It's official: Arrowmont reaches funding goal, will stay at Gatlinburg campus

Apr. 04, 2014 @ 11:40 PM

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts officially completed a deal Thursday that put the school in control of its 13-acre campus for the first time.

The school paid $8 million to buy the land from Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, the philanthropic organization that owned the land and was a longtime supporter of the school.

The deadline for making the payment was Monday. Arrowmmont officials told The Mountain Press then that they had met the deadline but were reviewing the paperwork with Pi Beta Phi and other parties.

In addition to the school and the fraternity, the transaction involved the developer who was buying the property; and Sevier County County Schools, which gained control of the property for Pi Beta Phi Elementary School and gave Arrowmont $750,000 toward its goal.

Arrowmont also received $3.5 million from the City of Gatlinburg, and a $2.25 million matching grant from Windgate Charitable Foundation.

“We are grateful to those who have made it clear that they believe in Arrowmont’s future as much as they value its rich history,” executive director Bill May said. “Arrowmont plays a role in the cultural life of our community and contributes to craft education on a national level.”

The announcement came as the school starts its first session of craft workshops and gets set to mark Legacy Weekend, which celebrates the history of the school as well as Appalachian craft traditions and the Great Smoky Mountains National park.

School officials are planning a special event in June to celebrate its fund-raising success and to announce plans for the future.

Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women started a settlement school on the property in 1912. Arrowmont grew out of that school, and the elementary school was named in its honor.

As the fraternity moved on to other philanthropies, Arrowmont developed independent leadership and started leasing the property. When Pi Beta Phi announced plans to sell the Gatlinburg property a few years ago so it could focus on other programs, Arrowmont officials said they wanted to buy the 13-acre campus themselves and keep it downtown.

“Owning our campus allows Arrowmont to continue to enrich the lives of the artists and people of our community for generations to come,” said Geoffrey Wolpert, president of Arrowmont’s Board. “Gatlinburg, Pi Beta Phi and Arrowmont share an intertwined history, and that history gives this institution a momentum that will allow it to shape a future that is vital and important to the growing international community that benefits from what happens on this campus.”

As part of the transaction, Sevier County Schools gained full control of the property used for Pi Beta Phi Elementary.

“Since 1912, the school has educated the children of Gatlinburg and the Smokies,” said Jack Parton, director of Sevier county Schools. “For the first time in the 100 years of the school’s existence, the Sevier County School System has complete ownership of the Pi Beta Phi Elementary School property. The Sevier County Board of Education and I extend our heartfelt thanks to the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for their donation of the property and to City of Gatlinburg, the Sevier County Commission, Arrowmont, and to Bob Bentz for their support throughout the many conversations that led to this important transaction,”

Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women owned the elementary school’s six-acre campus. The county had an existing agreement with the fraternity saying it owned the property where the school building sits as long as it is still used as a school. Previously, it would have reverted to the fraternity if the county stopped using it as a school. Now the county owns it outright, and also gained the three acres where its playground and other school amenities are located.

The fraternity donated the land to the schools as part of the transaction after Sevier County agreed to give Arrowmont $750,000 toward the purchase.

Pi Beta Phi is selling its remaining land to developer Bob Betnz, who said he palns to build a retail and restaurant complex.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com