Jean McLaughlin, director of Penland School of Crafts, will retire in December 2017. Jean began working at Penland in May 1998 and has presided over an extraordinary period of growth, development, and stabilization at the school.
During these two decades, Penland has built new studios, expanded programs and scholarships, conducted two successful fundraising campaigns, greatly solidified its base of support, and grown its endowment from $2.1 million to $17 million.
One of Jean’s first projects was to commission architect Abie Harris and landscape architect Sam Reynolds to create a campus master plan, which has guided the most visible changes at Penland. Major infrastructure upgrades include new studios for iron, wood, printmaking, letterpress, drawing and painting, and book arts, with construction underway for new photography and papermaking studios. The clay, metals, glass, and textiles studios were improved or expanded. There were major renovations to historic Horner Hall and The Pines, and many other old buildings were repaired or renovated. Several new housing structures were built, and attention was paid to accessibility and safety campus-wide.
Under Jean’s leadership, the school was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Penland School of Crafts Historic District, and the Jane Kessler Memorial Archives was established to preserve Penland’s history. Dozens of new scholarships were endowed, the workshop program was expanded, a writing residency was established, and new programs were created to serve the local community. All of this was made possible through a significant expansion of the staff and the support of a devoted board of trustees. Jean’s accomplishments were recently honored nationally when she received a 2016 Distinguished Educator’s Award from the James Renwick Alliance.
“I came to Penland with big aspirations,” says Jean. “I knew how powerfully the school had affected the lives of artists, and I knew how important its history had been to the craft movement in our country. My desire was to make change happen that would evolve and improve Penland without losing its distinctive character. Looking back, I see so many moments that fill me with pride—accomplishments that were made possible through the wise counsel and enthusiastic support of many people. I am grateful to have been part of making these important and needed improvements happen.”
Speaking for the board of trustees, chair Alida Fish said, “The quality of Jean McLaughlin’s leadership has been extraordinary—an inspiration to us all. For the past two decades, she has provided a vision keenly focused on growth and innovation. Thanks to her unwavering commitment, Penland is now well positioned for continuing success.”
Later in the year, we’ll have celebrations and going-away parties and post an interview with Jean, but for now we’ll just say, thank you for everything.
A more comprehensive list of what has been accomplished at Penland in the last 19 years can be found here.