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Illuminating a Community

Jack Mackie posing with a handful of the week's glass orbs. At right is a close-up of the glass pieces layered inside one of the metal baskets that will adorn the installation.
Jack Mackie posing with a handful of the week’s glass orbs. At right is a close-up of the glass pieces layered inside one of the metal baskets that will adorn the Burnsville Gateway installation.

 

Jack Mackie does not identify as a glass artist, nor has he studied the art of blowing glass. But this January, he came to Penland for a week of winter residency in the hot glass studio with some big ideas. “I’m a public artist,” he explains. “The project is the medium, and I make the framework.”

The project that brought him to Penland is the Burnsville Gateway, a public art installation planned for the nearby town of Burnsville, NC as part of the North Carolina Arts Council’s SmART Initiative. The initiative aims to use art to build stronger communities and economies, and those goals have been at the forefront of Jack’s mind throughout the design phase. “There’s a deep tradition of craft here, of quilts, of weaving, of pottery, of baskets, and of glass,” he explains. “One of the things that I wanted to help illuminate through this project is the community of glass that is here, to give prominence to something so special about the area that is not always visible.”

 

group shot of the artists outside the studio
The Burnsville Gateway artists. From left: Kenny Pieper, Dave Wilson, Courtney Dodd, Rob Levin, Hayden Wilson, and Jack Mackie. Photo via Courtney Dodd.

 

To that end, Jack brought a team of skilled local glass artists with him to Penland: Courtney Dodd, Rob Levin, Kenny Pieper, Dave Wilson, and Hayden Wilson. Together, they worked to create the first glass prototypes for the Burnsville installation, filling the studio with between 800 and 1000 blown-glass pieces in the course of a week. “This artwork is being made by the people who live here,” Jack states. “I simply am providing—conceptually and literally—the frame that their glass artwork is going into.”

Jack’s vision for Burnsville is expansive and draws on the town’s artistic heritage, mountains, history, and designation as one of only a handful of “Dark Sky” communities in the country. At the center of his plans is the telescope, which he connects both to the town’s past (Burnsville’s founder, Otway Burns, was a naval hero who used a telescope in navigation) and its future (a large public telescope and observatory is being planned for the nearby Star Park). The central feature of Jack’s installation will be six giant “telescopes”—towering columns of illuminated metal and glass that stand at the entrances to the town, three on each side, viewable from the highway as visitors crest the hill.

 

rendering of the Burnsville Gateway installation
Sketch of the telescope columns and surrounding landscape architecture planned for one end of the Burnsville Gateway.

 

It was these telescopes that the team focused on during their week at Penland. Each one measures between twenty-four and thirty feet tall and features “baskets” of blown glass orbs held in by a sturdy wire mesh. At first, Jack envisioned each telescope as a different color, but a sunset one evening changed his mind. “I was driving, and I looked in my rearview mirror,” he tells me. “I saw the colors of the sunset and I thought, ‘That’s it!’” Now, the telescopes on the east entrance to town feature gradations of the yellows and pinks of sunrise, while the western telescopes boast the intense oranges and purples of early evening. From a distance, the reflective rainbow effect of all that glass is quite stunning. “It’s so much more than my color sketches,” Jack comments. “It’s light moving through color held in the medium of glass.”

Up close, the telescopes maintain their power to draw the viewer in. Rather than simply creating smooth, hollow globes, Jack’s team of glass artists created richly-textured shapes—some are ridged and round, while others are curved and spiraling or bulbous or decorated with diamond patterns or delicate bubbles beneath the surface. “I like that each one is different, that they’re tactile and engaging, that people can reach in and experience the glass,” Jack says. “In a society where more and more things are built uniformly and built by the billions, to have these handmade pieces as part of our civic public infrastructure was very attractive to me.”

 

glass artists at work
At left, Hayden Wilson, Rob Levin, and Kenny Pieper at work blowing forms. At right, Courtney Dodd finishing a piece before it goes into the annealer.

 

Over the next couple months, Jack and his team will be busy fabricating hundreds more glass orbs for the project, which will likely involve at least one more trip to Penland and possibly the participation of a few other local glass artists. “We couldn’t make this happen without the vision and ability of these artists and a place like Penland for people to come together to work,” Jack notes. “I want to give these artists ownership of the project and at the same time funnel money into the local community through their work.”

The Burnsville Gateway—complete with the six telescope columns, as well as artistic benches, walkways, and other streetscape elements—is set to be installed sometime in the second half of 2017. When it is finished, it will be a testament to the creativity, skill, and vitality of the Burnsville community and the artists who built it piece by piece. “That’s one of the things that public art can do,” Jack concludes. “It can make a place unique, draw out its special qualities, and illuminate them. In our case, it will literally illuminate the quality of the work and the lives that are here.”

 

For more information on the project, the process, and the artists behind it, we highly recommend watching these two videos by local videographer Chanse Simpson.

Part 1: Telescope Gateways into Burnsville, NC

Part 2: Telescope Gateways into Burnsville, NC

 

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Meet Penland’s 2016 Core Fellows!

Five new Core Fellows will be arriving at Penland in February, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome them. They will be joining second-year fellows Elmar Fujita, Daniel Garver, Morgan Hill, and Bryan Parnham in the core house next year—and all of you in the studios!

 

Eleanor Anderson

portrait of Eleanor Anderson and 5 clay vessels

Eleanor graduated in 2012 with a BA in Studio Art from Colorado College in Colorado Springs. She has been a concentration student at Penland and an educational assistant at Arrowmont. Eleanor is a ceramics artist with interests also in textiles and printmaking. eleanoranderson.com

 

Thomas Campbell

brooch by Thomas Campbell, portrait of Thomas

Thomas graduated in 2008 with a BA in History and Africana Studies from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. He has continued to pursue his interests in wood and metalworking at the University of Arkansas while working as a fabricator for his family’s steel business. Thomas will use his time at Penland to focus on making functional furniture and objects in metal and wood. thomascampbellcraft.com

 

Rachel Kedinger

Rachel Kedinger and her screwdriver

Rachel received her BFA in Jewelry and Metalsmithing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2012. She has worked at the Smith Shop in Detroit, MI for the last two-and-a-half years as a metalworker, designer, and instructor. Rachel has been a frequent Penland student and was, most recently, the studio assistant for Seth Gould’s fall concentration. At Penland she will continue to hone her skills as a blacksmith and metalsmith, while exploring the addition of wood and ceramics to her designs.

 

Kyle Kulchar

furniture by Kyle Kulchar, portrait of Kyle

Kyle studied at Kendall College of Art and Design before coming to Penland to assist Ashley Eriksmoen’s class this past summer. He was a student in Sylvie Rosenthal’s fall concentration. As a core student, he will continue to pursue his interest in woodworking while incorporating forged ironwork and fine metalworking. kylekulcharcraft.wordpress.com

 

Alexandra McClay

portrait of Alexandra and plexiglass sculpture

Alexandra is a book artist with a BFA from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. Alexandra hopes to use the core fellowship to build skills to expand her conceptual bookmaking as she works towards being a studio artist and teacher. She has been a work-study student and a studio assistant in the Penland book studio, and has worked as an assistant for Penland instructors Dan and Vicki Essig. cargocollective.com/alexmcclay

 

We’ll miss Jamie Karolich, Joshua Kovarik, Meghan Martin, Emily Rogstad, and Tyler Stoll once they finish up their time as core fellows this winter, but we take solace in knowing that they’ll always be part of the Penland family. Come back often, y’all!

 

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Core Show Slideshow

Left to right: Tyler Stoll, Meghan Martin, Joshua Kovarik, Elmar Fujita, Daniel Garver, Jamie Karolich, Bryan Parnham, Emily Rogstad, Morgan Hill
Left to right: Tyler Stoll, Meghan Martin, Joshua Kovarik, Elmar Fujita, Daniel Garver, Jamie Karolich, Bryan Parnham, Emily Rogstad, Morgan Hill

 

The annual October Core Show is a much-anticipated highlight of fall at Penland, and this year was no exception. Our nine core fellows came together to put on a stunning show of pieces from their workshops across the Penland studios. Titled Personal Effects, the show featured furniture, prints, photographs, weaving, ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, and much more. It was a great opportunity to see the cumulative talent of this group of young artists, and also to show our appreciation for these people who do so much at the very heart of the Penland community.

View lots more images in the Personal Effects slideshow.

 

coreshow2
Guests admiring work at the opening reception. The table in the front is by Elmar Fujita.

 

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One Weekend, Two Shows

Penland has not one but two groups of super-talented artists living and creating on campus: our resident artists and our core fellows. And next weekend, they will put on not one but two gorgeous shows to display their recent creations. Mark your calendar down for the evening of October 9, and mark down the afternoon of October 10 as well. Both openings will be well worth attending.

 

Core show poster

 

Personal Effects: Core Show 2015
Opening Reception October 9, 8:00-11:00pm, Northlight Hall

Personal Effects brings together pieces by Penland’s nine talented core fellows: Jamie Karolich, Joshua Kovarik, Meghan Martin, Emily Rogstad, Tyler Stoll, Elmar Fujita, Daniel Garver, Morgan Hill, and Bryan Parnham. The core fellows design and curate the show, and it’s a rare opportunity for them to display the sum of all the thinking, learning, and creating they do in their individual classes and studio practices.

If you can’t make the opening (or you just want a second look), the core show will also be open to the public from 12:00-6:00pm on October 10 and 11 and from 4:00-6:00pm on October 12 and 13.

 

promotional image for the upcoming resident artist show

 

The Barns: 2015
Opening Reception October 10, 4:30-6:30pm, Gallery North

The Barns: 2015 will be the first opportunity to see work from Penland’s current group of resident artists all together. Our newest residents Dean Allison, Maggie Finlayson, Seth Gould, and Tom Jaszczak will display their work alongside that of Annie Evelyn, Andrew Hayes, Mercedes Jelinek, and Jaydan Moore, who joined the program a year ago. The show will reflect the varied interests and talents of our residents, with works in cast glass, clay, metal, and photography alongside furniture, printmaking, and mixed media sculpture.

The Barns: 2015 will be on view this fall in Penland’s Gallery North from October 6 through November 15. Students and guests on campus are encouraged to stop by during their visits.

 

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Penland’s Core Fellowship (Applications due Oct 15)

Core fellows got their name because they are at the very core of the Penland community. They are fully engaged with life at the schoolthey take classes, work in their own studios, live together on campus, and keep the school running alongside Penland’s staff. It’s a pretty special and unique opportunity for emerging artists, and most core fellows find that their two years here are transformative in ways they didn’t even anticipate.

Here’s how some past core fellows have described the experience in their own words:

Amanda Thatch

 

“I have learned so much about so many different materials and so many different approaches to art and living in community. Because I make things, I get to have experiences that I would never be able to have otherwise. As a core student, I’ve been able to take fourteen Penland classes in two years. That’s a pretty incredible gift.”  Amanda Thatch

 

 

Daniel Beck

 

“We work so closely together and influence each other so much that the program is like an idea factory. It’s definitely a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We work hard, but we get a lot for it. I find that the work makes me feel more integrated into the whole school.”  Daniel Beck

 

 

 

Courtney Dodd

 

“I learned so much from being exposed to different teachers and different ways of doing things. I also learned about many things other than craft or art: I learned about landscaping and cooking, for instance, and, more than anything else, about communicating with other people. I think I’ve grown more in the past two years than in any other time of my life.”  Courtney Dodd

 

 

Jack Mauch

 

“My time as a core student has been seminal in every regard. I have grown immensely in my understanding of material and process, and in the sophistication of my artistic vision. I have lived, worked, and learned with people who have had a profound impact on me, and whose influence I will carry forever. I have had the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and the most cups of coffee.”  Jack Mauch

 

 

Rachel Mauser

 

“Being a core fellow at Penland is an incredible blend of being an artist, a staff member, a student, and living in a very close community. Everything is intense: so much more than I think it normally would be. Living with the other core fellows and learning from themas artists, as colleagues, as peoplehas been amazing.”  Rachel Mauser

 

 

 

If the Core Fellowship Program piques your interest, then mark down October 15, 2015 on your calendar. That’s when applications for next year’s core fellowships are due. For more information, visit the Core Fellowship page.

 

 

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Stuart Kestenbaum: Tinker Poet

Stuart Kestenbaum spent two weeks at Penland in July as this year’s Andrew Glasgow Writing Resident. Stuart is the author of four books of poetry and a book of essays on craft and creativity. His work has been published in a number of magazines including Tikkun and The Sun and has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. He sent us this account from his time at Penland. Scroll to the bottom to see a video of Stuart reading a couple of poems.

 

Stuart Kestenbaum at Penland
Stuart Kestenbaum reading a poem in the metals studio.

 

During my last week of the job I had held for 27 years, I received a call from Penland’s program director Leslie Noell asking me to be the Andrew Glasgow Visiting Writer at Penland for a two-week summer session. Sometimes before picking up a ringing phone I reflect for a moment that it could be either a wonderful opportunity or really bad news. Most times the call is far more mundane than that– a reminder of a dental appointment or a robo-call from a nonexistent bank. The call from Penland, though, was of the rare wonderful opportunity variety, particularly since the job I was leaving was as director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, a program in Maine so similar in concept to Penland that we think of ourselves as sister schools. Penland inspired the founding of Haystack in 1950, and Bill Brown, who was assistant director at Haystack, became director of Penland in 1962. We’ve been sharing faculty and educational strategies for a long time.

 

At Penland I would be able to experience the powerful creative energy of a community of makers—much like what I’d lived with at Haystack—but without any of the responsibility. Someone else would be thinking about plumbing, food, kilns, and fundraising. And, while I always loved the group energy of each session at Haystack, there was rarely time for my own work; these two weeks at Penland would give me time to focus on my writing.

 

A number of the workshop leaders—Bob Ebendorf, Jason Pollen, and Patricia Wheeler—had all taught at Haystack, so I had connections with the studios from the very start of the session. At Haystack I would introduce evening program by reading other people’s poems, so Bob invited me into his workshop to read poems to his class in the mornings. He said that I was like a tinker, traveling to the studio with poetry. I responded by saying that I would be more like a tinker if people gave me words that I could turn into a poem—repairing them or giving them new life in a sense. I would be a tinker of words. This began a series of daily poems with words from Bob’s class and later words from Kip O’Krongly’s clay class too.

 

It was liberating for me to use words that weren’t of my own choosing and exciting for the people in the studios to see their own words transformed. Each morning I’d return with a poem from the day before—some a little crazier than others—but the writing had allowed me make discoveries. And isn’t that what we want from our making? To employ what skills we have to travel along an unknown path into a new place. Using other people’s words provided me some distance from my writing self and allowed me to go inside more deeply, or at least differently. When the clay group left me a list of sixteen words (marsupial, mountain, basket, cleft, immense, bacon, pattern, noodle, anxiety, rigor mortis, stoicism, applesauce, stressed, passion, silhouette, and bedfellows) here’s what I wrote.

 

Hermit’s Dream
Living on the mountaintop, I missed
coffee and bacon at first—who doesn’t?
and later began to dream of simple things like
applesauce and noodles, since I was living
on air. Passion takes many forms,
my master had always stressed.
Look for patterns he said.
Being and non-being are strange
bedfellows. One day anxiety left me, drifting
off and settling in a rock cleft far below.
When the light was right, I could watch
its silhouette moving wildly.
I learned the names of my fears
and put them in a basket. Each day I would
climb the ledges, remembering who I
had been, feeling like a marsupial carrying
all those personalities in my pouch.
Then there was nothing. But it’s not what we
fear. No rigor mortis. I was alive and
dancing in this immense emptiness that
is everything. Stoics were laughing. Birds
were singing. First morning.

 

It was a dynamic partnership with the studios that I would look forward to each day. I’d receive my list of words in the late afternoon and work on the poems at night, ready for delivery to the workshops in the morning. I had my materials and I had a deadline—two key components of any creative process—and people eager to listen to poetry. What more could a writer want?

–Stuart Kestenbaum, September 2015

 

 

Here’s an excerpt from Stuart’s reading at Penland.

 

 

 

 

Stuart’s only complaint about his time at Penland was that, for some reason, nobody was playing frisbee or volleyball that session. He left us this poetic visual comment.

 

 

 

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Penland, Winter, You

woman working with a CNC Dremel tool
Winter resident Marilyn Martinez in the Penland metals studio with her kit-built CNC Dremel tool, which she used to make dies for the hydraulic press.

 

For six weeks last winter, Penland opened its studios for our first ever Winter Residency Program. We welcomed potters and glass blowers, weavers and wood workers, painters and photographers and writers and more. Some came from nearby, while others traveled internationally. But all came with the goal of spending some focused time in our studios to make, experiment, and connect with others who were doing the same.

This year, we are pleased to be hosting the second annual Winter Residency from January 3 to February 13. We hope that, like last year, the program will provide artists with a unique opportunity to take advantage of Penland’s well-equipped studios and creative community to bring new ideas and projects to life. If you sound like one of those artists, then please visit our winter residency page for more information.

Applications for 2016 Winter Residency spots are due October 1, 2014.

 

man and a large wooden bowl
Wyatt Sievers brought this enormous bowl with him to finish turning in the wood studio during his winter residency at Penland.

 

“Winter at Penland provided state-of-the-art facilities and the serenity of its mountain setting to focus on my work in a manner I have not been afforded in many years. It allowed me to refresh my creative spirit and create an entirely new body of work. Since the winter months are particularly quiet, an intimate bond can be found with fellow artists who share the time. It is a unique time for intense focus in outstanding studios with a select number of highly-skilled makers.”

Critz Campbell
Former Penland Winter Resident

Apply to be a 2016 winter resident.