Elkland School Art Center, Inc. was founded in 1997 in the old Elkland School of Todd, NC. Out of that old school building, in our first four years, we offered over 50 workshops in a wide variety of subjects including drawing, painting, sculpture, wood-carving, furniture-making, basket-making, canoe making and children's art camps to about 340 participants, a third of whom were children. Children’s Art Camp in front of old Elkland School gymnasium, 1997 .
In 2000, after visiting Minneapolis, Minnesota’s popular May Day Parade organized by In The Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater, we decided to change our focus to bring creativity more directly to people through community parades and puppetry.
We held community workshops and meetings to determine the theme of several community parades held in 2000 and 2001 that featured giant puppets and costumed marchers depicting our relationship with the New River and its ecosystem. Based on the success and excitement of those parades, in 2002 we focused more on puppetry and pageantry in recreational settings.
Elkland Art Center’s annual Liberty Parade was developed, a wonderfully and quintessentially American event that draws about 300 participants and as many spectators to Todd each year on July 4th.
As a celebration and reminder of liberty, the event has included readings from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, a dictionary definition of liberty, speeches, exhortations, calls to action, recitations of Walt Whitman and the singing enroute of classic patriotic songs.
We also encourage responsible environmental stewardship as part and portion of our liberty. We educate people about the environment by giving them a chance to “become” the environment using giant parade puppets, representational water, native fish, threatened salamanders and turtles.
Elkland puppet shows express our concerns for the environment, our history and culture, and are aimed always towards education and joy.
One puppet show in production, "Jason's Dream," featuring two children, a dream, Grandfather Mountain turned into trash and a revelation about recycling, has been sponsored in the schools by the Watauga County Landfill and presented with the County Recycling Coordinator.
Our recent thrust into documentary video has been important to building understanding of the complex issues of sustainability. We are currently working on a video documentary, “The Land and Us, A Todd Story,” featuring interviews of Todd and its residents, with the objective of creating dialogue about community and sustainability.