for over sixty-five years, encourage Jenkin’s creative ventures throughout her life. Everything she has done has had an artistic flair to it.

Many know Jenkins and her husband, Herman, as the founders of Jonesborough’s “Main Street Café”, which has been a favorite eatery in downtown Jonesborough for over thirty years. While there, Jenkin’s artistic side shone through, from the creative menu choices to the fresh, beautiful ingredients that made the food a beautiful presentation.

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Eventually, her artistic nature would lead her to another art form. “In 2007, I discovered my passion for mosaic art. When I first began – I just couldn’t stop, I love creating mosaic art so much, it is my heart and my passion!”

While she began creating mosaic work in 2007, she recalls her original passion for the form began in 1963, when her parents created a 7×4 foot mosaic table, which became their dining room table. “Here was this big, beautiful piece of art, and it function as the thing we ate our food from. Looking back, I realize, I like making art that you can use, just like my father and mother did.”

Jenkins especially likes to use found objects, bringing new use to pieces that have perhaps lost their original use. She has created works from broken heirloom dishes and cups. She also works with Venetian & Mexican Smalti, stone, marble, pottery, metals, found objects, art glass, and more.

Perhaps her love for Venetian style mosaics was influenced by her love of travel. Jenkins and her husband, Herman, have taken numerous trips to all parts of the globe, and these travels further inform Jenkins’ work.

Her talent and passion has led to numerous commissions. Her work is found in many private residences around the world, and is in several public collections, including the Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as several hotels in California.

Jenkins recently studied under Italian mosaic artist, Giulio Menossi, and recently was asked to teach a mosaic workshop, herself, in Europe.

She is a member of Tennessee Craft, SAMA, CMA, BAMA, and the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville, Tennessee.

Her new love and passion is her grandson, Henry. The pair of them can be seen taking leisurely strolls in Downtown Jonesborough.

Brett McCluskey

Brett McCluskey

Faculty Member

Brett McCluskey has been making music since he can remember. The child of musicians, he first began learning piano at six years on, and continuing on to learn drums. By the age of fourteen, he was already playing professionally in a popular dance band in the San Bernardino and Los Angeles area.

McCluskey took a short time off from music, as he served a mission in Japan, and then spent time teaching English to Japanese children at a school in Osaka, Japan. While there, he became fluent in the Japanese language, and developed a deep appreciation for the culture.

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Upon returning to the United States, McCluskey received his BA in Music Education from California State University San Bernardino. Brett served as district choral accompanist for the Rialto Unified School District and the San Bernardino School District, working with elementary, middle school and high school students, from 1997 to 2008. During this time, he also served as the pianist for the Cal State Jazz Ensemble.

McCluskey located to Jonesborough in 2013, and has since become very involved in the music landscape of the region. He has worked as accompanist and music director with the Jonesborough Repertory Theater and Johnson City Community Theater, serves as a community mentor with the Tusculum College Jazz Band, and plays with the Aaron Jaxon Band, Time Further Out, and for other musical events.

Each spring semester, the hallways of the McKinney Center resound with the sound of the Bucket Drumming class, a popular course among youth and adults taught by McCluskey. “I wanted to make the class open for 5th grade through adults, because I found a lot of parents or grandparents want to take the class with their kids, and it’s something they can do together here and at home.” Says Brett McCluskey, who teaches the twelve-week course, and continues, “Drumming is such a great group activity. It demands teamwork and cohesiveness, it increases your focus because you have to listen to what is going on around you, it energizes everyone, and in this class, everyone gets a chance to make their own pattern, and to respond to the patterns the others are creating. Which is really the key to communicating.”

In addition to this work,McCLuskey also composed and directed music for the play I Am Home, and also serves as accompanist and music director for the Yarn Exchange Radio Show.

Donna Bird

Donna Bird

Faculty Member

I discovered I was an artist during elementary school. I was in about the third grade in Olive Branch, Mississippi, where I grew up. I used to sit and draw things around my house. I was fascinated with the details of organic things. I continued drawing. My middle school art teacher was very encouraging to me and taught me how to improve my drawing skills. My parents also encouraged my artistic endeavors and I continued to draw and paint through high school. I eventually chose to pursue Bachelors Degree in Fine Art at Delta State University and became a working graphic designer for ten years.

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I now reside in Johnson City, Tennessee. I’ve had the opportunity to have my work shown in several art exhibitions locally, including Jonesborough’s Juried Art Exhibition and the East Tennessee Foundation’s Women’s Fund Art Show.

While I was in school, I found inspiration by studying great masters such as Edgar Degas, Anders Zorn, John Singer Sargent, and Joaquin Sorolla. Studying the techniques of others helped me develop my own craft. By observing the various techniques, I was ably to apply what I learned to my own style and interpretation.

Everyone is creative. I think most people have the ability to be artistic. Studying art, and art education is like studying any skill or craft. The education moves one from being artistic to being an artist.

I love working with students, and helping them become artists. Helping them learn the skills they need to paint and draw on their own is a great feeling. I know they are learning something they can take with them, and move forward with and grow.

We teach life-long lessons in these classes, and I love to watch the progression of my students. I can imagine the joy they feel when they become stronger and more proficient in creating their art work, because I feel the same way. I encourage them to continue painting and drawing every week, not just because it is part of their class, but because the more they do, the better they get, and the more they grow. Even more than that- I think because they will get joy out of it.

I paint every day and I’m am grumpy when I don’t get to do that. I explore still life on a regular basis but I love portrait and figure painting most of all. I love spending time getting to know someone and bringing it out on canvas. People are an endless source of fascination for me.

I would say that a mountain top moment for me is when someone really connects with my work. Putting a piece of artwork out into the public is a risk and when it speaks personally to someone it is the greatest feeling in the world. I know I’ve connected with someone, and they feel connected to me, too.

I believe art is an important way of creating connections that are meaningful. It is an important tool for communication. I learned that in graphic design, but it applies to so many other things, as well.

Jess Parks

Jess Parks

Faculty Member

Since moving to Jonesborough, Jess Parks has begun to make a name for herself in local and regional art shows. In addition to being a superb potter, she is becoming known for developing her own glazes. These distinctive glazes and her unique forms have a character all their own. They are recognized immediately as a “Jess Parks” piece, even though those pieces are always changing as she explores new colors, forms, and surface decorations.

She explains that because of her willingness to experiment with forms, styles and glazes, that no one else has the colors she have, because she is only one who makes them, stating about her work “I never get bored. I’m always developing new techniques.”

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These techniques have caught the eyes of prestigious gallery owners. Her work is now in places such as the prestigious New Morning Gallery at Biltmore Village in Asheville.

Now that she has made a name for herself, she is devoting time to pass her knowledge on to others wanting to learn the skill, and share in the excitement of creating art. She shares this knowledge in classes that she teaches at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough.

Parks’ philosophy on teaching the craft is, “I like to develop my own methods and teach that, and also let students know how many ways there is to make something. I want them to learn from me, and I want them to learn from others, as well, just like I did. It’s important to expose yourself to different potters, because we all do things differently. I encourage my students to learn what they can from each one, and then then develop their own style and method.”

Parks also says she wants to help get everyone out of the box, and to help them have as much fun with the tactile experience as she does.

She also believes in helping others develop their skills so they can become more empowered, and says, “I feel like sometimes you don’t fit in with different groups, but you can always come to my class, there are no grades, and you leave with something you didn’t know you could do, and that’s empowering. Even if your pot blows up in the kiln, I feel like we all get something out of it.”

Parks says that in her class, there are no failures, and believes, “I am not afraid to fail, it doesn’t scare me- it inspires me, and even if it blows up in the kiln, I know I’ll have gotten something out of it to inspire the next big idea.”

Jonathan Edens

Jonathan Edens

Faculty Member

Jonathan Edens is an accomplished musician who serves as a community member and mentor with the Tusculum College Jazz Band, and is a native of Greenville, Tennessee. He comes from a family with a long history in the area.

“Everyone in my family is known for something.” He acknowledges, and talks about his grandfather, Marion C. Edens, who was at different points the head football coach, basketball coach, athletic director, and director of admissions for Tusculum College.

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He goes on to share about his grandmother, who was a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. A weaver and a painter, she had a piece of linsey-woolsy exhibited in The Smithsonian. His mother learned the craft as well, and is also a weaver and a member of the Guild.

“They were artists, but didn’t call themselves that. They went about their lives creating. I feel like I am the same way. When I found music, I realized that’s I would create.”

While he focuses on his music and carves out his own field of expertise and experience, Edens is also careful to learn and carry on the crafts of those who came before him.

“Tradition is important to me. I think it is an important responsibility to carry on tradition. My mom knows how to weave. I’m trying to get her to give me some lessons on weaving. I think we each have a skill, and with that an opportunity to share that knowledge with someone else. I think that’s why I finally decided to start teaching. What is meant to do with all of this knowledge one has accrued if not to pass it on?”

Edens likes to challenge himself to learn new things, and to also learn new ways of doing what he is good at. “As a guitarist, I really struggled with jazz. I realized that I could become proficient at the art form of guitar, if I could learn and master Autumn Leaves. It took time, but I mastered it.”

He explains that while he played with ease other forms on the guitar, he found his challenge in jazz. “Jazz is a horn player’s idiom, or piano player’s, but with guitar, the pedagogy is the least developed. The placement in context with other instruments is not as well established- which I think is one reason guitar took off with other forms of music, like bluegrass, country, and rock. It didn’t have to compete with other instruments.”

He says that in struggling and learning that song, he also became more proficient at patience and determination, and that these skills are important in creating art. He wants to instill this in his students, along with learning the music.

“Whether you are a beginner learning something new, or a proficient player, learning a new way of doing something, and getting past that learning curve opens up those new worlds. Discovering the excitement of that is something I love to teach.”

Jules Corriere

Jules Corriere

Full-time Staff and Faculty Member

Jules Corriere is a playwright, a community leader and the Outreach Programming Director at the McKinney Center. “I’ve always written. Softball and sports were something I did, but writing was what I was. Writing was as much of me as my eyes, my ears, my lungs.”

If you were to ask Corriere who had deeply molded her life, she would say her dear friend, Jo Carson. Carson taught Corriere a forever lesson about deep listening and letting go. That’s a story Corriere carried throughout her life.

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“I had finally written my fist play that was going to be produced.” Says Corriere. “Joe and I sat on her porch while I read the script to her. When I finished she smiled and said ‘I want you to find your favorite scene. I want you to read it like you want it read and like your dream performance would be.’ I knew exactly the scene; it was a monolog. I pulled it out and I read it— and oh, I read it good too. Joe ripped that page out, threw it away and folded the script up and handed it back to me. She said, ‘Now your play is done.’”

She explains that in that moment, “I got it, right then!” That attachment and ego didn’t have a place in the work that she was about to enter into. She really needed to be ready to listen to the community, but also needed to be brave enough to write difficult stories.

Enduring difficult and trying times is an age-old part of life. And Corriere is certainly no stranger to that; when she was just a young mom Corriere was diagnosed with cancer. And it’s then that the playwright finally grasped the true meaning and value of a community. “I didn’t even tell my parents, I don’t know why. I can tell people now, but not in the midst of going through it I couldn’t— maybe I didn’t want to give it power through speaking those words. Maybe I didn’t want to claim it. No one around me had it and I wasn’t going to burden other people with it. I was going to beat it. When I got through to the other side, I finally claimed it and said ‘This is what I’ve been going through and this is what I have.’”

This trial provided growth for Corriere and revealed to her why humans aren’t solo creatures. “I see my illness and coming out of it as shifting from one paradigm to another, almost like a rite of passage, realizing that we are part of a larger community for a reason. To help each other through our human existence. We have each other to do that. I started doing playwright work at the same time I got cancer, and it helped me to be more dedicated to help heal communities and helping communities listen to their hard stories which can also be seen as illnesses. I realized through my illness and my work, we can handle anything, together, if we share honestly, and listen deeply to each other.”

Reflecting this, Jules recently began working on the Jonesborough Story Initiative program, in which she is training community members in story collecting, writing, and in the adaptation of local stories for various artistic expressions- including plays, books, videos, photographic exhibits, and more. She believes in the power of local stories and personal narratives, and the healing effect it has on individuals and communities.

Kara Bledsoe

Kara Bledsoe

Faculty Member

“Art has always been a part of my world,” Kara Bledsoe says. An artist, and mother to daughter, Rose, Bledsoe’s passion for art and care for children spills out into the classroom as she teaches pottery and wheel classes for youth at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough.

“As a child, my mother and father both made crafts and did local crafts sales, especially wood crafts. I was always around that, and I’d make things alongside them to take to the crafts sales also.” She describes how as still a toddler, her parents would allow her to help with base coat painting, as well as helping to set up and tear down the shows, giving her real view to a working artist’s life.

She grew up seeing a value in creating things. Her mother sewed a lot of her clothes and made their Halloween costumes. She remembers, “That was a privilege I had in my upbringing. I was exposed at a young age to the creation process.”

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Some of this process changed as she grew older. She tells of a high school art teacher that was highly critical of student’s work, and how she shrank as a creative artist under such scrutiny at a young age. “I didn’t thrive under that kind of pressure. There is a school of thought about teaching the realities of the harshness of life a person faces as a working artist. But I think first, there needs to be a foundation where a student can feel secure about what they are learning and what they are doing.”

Bledsoe stepped away from doing art in high school, because of those critical pressures. She enrolled in environmental studies in college. The school offered an open studio, where a student could buy a bag of clay and just work on a wheel. In a short time, Bledsoe found her way back to creating art projects. As she helped others in the studio find their vision, it became clear that her path in life was to become an art teacher.

“I teach pottery wheel and hand-building. But to me, the most important thing I teach is confidence building, and allowing the students to get the confidence they need to create something they have in their mind.”

Bledsoe believes that especially in younger years, children need to get the sense of self-satisfaction from completing a project and fulfilling the vision that started in their heads, and being able to follow through and make a finished work.

“Starting from scratch like that, children get a sense of not only completing the project, but they get to see how sometimes an idea can change, in order to make an even better piece. That’s an important element of learning, not just in art, but in life.”

Bledsoe, who teaches pottery to youth at the McKinney Center, earned her BFA with a concentration in ceramics from East Tennessee State University, and spent several years teaching the after-school art program through the Johnson City Arts Corps. She has had a solo art exhibit with the Johnson City Area Arts Council, as well as several group art exhibits throughout the region. She was also a member of TACA.

“I’d say my favorite thing about the work I do is that contagious moment when I feel kids getting excited about their project, and then at the end of class, everyone has their object they created. There is such a sense of joy and satisfaction, and that is where I get my satisfaction in life, too.”

Karen Hitchcock

Karen Hitchcock

Faculty Member

The rhythmic ping of a shard of glass ever so delicately placed on a swirl of green and blue that will soon be fired anywhere between 1,099 °F to 1,501 °F ending with a result of a fluted vase, a 4-piece plate, or a coaster sure to complement any coffee table. This is how Karen Hitchcock, a seasoned glass fusion artist and McKinney Center teacher, spends many of her days.

Hitchcock comes from a long line of artists. She grew up in New York with parents who worked at the Corning Glass Center, and a sister who was an accomplished potter. A young Hitchcock reminisces on visiting the Corning Glass Center for school trips, recalling that as the instant when her love for art first blossomed.

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Hitchcock once owned her own business as a custom picture framer until her husband bought her a small kiln. She then sold her business and got into creating art glass.

When Hitchcock is asked to dot the moment in the timeline of her life when she decided glass fusion was her true passion she would say, “When I began teaching at Rochester Arc and Flame.” Those students and experiences provided her with life-lasting inspiration that delivers her daily motivation.

One of the things that drew Hitchcock to Tennessee would be the lower cost of living and one of the cleanest lakes in the world, Watauga Lake. However, one of the things that keeps her in Tennessee is the McKinney Center in Jonesborough. Hitchcock’s first experience with the McKinney Center demonstrated the friendly and welcoming nature that Jonesborough is filled with. Hitchcock happened upon the Art Glass gallery on Main Street, amidst searching for a piece for her kiln. There she met Steve Cook who pointed her in the direction of the McKinney Center, but not without displaying true Southern hospitality. Cook first took her to Earth and Sky chocolates, so she could experience their delightful masterpieces.

When Hitchcock walked into the McKinney Center she explained what she was searching for and a staff member knew just where to get it, and offered to pick up the piece for Hitchcock, considering she was heading to the kiln parts store. Hitchcock was blown away by the kindness.

“I was like Wow! I’m not used to that. Up in New York it’s not really like that.”

That simple encounter snowballed into Hitchcock being part of Fine Art in the Park, a fine art show the McKinney Center holds annually, and then becoming one of their art teachers. You can find Hitchcock at the McKinney Center working with glass while sharing that passion with her students, and hopefully, she says, living up to the standard of care and thoughtfulness that brought me here.”

Kay Grogg

Kay Grogg

Faculty Member

Kay Grogg is a veteran teacher, having spent over thirty years in the Washington County school system, serving first at Asbury Elementary, and then at David Crockett, where she has taught art and photography since 1992. Last year, she joined the faculty of the McKinney Center as a teacher in a new form of art known as “Zentangle.”

Grogg, who earned her Master of Arts Education in Education from Tusculum College, took a master class and earned a certification in the Zentangle method during a five-day intensive in New England, with the founders of the form, along with 109 other teachers from across the world. A large group of teachers from Taiwan attended, in order to learn the method, so they could use it with their autistic students as a way to help them create and focus, and experience the victory of completing a piece of art.

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“Zentangle is an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images, using repeated patterns. In addition to designing a lovely piece of art, the method increases focus and creativity, while reducing stress and anxiety.” Grogg says of the form. “I use it in my classes at school, and the effect it has on the students is incredible. It boosts their confidence, because everyone, whether they consider themselves an artist or not, can do it.”

Grogg also mentions the calming effect that Zentangle has on her students. “It has a sort of Zen-like quality, it is very relaxing.”

In describing how it works, she says it is a sort of metaphor for life. “You start with a pencil with no erases, just like in life you can’t go back and fix mistakes, but you can adapt, and make different choices. The teachers in this method say there are no mistakes. You just go in a new direction.” In helping students discover new directions after a perceived mistake, she helps them discover that they can continue to work on and develop the piece, without going back, and end up with a small masterpiece that incorporates the mistake into a new design, based on that “new direction.”

She says many of her students, both adult and teenagers, use it to relax and meditate, and describes the ease of the form as one stroke, one line at a time.

In her one-day workshop at the McKinney Center, Grogg starts students with a 3 ½ inch square tile. They do a series of these tiles, and at the end of the class, put them together like a mosaic.
She says the biggest take away is that anybody can do this. A person does not have to be an artist to do it. But for those who are artists, she says that they report to her that doing Zentangle helps them to expand their creativity.

“I think it will benefit somebody who wants to do some kind of art, but doesn’t feel artistic. It gives them a lot of confidence, because they leave with something beautiful, of their own creation. “

She described a student from one of her classes. He told her he could not draw, and couldn’t even make stick figures look good. At the end of the class, he was amazed and said, “Wow! I can do this! Look what I did!”

To Kay, helping people discover their creativity is the best part of her job.

Sharon Squibb

Sharon Squibb

Faculty Member

As an artist/teacher, who is also on staff as the art teacher at University High School, Sharon Squibb provides students of all ages with specialized instruction in multiple media forms. Her work in drawing, watercolor, acrylics, charcoal portraiture, printmaking, and fabric arts have garnered her regional merit, and her work has been exhibited in multiple art shows, including the Women’s Fund Art Show at the McKinney Center.

Far from keeping her art to herself, Squibb says she thrives on being able to share her knowledge for art and her talent with others who would like to make art. She goes on to say, “I like to make the art classes I teach non-threatening, but challenging in a way that a student can develop to their best degree in that talent.” Squibb’s offerings through the Mary B. Martin Arts programming at the McKinney Center provide a variety of choices for anyone interested learning, or learning more about a broad range of mediums.

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Squibb teaches watercolor, printmaking, paper arts, and drawing, to name a few mediums. To those who think art is daunting, she is reassuring. “We are all beginners at one point. I like to include projects that are easy for everyone to do, and challenging enough for people who want to take it a step further.”

When not teaching art at University High School or at the McKinney Center, Sharon Squibb can often be found on stage at the Jonesborough Repertory Theater. She often designs and paints the set backdrop, but she is also an accomplished singer and performer. She once performed a one-woman show in New York when she lived and worked in the city as an editor with Doubleday Books.

She believes art has an important place in every person’s life. Her philosophy is, “I like to make an environment where students who always wanted to try art, but hadn’t had a chance. To make an environment that is inviting, so they feel welcome and also they feel able. At the same time, I want to have high standards with regard to art curriculum, so when I teach they are getting the best education. And I want my classes to be friendly and enjoyable.”

Alice Sayler

Alice Sayler

Faculty Member

East Tennessee native Alice Salyer is a recent graduate of East Tennessee State University’s MFA program with an emphasis in Graphic Design. She returned to school after a career as an advertising art director to explore new career and artistic possibilities. Her broad, multi-faceted practice includes digital and traditional methods, exploring a variety of subjects.  

As an emerging artist in high school, her art teacher, Mr. Almaroad, “TAUGHT art- perspective, shading, line quality – the basic skills and techniques of drawing. More importantly, he made students WORK.” Alice incorporates this idea in her own teaching, because it made such an impact on her when she was younger. “Before his class, I always felt I didn’t have what it took to develop into a competent artist, as I didn’t have the innate talent I saw in other students. His emphasis on work and practice made me realize that natural talent is only a small part of the equation- curiosity, willingness to learn, persistence and doing the work have everything to do with becoming a successful artist.”

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East Tennessee native Alice Salyer is a recent graduate of East Tennessee State University’s MFA program with an emphasis in Graphic Design. She returned to school after a career as an advertising art director to explore new career and artistic possibilities. Her broad, multi-faceted practice includes digital and traditional methods, exploring a variety of subjects.  

As an emerging artist in high school, her art teacher, Mr. Almaroad, “TAUGHT art- perspective, shading, line quality – the basic skills and techniques of drawing. More importantly, he made students WORK.” Alice incorporates this idea in her own teaching, because it made such an impact on her when she was younger. “Before his class, I always felt I didn’t have what it took to develop into a competent artist, as I didn’t have the innate talent I saw in other students. His emphasis on work and practice made me realize that natural talent is only a small part of the equation- curiosity, willingness to learn, persistence and doing the work have everything to do with becoming a successful artist.”

Alice is inspired by artists and designers who are well-rounded, versatile, have a lot to say and are constantly evolving. The Old Masters, especially the artists of the Northern Renaissance from Bosch, to Brueghel to Rembrandt, and the Dutch still lifes and landscapes of the period also inform her work. Some other favorites are Kiki Smith, Robert Rauschenberg, Anselm Kiefer, Kurt Schwitters, William Christenberry, Lee Bountecu, Yayoi Kusama. Alice explains, “I am also drawn to the patterns and motifs of ancient cave art, as well as vintage illustrations. I’m inspired by A LOT. It’s a constantly growing list!”

When she is not working as a graphic design instructor, she also loves to spend time with family, friends and cats. She also enjoys reading, gardening, working out and time outdoors, and says, “I love hiking and don’t do it nearly enough.”

Olivia Campbell

Olivia Campbell

Faculty Member

Olivia Campbell is a student at East Tennessee State University pursuing a minor in dance. She has trained in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and contemporary for about nine years. She loves to try new things and travel, and believes dance is amazing because it connects people, even across language barriers.

Olivia recalls, “I discovered that I was artist during middle school. I had been dancing for a few years, but I fell in love with dance and the creative ways of expression it offers after I started taking a larger variety of classes.” She started to enjoy creating and bringing ideas to life through dance at an early age.

Olivia also believes in having good role models and mentors for you people. She explains, “I had two dance teachers growing up that always believed in me, even when I had no confidence in my ability as a dancer.”  These teachers pushed her to work harder and try new things. Because of their support and belief in her, she feels she owes so much of her dance career to them. 

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Olivia Campbell is a student at East Tennessee State University pursuing a minor in dance. She has trained in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and contemporary for about nine years. She loves to try new things and travel, and believes dance is amazing because it connects people, even across language barriers.

Olivia recalls, “I discovered that I was artist during middle school. I had been dancing for a few years, but I fell in love with dance and the creative ways of expression it offers after I started taking a larger variety of classes.” She started to enjoy creating and bringing ideas to life through dance at an early age.

Olivia also believes in having good role models and mentors for you people. She explains, “I had two dance teachers growing up that always believed in me, even when I had no confidence in my ability as a dancer.”  These teachers pushed her to work harder and try new things. Because of their support and belief in her, she feels she owes so much of her dance career to them. 

Travel has also influenced Olivia’s approach to dance. She had the opportunity to travel a lot for mission work. She remembers, “When I was in China, I got to help lead large groups of families in learning some silly ‘American’ dances like the cupid shuffle and the chicken dance.” Olivia recalls that watching people enjoy movement despite a language barrier was really incredible to watch and it inspired her to continue to try new things. 

For inspiration, Olivia never had to go far. She looked to the dancers that have gone before her from her home studio. She was motivated by seeing those others who have pursued their dreams by continuing their dance education professionally. 

When not on the stage, Olivia enjoys spending my time with her friends and family, and enjoys exercising and trying new ways of movement. 

Jasmine Henderson

Jasmine Henderson

Faculty Member

I didn’t realize I was an artist until my early adult years. In elementary school when my sister and the other neighborhood kids were outside riding their bikes, I found myself in my room making up songs and stories that I was too afraid to share with others. In middle school, I competed in an oratorical contest against high schoolers and won second place at the state level, but I was still convinced writing was just a casual hobby. In high school when other students joined sports teams and bands,  I joined the newspaper staff and couldn’t wait to find the best story, but wasn’t until I was 19 years old that it hit me, “writing isn’t just my preference, it’s my purpose.” I still have to remind myself every once in a while, but it’s been a fulfilling experience ever since. 

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Mr. Jones, my 8th grade English teacher, inspired me when I was younger. He was the well-known, cool teacher who enjoyed his job enough to make every lesson fun. Many students looked up to him, but he made me feel like I stood out. He saw past the factors in my life that caused other teachers to write me off so I knew I couldn’t let him down. Although he wasn’t afraid to correct me or call me out if I strayed, I knew he saw my potential and that helped me discover my potential as well. 

The performance poetry piece I am most proud of is, “Who I am.” It’s a more comical piece and I always get a genuine reaction from the audience. Audience interaction is better for me than receiving a dozen of roses. Hearing the audience laugh during that performance is gratifying. 

For training in my art, I attend workshops and events that feature notable storytellers and poets. Most recently, I had the opportunity to work with Emmy Award-winning storyteller, Bobby Norfolk who outlined his “recipe for instant storytellers” and shared his personal list of storytelling resources.

My specialty is performance pieces that detail the African American experience. 

My biggest motivation is tomorrow’s generation. I think being an artist comes with the responsibility of inspiring and nurturing the next generation of artists. That responsibility serves as a reminder to stay educated, excited, and to stand as an example. I guess you can say, it keeps me on my toes.  

I like to explore new restaurants and spend time with family and friends for fun. I am a foodie and the excitement of trying a new place or dish is similar to a roller coaster drop for me. I also love to share personal stories and laugh, and being around my silly circle makes that easier. 

I haven’t traveled abroad (yet!) but I have visited several major US cities and had the opportunity to experience different cultures within our country. My travels have influenced my work by proving we all have a piece of the puzzle. The pieces may look different and they may only fit certain areas but they are all necessary for a complete picture. 

My favorite thing to do is visit open mics. I like the informality and rawness of open mic nights. Usually, there are no rules, and the artists are allowed to express themselves freely. You tend to produce a special type of art when barriers are removed. 

A mountain top moment for me was performing at Washington County’s NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet. It was a high point in my career because I was featured among the same notable influencers that I saw as heroes. It was an ego stroke for sure 🙂 but more importantly, I realized how far writing and art could take me.

Grace Viola Pearson

Faculty Member

As a young girl, I grew up in Buenos Aires. My parents owned a small store where we sold plants to people in our neighborhood.  Each day, after school, I would take the bus to the nursery to buy the needed plants for the next day. We all worked hard to earn a living. I loved dealing with living nature and the gentle beauty that it filled my soul with. My family history traces back to central Italy where for my family built houses.

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As a young woman, I followed my first love and moved to Miami to be with him. I began to work for a large downtown retailer, working my way from entry level positions to store manager.After 35 years of retail management, raising 2 children as a single mother, and meeting and marrying my soul mate, I decided I had enough of the stress of the now global company that I was working for and decided to retire. Not being one to sit idle at home, I decided to follow my earliest passion and share my diverse style and dynamic range with others by creating terrariums and kokedamas.

I have always been motivated by the beauty of nature and the ability of plants to change and improve the outlook of every human being, often in a very personal way. The ability of a plant to calm and nurture an individual is a very special thing, and in today’s hectic world, many people are rediscovering the healing powers of having plants in your life.

My husband and I are seasonal residents in Chuckey, and we spend much of our time working on our land as we learn it’s ways and create an inviting habitat for nature. We believe in being good stewards of the land and want to make sure that the land we own becomes a safe haven for wildlife and for our family to enjoy for years to come . I love nature and I am addicted to plants, trees and birds.  With this said, I like to walk, hike and discover new adventures in nature every day. When we are not here, we spend our winters at our home in Vero beach, Florida, or we are traveling in our RV to see the beauty of America with our beloved moorkie, Gina.

My life has been as passionate as the art I creates. Each item is hand made with the same desire and passion that I have lived my entire life with. I feel that what I create is the result of my life’s work and the culmination of my artistic instincts. I love to share my love of nature with others and show the beauty of our world in miniature pieces of art. 

Linore Huss

Faculty Member

I have always been adventurous and creative. From general arts and folk dance to fiber and jewelry to ceramics and metalsmithing, I love to explore new mediums, and the world around meis always an opportunity to find new shapes and textures.

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I encourage my students to show creativity in every process. I love when they teach mesomething new as they come in with open eyes and minds.

I didn’t really consider myself an artist until high school. I grew up in a house where arts and crafts were a way of life, but that was just normal for me. I didn’t think it was what I would be doing as a career. In middle school and high school, I started making jewelry and going to shows and that’s when it hit me that this is what I love doing. I’m an artist!

When I was younger, my mom really served as my inspiration. She’s a fiber artist, and we used to do “Heart and Hand” quilts together at the kids classes she taught; we would make a quilt as a class and then it would be donated to a local shelter.

My first quilt I made on my own when I was 10, it was a small, wall-sized quilt with shiny blue and white fabrics and I was SO PROUD of it. I learned how to ease-in fabric really well on that one.

I went to an undergraduate program at Bowling Green State University for metals because I knew I loved it, and got into ceramics as well when I was there. I ended up taking the advanced levels in both mediums. I would also travel on the weekends to visit International Folk Dancing groups in Detroit and Columbus, to learn and share some dances that I knew.

My main specialties are metalsmithing (or jewelry) and ceramics.

I really enjoy sharing information I know, and learning new things. My favorite thing is seeing the “WHOAH” face when someone learns something new and exciting; some of the processes can seem like magic.

For fun, I really enjoy going on hikes, usually listening to an audiobook as well. That’s how my best thinking gets done.

I studied abroad for a semester in Florence, Italy when I was a junior in college. I would say it definitely influenced me, not just in my work but because I learned to pay more attention to the world around me. Being a tourist in a new place means you take in everything around you because everything is new, but even mundane places have new things to discover. Florence is where I really got invested in ceramics and teaching, because I had the most experience out of the students which meant I got to be very involved in the firings and also was able to help my fellow students quite a bit. I also came back having learned out to “chill out” because the culture and people in Italy were so easy-going.

Linore graduated with a BFA in Metalsmithing and Ceramics in 2018 and has since spent time as the Head of Metals and Glass at Camp Matoaka in Maine, the Metals Studio Assistant at Arrowmont, and a ceramics and jewelry teacher for kids and adults in the Tri-Cities area. She has also led and taught International Folk Dances in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Tennessee.

Nola Pina

Faculty Member

I am a Cherokee Finger weaver. I remember the first piece of finger weaving I did. It was another girls that she was working on, and she asked if I wanted to try. I said yes. She showed me the basic technique. I practiced on that piece for a month, and every time I would finish it, I would take it apart and redo it!

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I wanted to learn the craft more. I had a coworker who learned from one of the more prominent weavers, and I worked with him for a couple of weeks to learn new patterns that I still use today. My motivation comes from my ancestors. For many years my people were not allowed to be Cherokee so a lot of traditions, stories, culture, and techniques were not passed down. So, I finger weave and I teach people to finger weave for all of my ancestors who were not allowed too. 

My biggest challenge has been finding more teachers for myself. I don’t see myself as a master of my craft, yet. I believe I still have a long way to go especially with learning.

Robin Castania

Faculty Member

Like most people it was hard for me to think of myself as an artist at first.  I have always loved to write, draw, and create but it wasn’t until I took my first art class in college that I really began to think of myself as an artist rather than just someone who likes to create things.

My greatest inspiration, I would have to say, were my parents, neither of which was an artist in the traditional sense.  What they did teach me was how to use the tools on hand to create what I needed.  

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The first project that I was really proud of was a project I completed for one of my art classes.  I created a piece incorporating part of a poem I wrote along with items I found on the beach.  It is in a shadowbox frame and I do still have it.

While I was working at Sussex County Community College in New Jersey I started working toward an Associates Degree in studio arts.  I was also able to take a collage class at Parson’s School of Design in NYC.

Currently my specialty is working with fabric as that is where my focus has been the past couple of years.

Don’t laugh, but my biggest motivation right now is being able to pay my bills. Beyond that it is finding things to do and make that make my heart smile.

For fun, I enjoy reading and thrifting and spending time with my family. Other than reading it would have to be “treasure hunting” at estate sales, thrift stores, and garage sales.

I had the privilege of traveling to The Netherlands on three separate occasions.  It was a wonderful experience and I appreciate the simplicity of life in the little villages.  I took some wonderful black and white photos that I still treasure.

The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is finding time for myself.  My mother had open-heart surgery in 2010 and for the year leading up to her surgery and for the years until I moved back to Jonesborough my time was spent taking care of my dad while she was in post-op rehab and taking her to her doctor appointments.  Her doctor was over an hour away and my father was not good at driving on the Turnpike.  Even after I moved back down here, I would drive back up to New Jersey and spend weeks at a time, especially after my father was diagnosed with Alzheimers.  They passed away within eight months of each other and as the Executrix of their estates the majority of the responsibilities fell on me.  I am blessed that my youngest brother and I are so close and he helped shoulder a lot of those responsibilities.  I don’t think I could have done it all without him.

A high point in your life or career, besides becoming a grandmother, I would have to say came as part of the original creative team behind Toddlewood.  Who knew that when I answered an ad for a seamstress with experience with children’s clothing it was the beginning of a creative vision that has continued to grow over the years.  I consider it an honor that I was able to participate in the beginnings of a creative project that has grown way beyond what it was when Tricia, Tammy, Linda and I worked in Tricia’s living room and back yard.  

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The McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School is a multi-use facility providing arts education through Jonesborough's Mary B. Martin Program.


Phone: 423.753.0562

103 Franklin Ave.
Jonesborough, TN 37659