Founded 100 years ago, Pine Mountain Settlement School has served as a grassroots institution for quality, hands-on environmental, cultural and leadership education.
This year, the settlement school is celebrating its centennial by promoting a series of year-long events perpetuating that same grassroots approach to community learning as its founding members facilitated over a century ago.
One of the events is a traveling Pine Mountain Settlement School Photography Exhibition, featuring more than 150 images capturing the beauty of the historic school’s landscape, wildlife, structures and people.
While the exhibition will be featured at several regional venues throughout the year, its debut will take place at the upcoming Poke Sallet Festival.
Festival Coordinator Dan Mosley said he and the festival’s steering committee are thrilled the exhibition’s debut will be part of the festival.
“It’s an exciting time for Harlan County and for Pine Mountain Settlement School with the celebration of its centennial,” Mosley said. “We’re certainly looking forward to seeing this exquisite compilation of images on display on the upper level of the Harlan Center. This photography exhibition is one of the ways in which the Poke Sallet Festival seeks to promote the history, art and culture of Harlan County.”
An opening reception for the exhibition will he held on the upper level of the Harlan Center on Thursday, starting at 7 p.m. Mosley said he encourages the community to attend to see the exhibit and meet some of the photographers whose work is featured.
“We had an impressive number of photographers eager to take part in this exhibit,” said Jennifer McDaniels, one of the exhibition’s organizers. “Pine Mountain Settlement School is every photographer’s dream. You can’t be a serious Harlan County or Appalachian landscape photographer without spending hundreds of hours at Pine Mountain, capturing not only the beauty of its landscape, but the beauty found in its people and unique events.”
Some photographers contributing to the exhibition include Ben Begley, Judith Victoria Hensley, Brandon Goins, Pete Vowell, Deb Callahan, Kathleen Powers, Becky Shipp, Anne Olson and McDaniels.
Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College is the exhibition’s primary sponsor. SKCTC Archivist Larry LaFollette provided the image enlargements for the display.
The settlement school was founded in 1913 as a school for children in the remote southeastern mountains, as well as a social center for surrounding communities. The school was the dream William Creech Sr., who was troubled by the area’s lack of educational opportunities. He donated land for the school and recruited instructors.
From 1913 to 1930, the settlement school served as a boarding school for elementary and middle school age children. By 1930, the settlement school evolved into a boarding school for high school students. In 1949, it began a joint educational venture with the county school board system to operate a community elementary school, which operated until the 1970s when the settlement school began to focus its work on environmental education.
Today, the settlement school provides instruction in environmental education, Appalachian culture and crafts to both students and adults.
It is located on 625 acres on the north side of Pine Mountain, which scientists claim is the most imposing geological feature of the southern Appalachian Mountains. The wooded slopes of Pine Mountain’s property are home to an impressive number of plants and animals, some of which are exclusive to the campus.
“From the softly lit piano keys found in the Pine Mountain Chapel, to an intimidating close up shot of a rattlesnake coiled somewhere in the settlement school’s forest, we are anxious to showcase our collection of Pine Mountain Settlement School photography, and hope visitors will get a glimpse not only into the rugged lay of this land, but also into the impact it has had upon the people of Harlan County and the world,” McDaniels said.
For more information about the exhibition, contact McDaniels at (606) 733-5869. For more information about other ongoing centennial events, contact Deb Callahan at (606) 558-3571.
The exhibition will be on display throughout the festival, Thursday through Saturday.