Swannanoa River Stories

Students from Warren Wilson College will present their art responses to interviews with Swannanoa Valley residents about the Swannanoa River at 6 pm on December 13 at the community room at the Bee Tree fire station. This is the initial public presentation of a new effort at Warren Wilson called “The Swannanoa River Project.” The project is concieved as a long term, cross-discipline campaign to bring students and faculty in closer and more meaningful contact with the residents of the town that Warren Wilson College has been identified with for so many years.

The project will combine research, class work and service, all focused on creating a clearer picture of the valley and its inhabitants- for both College people and the residents themselves. While the concept of student service is catching on at colleges and universities around the country, service has long been an essential part of the Warren Wilson experience. The “Triad,” as it is called, which attracts students to Warren Wilson is Service, Work, and Learning. One of the goals of the Swannanoa River Project is to find ways of focusing all three legs of the Triad on the place where the the college exists, breaking down that age-old rivalry between the “town” and the “gown.”

This semester, six different classes focused on aspects of the Swannanoa River, from particulate sampling to oral histories from people whose lives have been more or less influenced by the river. “The Swannanoa is literally the great artery that runs through the valley,” said Graham Paul, chair for the Theater Department at the College. “We are using the river as the factual and metaphorical thread that ties us all together.” Students are interested in the community they are spending their four years in, Graham said. And they are hungry for more than the superficial contacts with locals they get from running into them at the “Swingles” (studentese for “Swannanoa Ingles. There is also the “Oteengles,” and- less frequented- the “Blingles” in Black Mountain.)

For more information on the public presentation at the Bee Tree fire station, call Jerry Pope at 686-3922.