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On November 18, close to the one-year anniversary of Sevier County, Tennessee’s devastating wildfires, over 100 artists and arts professionals gathered at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN to attend a new CERF+ program, “Ready + Resilient.”  The free program helps studio artists and their communities recovering from disasters build and protect their careers. To launch this new program, CERF+ partnered with Arrowmont, Zinc, and Orangenius thanks to a generous donation from the Westfield Insurance Foundation Legacy of Caring Fund.

Jennifer Reis presented workshops on thinking like a business, networking, marketing and branding. Photo by Jill Greene.


The day-long event began with a welcome and introduction by Arrowmont’s executive director, Bill May, who has been a valued leader in his community’s recovery. Bill introduced and recognized local dignitaries for their service, noting that many of them had also lost their own homes. These dignitaries were: Cindy Ogle, Gatlinburg City Manager, Mike Werner, Gatlinburg City Mayor, Greg Miller, Gatlinburg Fire Chief, Randy Brackins, Gatlinburg Chief of Police Larry Waters, Sevier County Mayor and Barbara Joines, Executive Director, Mountain Tough Recovery Team.

L to R: Jenifer Simon, Bill May, Kevin Leiva, Frances Fox, Cornelia Carey and Seth Zaremba.

L to R: Jenifer Simon, Bill May, Kevin Leiva, Frances Fox, Cornelia Carey and Seth Zaremba. Photo by Jill Greene.

During the introductory portion of the day, two local artists and CERF+ beneficiaries shared their experiences of losing their homes and studios in the fire — a young potter, Kevin Leiva and fifth generation weaver Frances Fox. Each spoke about the monumental losses they experienced and how keeping a positive attitude and continuing to be creative making work have been life-saving for them.

Participants moved onto a series of workshops to help protect and grow their business: networking, branding and marketing, how to contribute to building your community’s creative economy, documenting and safe storage of your work, business insurance, photographing your work and more.  Workshop presenters included : Jennifer Reis, facilitator, AIR Institute at Berea College; Steve Schlackman, Director of Product Innovation at Orangenius; Craig Nutt, studio furniture maker; Kimberly Winkle, Director, School of Art, Craft & Design and Associate Professor at Tennesee Tech and Seth Zaremba, President of Zinc.

Participants “Chalk It Out” during the program. Photo by Jill Greene.

As artist, veteran and fly fishing expert Jessica Callihan remarked, “This was a ‘meat and potatoes’ program and I LOVE that! It covered things I never thought about and presented new angles on materials that I thought I understood. I feel much more able to tackle my hesitant attitude right now! I had no idea where to turn with my questions and it’s like Ready + Resilient anticipated them all.  I am no longer overwhelmed.”

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