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Impressions Magazine

ECU Partners with Pocosin Arts on Planned Educational Lodge

05/16/2012 16:40 ● By Kathryn

Pocosin Arts Folk School in Columbia, NC was flooded on August 27, 2011, after Hurricane Irene passed over the facility. The hurricane, which deposited 14 inches of rain on the town, caused the Scuppernong River to flood. The first floor of Pocosin Arts was inundated with 24 inches of contaminated water.

Pocosin Arts Folk School is partnering with East Carolina University in the development and use of a planned educational lodge on the Scuppernong River in Columbia.

Dr. Lisa Clough, acting associate vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, described several potential uses of the facility by ECU including summer or semester-long field courses, weekend retreats, education and health care outreach, creative arts field excursions or workshops, and coastal research field work. 

“We want to hear your ideas for how you want to use it,” Clough said at a meeting in ECU’s Speight Building on February 3. “We firmly believe it’s a good idea.”  

ECU will lease the Scuppernong Riverside Lodge for six months each year once it is completed, tentatively summer 2013. The initial lease will be for $65,000 per year  for three years. Rental fees will help recoup the cost of the lease. ECU will have access from July 1 to December 31, providing for late summer and fall semester programming, Clough said. The organizations will work together to accommodate special needs at other times of the year.

The two-story lodge will house up to 25 overnight guests in 10 rooms each with its own bathroom. The first floor will have a small wet lab, two classrooms and access to a boat slip within walking distance of the river in downtown Columbia off U.S. 64. It will be located across the street from the headquarters of Pocosin Arts, whose mission is connecting culture to the environment through the arts. 

The non-profit agency has received grant funding from the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources and Golden Leaf for the $1.25 million construction project. No ECU funds will be used for construction. The lease was approved by ECU’s Board of Trustees in September. State officials approved the project March 6, 2012.

Such public-private partnerships, especially in the state’s current economic climate, are only likely to grow. “This is a bargain for the university,” said Feather Phillips, founding executive director of Pocosin Arts. “What the university gets back is what needs to be celebrated.”  

Many of the estimated 50 attendees at the information meeting agreed.

Dr. Hans Vogelsong, director of the coastal resources management Ph.D. program in the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, said he is excited about the potential use of the facility for faculty and students who do field work in the region as well as the opportunity for ECU to engage in a partnership that should provide benefits and positive economic impacts in Columbia. It also will help solidify ECU as a leader in coastal area research in the state, Vogelsong said.

Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, chair of ECU’s English department, said the project offers an opportunity for students to study “their own backyard” and for ECU to fulfill its mission of engagement in the region. Everyone he has talked to supports the project, he said.

“The Scuppernong River Lodge will provide an important catalyst to expanding Columbia’s and eastern North Carolina’s tourism attractiveness,” said Dr. Pat Long, director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism in the Division of Research and Graduate Studies and professor in the College of Business. “The partnership between ECU and the Pocosin Arts Folk School is a wonderful foundation on which to organize and present the region’s extensive cultural, historic and environmental assets to students as well as the traveling public along with providing an important economic boost.”

Pocosin Arts has worked with the ECU College of Education, School of Art & Design, the College of Human Ecology and Coastal Studies Institute on previous projects.

“I can’t say enough about how energizing it is to have young people with us,” Phillips said. “Your presence in our community will have benefits beyond what your students realize.”

Columbia, located in Tyrrell County in northeastern North Carolina, is classified by state officials as a Tier 1 county, meaning it is economically distressed and eligible for specific state and federal grants and programs.

Traditional forestry, farming and fishing industries are being supplemented with cultural and ecotourism oppor-tunities embraced by local residents, Phillips said. The town is still recovering from Hurricane Irene which passed over Pocosin Arts Folk School on August 27, 2011 depositing 14 inches of rain. The Scuppernong River flooded the town of Columbia and inundated the first floor of Pocosin Arts with 24 inches of contaminated river water.

Pocosin Arts’ flood preparation plan was based on past flood levels of 3-6 inches. Fortunately, their flood insurance will cover the cost of damage to the building. However, the insurance does not cover the loss of equipment, furnishings and supplies.

Because of the heroic efforts of staff and volunteers, they were able to clear out the first floor, creating a huge pile of flood damaged refuse. They sorted, cleaned, oiled and stored all that could be saved. They engaged a professional cleaning and mitigation company to clean and dry the first floor. Using high powered extractors, fans and de-humidifiers, 390 gallons of remaining river water, as well as an additional 380 gallons of water vapor were removed from the building.

Contributions, to assist in the recovery, may be sent to: Pocosin Arts Folk School, PO Box 690, Columbia, NC, 27925.

Pocosin Arts is part of a renaissance of art and culture shaping up Main Street in Columbia. Just one block from the Town Dock, you can experience aromas of jasmine and rosemary together in Shoe String Alley, the brick-lined path which leads to Pocosin Arts. 

Traditionally, in the Main Street Gallery, fine art and folk craft are sold, the handmade work of students, teachers and mentors. However, the gallery is still undergoing renovations to repair the flood damage sustained during the hurricane. A smaller gallery space in their upstairs studio is currently open to visit. 

In their studio, exposed brick walls and high ceilings are the stage set for a hive of creativity. And, wheels are turning — potters wheels and spinning wheels. Hands are muddied and moist with native Tyrrell County clay. Heads are bent over quilted squares, embellishing, 

in whispers, and hand-carved white cedar walking canes tap out the stories, today’s and yesterday’s, told by the people of the Pocosin wetland region about the Pocosin way of life.

Pocosin Arts collects these folkways by connecting this indigenous culture to its natural environment through the interdisciplinary arts process, glorifying the rich cultural heritage found in eastern North Carolina.

Throughout the year classes, workshops and residencies are held in pottery, metalsmithing & jewelry-making, carving, book-making, weaving, spinning, quilting, embellishing, soap making, glass slumping and fusing, blacksmithing, pit firing, story telling, dancing, roots music and more. 

The mission of the Pocosin Arts Folk School is to connect culture to the environment through the arts. The exhibits in the gallery reflect this mission, with a permanent display of the traditional arts and folk craft of the people of the Pocosin region of eastern N.C. They also feature temporary exhibits featuring the work of Pocosin Arts program participants, teachers, and other regional artists whose creative work exemplifies their mission. 

All inquiries about the river lodge project should be directed to Clough at or 252-328-9479. A project advisory board likely will be appointed and will provide periodic university updates, Clough indicated. 

 For additional information on the Pocosin Arts Folk School, please visit http://

Adapted from an article by Crystal Baity of ECU News Services

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