1439 Henderson Tanyard Rd., Pittsboro, NC info@shakorihills.org 919-704-9174

John W. Vanderheyden, Instructor

John & Gail Vanderheyden. Photo by Elizabeth Larson
John & Gail Vanderheyden. Photo by Elizabeth Larson

John recently retired from a 35+ year career with Verizon Communications doing internal computer work. He chose to move to North Carolina from Washington D.C. because of the natural beauty of the state, and the Piedmont in particular due to easy access to both the mountains and seashore. As a landscape painter, there is more subject matter than he could ever possibly paint!

John says: “I work in three or four styles and landscapes are my prominent subject matter. Bright color combinations usually dominate my paintings. My scenes are from all over the United States with a lot of the Southwest Desert and Washington, D.C. I’ve done a lot of water studies and floral still-lifes. Why do people love looking at water? I think it has to do with the constant change between patterning and randomness. Where patterns meet chaos is a recurring theme of mine. Examples of this would be changing ripples in a river or light dappled maples in the fall. Click HERE to visit his website.

Art Highlights:

20 paintings exhibited at Richmond State House in Jan.-Feb., 2005. This led to exhibiting at John Tyler Community College, also in Richmond

Represented by Lazy Lane Gallery, Key West, Fla., Jan., 2003- Jan., 2005

Represented by Herndon Old town Gallery, Aug.- Oct., 1994

Annual Juried Labor Day Shows at Glen Echo Park sponsored by the National Park Service. Sold “Canal Scene” to the National Historical Society

Annual Juried Spring shows at Oxen Hill Manor

Capital Hill Art League member for several years. Solo show at Long & Foster Realty on Capital Hill with multiple sales

Member of Great Falls, Fairfax and Vienna Art Leagues. Awarded Best in Show at monthly Fairfax League Show. Awarded Honorable Mention at annual Great Falls League show

Education: B.A. Art History and Studio Art from University of Virginia, 1977

Contact Information: John.W.Vanderheyden@Gmail.com

Jaime Coggins, Class Instructor

Jaime Coggins received her degree in Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro in 2002 and has taught on various levels and practiced art for the last 18 years. After graduating, she taught as a Visiting Artist at UNCG and opened a Community Art Gallery and Studio (The Space) to present developing artists’ works. The Space also offered classes and workshops free to the public. Many successful NC artists created and displayed early works here. Jaime’s personal works have been shown around the United States, with a few now having permanent homes in Germany and the UK.

Purchasing Shakori Hills

shakori hills bridge to meadow field

Shakori Hills only exists because of your support.

With help from hundreds of contributors, our down payment goal of $75K was reached in 2013 after a three-year campaign.

As a joint venture, the Shakori Hills Community Arts Center and Fingerlakes GrassRoots Festival organizations completed the purchase on December 10, 2013.

The Shakori Hills Community Arts Center is a local non-profit benefiting  rural North Carolina and which hosts the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival. Fingerlakes GrassRoots is a non-profit based in Trumansburg, NY that produces the four GrassRoots Festivals.

The land purchase is particularly significant in terms of community-building because of how it was funded – a bank was never approached. Since it’s inception as “Shakori Hills,” two different supporters, Anne Winfield and Robert Michener, have owned the land, essentially holding it while the money was raised to pay for it.

Once the down payment was raised, Carol Hewitt, a longtime volunteer and organizer at Shakori Hills, and founder of Slow Money NC assembled a group of more than 30 individual lenders to cover the remaining $620,000. This group of lenders acts as a bank for this “community mortgage,” and will be repaid with a competitive interest rate over ten years.

All donors who contributed to the “Buy-the-Farm” Campaign were commemorated with an art installation at the May, 2016 GrassRoots Festival. The Bridge of Souls commemorative ceremony was held Saturday, May 7th at 1:30pm.

We hope you have enjoyed reflecting on where we’ve been and where we are; we wanted to paint a picture of what we’ve been working on the last several years and help you to have a realistic understanding of what you, the community, have helped create.

Land Purchase News Coverage

“Shakori Hills pushes to buy its festival lands before the lease expires”

-Indy Weekly, February 10, 2010

“The new landowners in Shakori Hills now look beyond festival season”

-Indy Weekly, April 16, 2014

The News &Observer and the The Herald Sun provided additional coverage.

Education, Cultural Preservation & Sustainable Communities

In 2007, Shakori Hills launched a music-in-the-schools program in conjunction with the GrassRoots Festivals.  Our Roots in the Schools program (formerly Hopes and Dreams) is coordinated cooperatively with interns from UNC-Chapel Hill’s APPLES program.  Schools in Chatham, Orange and Durham Counties have all benefited from the program in which  artists/musicians/dancers go into the school to perform, demonstrate, and involve students in their craft. At a time when music and art departments are being cut from schools, this program continues to fill an important need for our young community.

The Northwood Jazz Band from Northwood High School, as well as a group of young string musicians, The Walker Street Fiddlers from Greensboro, North Carolina perform annually at the GrassRoots Festival. Young musicians are also given the opportunity to perform during the festival at the area for teenagers, The Outpost, and in the festival’s band and instrument contests. Providing opportunities for young people to learn and to participate in new and healthy experiences is very important to SHCAC and our partner, the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival Organization.

In September 2007 another annual event came to life produced by Shakori Hills CAC, the Hoppin’ John Old-Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention. Originally a two-day event grown to three in 2011, musicians, dancers and music lovers come together to celebrate the traditions of bluegrass and old-time music.  They enjoy dance, instrument and band contests, square dances and many unscheduled special musical moments.  The convention helps keep traditional music alive and also provides an invaluable opportunity for young people to play on stage, regardless of their age or skill level.  North Carolina is renowned for its fiddlers’ conventions and attendees herald Hoppin’ John as a new favorite in the state.

The GrassRoots Festival sponsors an on-site Sustainability Fair during the festival in which local earth-conscious organizations, green businesses and individuals participate and share their experience and knowledge of sustainable living.  In an interactive area, experts give talks and demonstrations and festival-goers dialogue with one another on  specific issues. Examples of participating organizations are: Central Carolina Community College’s Green Building Program, Chatham Marketplace, Solar Tech South, LLC, Chandler Design-Build, Piedmont Biofuels, Chatham Transit and Sol Food Mobile Farm.

Each year Shakori Hills events use approximately 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. In an effort to increase sustainable practices, Shakori Hills partnered with the Abundance Foundation and began the Solarize Shakori project in the fall of 2008. To offset our usage we are building a permanent grid inter-tied solar electric system located on-site. We invite our community to be part of the project by donating solar cells at $10 per cell.  Festival-goers and community members have already donated more than $7000 towards this goal and the first solar array is in place.

With the help of instructors from Central Carolina Community College, a Community Garden was planted at Shakroi Hills in 2010. The garden now occupies approximately 8800 square feet, with three crop rotation areas, utilizing organic farming methods of cover crops and hog raising. Everyone who wishes to be part of the crop decisions, planting, maintenance and harvest is welcome to contribute, and share in the garden harvest. Excess produce is donated to CORA, and we are proud to announce that over 400 pounds of carrots, beets, greens, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes and other produce have been donated.

Infrastructure & Community

photo by Todd Gaul

Over the last ten years we have built much of the infrastructure needed to support and sustain a community arts center.

There is a permanent stage, a well-kept barn, campgrounds, the Nonagon, ticket booth, security booth, parking gate booth, three concession stands, nice gravel roads, a shower house (men’s and women’s), a general store, and drinking water faucets throughout the property.  Men’s and women’s permanent bathrooms were completed in 2017.

Events at Shakori Hills have ranged from Girl Scout and Boy Scout camp-outs to weddings and annual music festivals. The grounds have hosted fundraisers for local schools, camping space for college students attending an energy summit at UNC Chapel Hill, and adventure races.

Shakori Hills hosts the bi-annual GrassRoots Festival, as well as annual events such as the Hoppin’ John Fiddlers’ Convention, Piedmont Earthskills Gathering, and The Big What.

NC Stars in the Round, Sylvan Esso, the Wild Goose Festival and Furry Friends Festival have also been held on the property.

SHCAC produced events are almost entirely run by volunteers. Volunteerism creates a unique opportunity for everyone to work together and to participate in hands-on activities, learn new skills and meet new people. This involvement and participation by many folks has made Shakori Hills a valuable resource for building community.

Shakori Hills has built strong relationships with other area nonprofits like the Haw River Assembly, Chatham County JAM, the Abundance Foundation and CORA Food Pantry. We provide large tents and performance infrastructure for these groups to hold annual fundraisers. Our community garden also donates hundreds of pounds of fresh, organic produce to CORA each year.

Mountain Aid, created by Mike O’Connell of Haw River Films, was hosted by Shakori Hills in June 2009. After releasing his documentary film Mountain Top Removal in 2007, Mike coordinated the concert event to help create a clean energy future for North Carolina and beyond. Mountain Aid helped generate awareness of mountain top removal, mobilize support against it, and raised money for the successful Pennies of Promise campaign to build a new school for the children of Marsh Fork Elementary located in Raleigh County, West Virginia. Until moving to the newly built school in 2011, the children attending Marsh Fork Elementary were threatened daily by a 2.8 billion gallon coal sludge impoundment in the hills above them.

The Arts Center continues to be a sought-after site for community gatherings, festivals, and private events.

The Festival

photo by Krysten Heberly

In April 2003 our community pulled together, against all wet and muddy odds, the first Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance. Though the inclement weather negatively affected attendance, it did create a fast bond between attendees, volunteers, and staff, as well as building a solid base for this wonderful event.

Photo by Amos Perrine

In 2004 we decided to add a fall festival, and with two GrassRoots Festivals each year, we continue to grow and have been given great support and acclaim from the diverse folks of central North Carolina.

At every moment the festival is taking place, there are many exciting and educational things to do, and we invite the whole family to participate.  There are two specific areas dedicated to the younger crowd: a Kids’ Area with games, crafts, and workshops and The Outpost, which is a space for teenagers to interact, be themselves and to learn in a fun way from multiple workshops and activities.  Interactive workshops offered for all ages include everything from how to play the fiddle, to movement classes, to seminars on current green issues affecting the world around us.  The festival also provides a great venue for local food and craft vendors to display and sell their wares.  We support our local nonprofit community by offering space to area groups to set up a booth or table and to share their mission with festival attendees.  We also partner with two local businesses,  The Pittsboro Center for Natural Medicine and the Joy of Movement Studios in the festival’s Healing Arts Area.

And, of course, there is the music…we have four stages: an intimate Cabaret Tent, a Dance Tent, and two large outdoor stages, The Meadow Stage and Carson’s Grove Stage, where artists of many genres, backgrounds, and cultures share their talents. Folks come to listen to their favorite band but nearly always leave with many new discoveries of previously unheard talents. Each fall and spring GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance hosts at least fifty performing groups of varying genres including: Old-Time, Zydeco, Bluegrass, Salsa, African, Latin, Cajun, Reggae, Americana and more.

Visit the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival to learn more!

Happening in the Garden 8/27/12

Hello garden folks!

Hope that all are well and enjoying the garden and the cool weather. I think fall has more or less arrived – I’d be surprised if it got super-hot again, at least not for very long. Unusual, for sure, but I’ll take it.

Some of the following topics pertain to planning activities and what to grow for fall. Feel free to comment or give feedback through email to the whole group. We can get a conversation going this way. Speaking of conversation, I think it would be cool to arrange a group meet-up/work day so we can all meet each other. Maybe we can even come up with a “permanent” best day to work together. My best availability is now Thursday afternoon through Monday (my class is Thursday morning) Let’s talk about the best day to get together.

We have two and a half beds open right now for fall planting, so folks should speak up concerning what they are interested in growing. I, for example, have an interest in spinach and I know that My would very much like some space devoted to traditional (curly) kale. What fall vegetables would you like to grow?


We have a new member, Tabitha. Welcome to the garden!

Summer crops are still plugging along out there and while some things are winding down, other crops are really beginning to flourish.

All the climbing beans are looking good and we’ve finally got them turned around and headed up! Thanks to all who put work into this. The corn is making tassles, so hopefully we’ll get some good corn in a few weeks. The sunflowers are blooming and standing up nice and tall! The sweet potatoes have really taken off and are shading the weeds very well (thanks also to Kearney and his mulching in the aisles). These plant look very healthy – I think we might get a pretty good haul on sweet potatoes this year. (BTW, if anyone is out there and notices leaves eaten in the sweet potatoes, this is a sign of a grounghog, which we have dealt with every year. Let me or My know and we can lay a trap for him.)

Tomatoes are still producing, but winding down and it looks like the second planting is getting some pretty heavy disease – a definite risk for a later plantings in a rainy year. The melons are finishing off – there are probably still a few more to get out there. The bush green bean were finally ready to go with the last gleaning harvest happening last Friday. The sweet peppers are doing the best they can considering being blown over by the storm last month. You’ll find the best ones under a protective cover of leaves. The hot pepper plants are finally beginning to yield, so don’t forget to get some. Leeks are showing signs of what looks like disease – perhaps due to so much rain. We should go ahead and start eating them even though they usually grow until late fall – I’m worried that we will lose them altogether if we wait. I don’t think that we should just pull them all out at once, but beginning by harvesting the worst-looking ones first would be a good idea. Finally, it looks like we lost all the butternut squash to the squash bugs and disease, and quickly. I was surprised to see it happened so fast when I got back from vacation. It happens sometimes, and there aren’t a lot of organic options when it does. Next year we will try to plant earlier and try not to put them close to where the squash was the previous year.

Things to do right now:

1) Clear out all the dead and diseased butternut squash plants, load it all in a wheelbarrow and carry it up the road and dump it in the woods, far from the garden.
2) Pull large weeds out of strawberries, sweet potatoes and along fence line that divides the two sections of the garden. (This is mainly about not letting any weeds go to seed in the garden, if possible)
3) The electric fence could really use some maintenance: replacing any missing or loose stand-outs and “gateway” wires would put it right pretty quickly (My, do you know offhand what supplies we have on the farm right now?)
5) Continue training up the climbing beans in both sections of the garden.
6) Continue tying up the second planting of tomatoes.
7) Plant fall crops as soon as we decide what we want 🙂

Thanks everyone and talk to you soon!

This Week in the Garden 8/9/12

Hi Folks,

Well, things are chugging along out it the garden – it will be time to plant fall crops before we know it! So, give some thought to what you may be interested in growing for fall. A few beds are already available for planting and more will come clear as the summer crops end. Anyway, that is the future, and right now there are a few crops that need our attention, so if anyone has time in the next week or so to go out and work on some of the tasks I’ll list below, that would be great. But first,


Watermelons are ready or nearly ready! I risked a test melon of the striped variety and it was ripe. Not the sweetest I’ve had, but definitely ripe. If someone wants to try a Blacktail (the dark green ones) they are probably a more flavorful variety. If the tendril at the base of the stem is dried up, there is a good chance it is ripe. If the test melon isn’t ripe yet, then we know we have to give them a few more days. The corn and the sunflowers have both stood back up after the storm like champs! Can’t wait to see those sunflowers. Some less fortunate news is that the string I got for the tomatoes and things seems to not be lasting as long as usual – some of the older tomato vines are falling because the string is snapping. Usually the string will last a full summer, but be too weathered to use the next year. So, whenever I’m there I try to get these vines back up off the ground. These plants don’t have that much time left, so radical action is not really necessary.

Things we can to do right now (in order of priority):

Finish the pole bean trellis: we need to tie the strings for the last bit of one of the pole bean trellises and train up the beans to the strings – probably using some tomato clips. One thing and another and this part got missed. The beans are healthy, they just need to be picked up off the ground if we want the quality of the beans to be good.
Weed the corn: Thanks to Kearney for doing lots of work in this area already, as well as getting more mulch and mulching the aisles around the sweet potatoes, beans and corn. We can mulch around the corn to help control the weeds over the next couple of weeks, but getting the current weeds out as soon as we can would be a good idea.
Cut back the basil: If we cut back the basil to remove all flowers, we will continue to get fresh leaves until the first frost.
Continue tying up the second tomato planting
Help the climbing green beans grab the string of their trellis: The wind wants to blow the strings a lot – if we can just get the beans to grab, no problem.
Move the fake owl to a new spot if you have time: We are trying the fake owl strategy on the rabbits, and they have been nibbling the climbing green beans (old cuke bed). Moving it around is supposed to be the strategy.

Well, that about wraps it up – don’t forget to harvest while you are there. Things have slowed down a bit, but there are still tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, hot peppers, basil, watermelon(!) and maybe a few cantelope(I’m not sure). Gil and I are heading out tomorrow for the beach and some family visiting for about a week, but I’ll have email if anyone needs anything or has any questions.

Talk to ya’ll soon!


This Week in the Garden 7/6/12

Hi folks,


Big changes in the garden in the last two weeks! We got all of the spring beds turned over into late-summer crops: Butternut squash, corn, pole beans and sweet potatoes. We also built the trellis for the second tomato planting and planted some sunflowers in the front bed of the early-summer section. We are nicely caught up on season-sensitive work, and can now spend our time on maintenance and prudent practices like mulching and weeding. Our biggest problem right now is the rabbits.  They love to eat bean plants. The edimame and pole beans are really suffering and may not survive. We are trying an organic rabbit repellent spray, but small mammals are sometimes the hardest pest to deal with. Any new possible solutions/suggestions are welcome.

Still available for harvest, but on the way out:

Green beans
Summer squash – plants are going down fast, there is talk of planting okra in this bed once we clear out the squash – how many okra eaters do we have?
Cucumbers – still a few to be had, mostly at the far end

Just beginning to come on strong:

Cherry tomatoes
Regular tomatoes – check closely for different colors when ripe, including one that is still green when ripe
Green peppers

Right around the corner:

Wide variety of hot peppers
Colored sweet peppers

Work we can do now:

Weed the strawberry bed
Mulch early summer beds and aisles with a thick layer of leaf mulch (where plants are overgrown into aisles, we will wait until crops are done before mulching – beans, squash, etc)
Tie up second tomato plants to new trellis
Continue maintenance of first tomato trellis

So, I will be at the garden Saturday morning to deliver food buckets to the pigs. I can plan to stay and work with folks for a couple-few hours if anyone is interested and able to come out. Please let me know if are planning on coming and we can coordinate our schedules.

Thanks everybody, talk to you soon!


This Week in the Garden 6-26-12

Hope everyone is well and enjoying the sweet weather today! We are having our normal garden work day tomorrow – there is plenty to do so come on out if you can. I will be there at 9:00. (BTW, if enough people need this work day to be a different day of the week, we can look at changing it – let us know)

One of the results of a small change in rotation and scheduling we made this year is that we had plenty of extra room for both spring planting and early summer planting. Another result is that we are pushed to get the late summer crops planted while already working hard to take care of and harvest the early summer vegetables. So our work load is pretty high right now. Special thanks to Kearny, My and all others who worked in the garden over the weekend while others of us were otherwise commited. All of the beets and cabbage have been harvested and are available in the cooler in the outdoor kitchen. Also, some beds for sweet potatoes and butternut squash have been worked up and made ready or nearly ready for planting. We’re getting there!

Things to do tomorrow or this week:

Harvest remains at the top of the list while the cukes, squash and beans last. Get ’em while they’re hot! We are also going to dig up the potatoes in the morning so plenty of help will be welcome.

Continued work on late summer beds and planting of beds that are ready. We decided to go with feathermeal for a nitrogen boost because it would be less labor intensive and allow us to get these jobs done faster. I will describe the strategies for this work in person if possible tomorrow.

Build the trellis for the second bed of tomatoes before the plants get too big. A task it would have been nice to have completed much earlier, but had to be put off and now we have no choice but to get it done as soon as possible. Myself, Kearny and My already know how to do this – perhaps we could strategize this job in the morning?

Continue weeding and mulching beds and aisles in the early summer section with the new load of leaves that we got last week. A good task if you find yourself working alone or unsure of what to do next. Thanks again, Kearny, for using your trailer and bringing us our second load.

Current harvest list:

Summer squash – plants will begin going down very soon
Cucumbers – there’s plenty right now for folks to make pickles if you want to
Potatoes – lets gently flip the melon vines back temporarily while we dig them up
Basil – I keep forgetting to mention it, but the plants are getting nice and bushy and there is plenty to be had
Cherry Tomatoes – Just started last week. “Sungold” variety. Very yellow/almost orange when ripe. The last two plants in the early tomato bed. Sweeee-eeet!