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Director hired for Cherokee art institute

A coordinator has been selected for the visual arts program of the Oconaluftee Institute for Cultural Arts (OICA), a joint venture among Southwestern Community College, the Eastern Band of Cherokee and Western Carolina University.

Rickie Wesbrooks has accepted the position of Fine Arts Instructor/Program Coordinator and will be directly involved with the planning of the facility to be located on the Boundary.

“The task of helping start a new educational program is challenging and exciting,” Wesbrooks said. “It will be amazing to work with the architect and others to plan both the space and curriculum for this new cultural arts institute.”

Wesbrooks earned an associate of arts degree in fine arts from Georgia Perimeter College, a bachelor of fine arts in weaving from Georgia State University, a master of education in art education from North Georgia College and State University, and a master of fine arts in fibers from East Tennessee State University.

He comes to Southwestern from Greenville (S.C.) High School where he was an instructor of foundations, fibers and art history. He previously taught craft studio courses at California University of Pennsylvania, East Tennessee State University, Brenau University and The American College. Wesbrooks has been artist-in-residence at the John C. Campbell Folk School and the Touchstone Center for Crafts.

According to Wesbrooks, the Institute will begin offering classes this summer. “We’ll start by scheduling two classes: Art I and Drawing I,” he said. “Then in the fall, we’ll add more courses. Until the Institute is built, we’ll hold our classes at Cherokee High School and the SCC Cherokee Center.

“The Institute will be singular in a number of ways. We will offer an Associate in Fine Arts through Southwestern Community College. Southwestern has established an articulation agreement with Western Carolina University, through which students who graduate from the program will be able to transfer to WCU as juniors pursuing a bachelor of fine arts degree.”

According to Wesbrooks, the studio arts curriculum will also be notable. It will include both contemporary and traditional Cherokee arts such as basketry/weaving, pottery, beadwork, mask making, sculpture, woodcarving, and stone carving. In addition photography, printmaking, and web design will be incorporated into core and elective courses.

For information on enrolling in the AFA program at Oconaluftee Institute of Cultural Arts, contact Wesbrooks at 800.447.4091 or 828.586.4091, ext. 442, or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also to apply, visit