The William Holland School Arts was started in 1983 When founder Harold C. Sparks as serving as the eighth president of the Southeast Federation of Mineralogical Societies (SFMS). At that time, he and his wife Mary Lou discovered that there were no schools where you could go to learn the Lapidary Arts, only workshops a few times a year. They set out to fine a mountain top retreat where such a school could be built; a place where strangers from all states and other countries could come together to learn in a peaceful atmosphere and to share with one another.
They found this in Young Harris, Georgia. Harold and Mary Lou called on many rock and gem club members to donate their time, and talents to bring about the William Holland School of Arts, as it exists today. Many who stopped by just to check the progress would be put right to work. "Have you ever installed insulation?" Harold ask one lady and the next thing she knew, she was putting insulation in the walls of what is our main lodge, Sparks Lodge. One couple stopped in for the day and spent the week, calling home each night telling the kids not to forget to feed the dog. The many volunteers became one big family as they worked together each day and shared the dining table each night. When it came time to choose a name for the school, choosing to use the name of William Holland, who was the third president of the SFMS and was the only deceased president at the time.
The Seabolt Building (a metal building) was put up and used for classes and sleeping rooms in 1985. The main lodge (Sparks Lodge) started having classes in 1986. The Seabolt Building houses George Kasper Memorial Library, the Lampwork studio, the Photo Room, and Gerald's Rock Room. Our campground facilities as well as our laundry room.
Today Sparks Lodge, which has been in continuous service since its opening in the spring of 1986, serves as the centerpiece of our campus. The upper floor is devoted to lodging offering twenty-nine bedrooms each with private bath. The lower level contains thirteen classrooms as well as our dining and kitchen facilities. In 2002 Mary Lou's Cottage was built to accommodate our instructors with eight bedrooms. Otto's Lodge came into service on July 30, 2005. This added twenty-two bedrooms. This give you a short walk thru the wonderful mountain setting. The Learning Center was added to give us another class room. Our campground has eleven full hook-up spaces, just a short walk to the classes rooms.
Our annual season runs from the third week in April for thirty weeks ending the first part of November. Currently one week of our season the SFMS holds workshops. All other classes are open to anyone interested in the Lapidary Arts. It is not necessary to belong to a rock club or even to be a Rockbound though it helps. We are a hobbyist school devoted to providing quality Lapidary, Earth Science classes, to keep the lapidary arts alive. We offer many jewelry making classes to our students.
Founded on the principle of volunteerism all our instructors continue to donate their time to help us fulfill this mission. They sell the supplies needed by students in their classes for a nominal fee in order to help cover the material expenses incured. In return for their time and expertise, we provide room and board for each instructor and their spouse during the weeks they are teaching. They travel from all the country and lending their talents to continue making William Holland a truly unique place.
Each week of our season starts with check-in at 3:00 PM on Sunday. After supper and a short introduction and orientation session, students settle into their rooms, ready to begin class at 9:00 AM Monday. Tuesday night we hold an auction. Students, instructors donate items for this event and the proceeds are used for the cost of equipment and supplies in the classrooms. Thursday night is tailgating where everyone has an opportunity to buy, sell, or trade their items. By Saturday everyone wants to stay one more week and many have already made plans to join their new friends for next season. Come and rock on our porch in the north east mountains of Georgia and enjoy the classes we offer.