Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences
The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, founded by artist Mary Crovatt Hambidge, is an artists' community situated on 600 acres of pristine, natural forests, woodlands, and streams of the north Georgia mountains.
Mary Crovatt Hambidge was born in Brunswick in 1885,
While on a trip to Greece with her husband, Mary Hambidge became intrigued with the village weavers who sheared sheep, spun wool thread, and wove wool garments on a daily basis. She became imbued with the idea of learning to weave, and the craft became her passion. After her husband's sudden death in 1924, Hambidge went to Rabun County to weave in a friend's summer home. She wrote that she made contact with women in the mountains whose "looms had been relegated to the attics or the woodpile" but who still "kept their craft knowledge and their native integrity."
Through her benefactor, Eleanor Steele Reese, Hambidge was able to buy nearly 800 acres surrounding a proposed hunting lodge.
"'The Weavers of Rabun' gained international recognition for the quality and beauty of their fabrics, and a Madison Avenue shop in New York was established as an outlet," where wealthy buyers could purchase these handwoven fabrics, the former center director Mary Nikas Beery wrote in an unpublished history of the center, "The Hambidge Center in the Betty's Creek Community." They were commissioned to outfit U.S. president Harry S. Truman's yacht with their woven fabrics; in 1958 the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., mounted an exhibition of their work. Under Hambidge's leadership "these mountain weavers contributed significantly to the renaissance of handcrafts in America," Beery wrote.
Among the visitors was Eliot Wigginton's father, a landscape architect at the University of Georgia, who often brought his son along with him. Those childhood visits to the Hambidge Center led Wigginton to return to the area as a teacher in 1966. Discussions with other Hambidge guests inspired him to develop the Foxfire program, in which students explored their local and regional heritage for the magazine that they created under Wigginton's guidance.
Before her death on August 29, 1973, Mary Hambidge provided for the board of trustees to take over the center, thus ensuring the continuation of her mission. Through three subsequent artist-directors, the center developed as a community resource for nature and art programs and formally began a residency program, which now has an international reputation.
Philis Alvic, Mary Hambidge: Weaver of Rabun (Murray, Ky.: privately printed, 1993).
Mary Crovatt Hambidge, Apprentice in Creation: The Way Is Beauty (Rabun Gap, Ga.: Hambidge Center, 1975).
John Harmon, "Center's Artists Are Heirs to Hambidge's Spiritual Dream," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 31, 1994.
Estelle Ford-Williamson, Clayton State University
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.