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A Truly Collaborative Piece

Students and others involved with the project pose with the completed wolf mural
Mayland Early College High School principal Stacie Burleson, artist Rhea Ormond, Penland Community Collaborations manager Stacey Lane, and students Lily Adams, Amber Vance, and Katie McMahan pose with the finished wolf mural.

 

Most people know Penland for our workshops and residency programs. To many, our name calls to mind late nights in the studio and views out over the knoll. But the kids who grow up in the surrounding counties get to know a different side of Penland through our Community Collaborations Program, which seeks to provide our local community, and especially school children, with meaningful opportunities for creative exploration.

One recent Community Collaborations project was a joint effort with the Mayland Early College High School and the Rural Education Partnership to create a pair of murals that will be displayed on the Mayland Community College campus in Mitchell County. Penland’s Community Collaborations manager Stacey Lane recruited local mural artist Rhea Ormond to lead a small team of interested students to bring the murals to life.

For six weeks, Rhea met with Lily Adams, Amber Vance, and Katie McMahan, three Mayland Early College students, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. The group set to work on two ambitious murals, both roughly 4 x 8 feet. One, which will be displayed in a big hallway where students congregate between classes, was inspired by local vegetation and the school’s timber wolf mascot. It shows a large wolf on a wooded path lined with trees, trillium, ladyslipper, and other Blue Ridge plants, all impressively rendered by these budding artists. “The wolf’s name is Barkley!” Lily announced excitedly to anyone who came to view their work.

 

 

The other mural, which will adorn the walls of the cafeteria, puts lunchtime front and center. A giant sandwich floats on a bright blue background, surrounded by a slew of toppings from cucumbers and tomato to bacon and mustard. The students joked about different names for their piece—”Space Sub” and “Sandwich in the Sky” were two favorite options.

“I really wanted the kids to come up with their own ideas for the murals,” Rhea explained. “They took on this ambitious project and ran with it.” All three students are hoping to pursue careers in the arts when they finish school, which made the mural project particularly exciting for them.

When I came to take photographs, their pride in the results was written all over their faces.

— Sarah Parkinson

 

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Photo(s) of the Week: Community Open House 2017

learning to cast with pewter

Hands-on craft activities, a legion of wonderful volunteers, hundreds of eager visitors, and some beautiful spring weather all came together this past Saturday to make the 2017 Penland Community Open House a rousing success. Visitors tried their hands at perennial favorites like glassblowing and wheel throwing, as well as new additions like origami, sewn tote bags, and a letterpress scavenger hunt. We look forward to the open house every year as a way to welcome spring and bring together community members of all ages and skill levels. Thanks to all who participated for making it such a fun day!

In the photograph above, metals studio coordinator Ian Henderson guides two young visitors through the process of casting a spoon out of pewter. It took mere minutes to transform the hot, pourable metal into a spoon to take home and enjoy.

 

two people get their portrait taken

Meanwhile, in the photo activity, Penland resident artist Mercedes Jelinek was busy taking hundreds of portraits of open house attendees. Everyone who sat for a portrait was able to take home their own black-and-white print.

 

learning to make a glass bead

Visitors to the flameworking studio got to work up close with torches and glass. Here, one attendee learns how to melt the colored glass and shape it around a metal rod to make a unique bead.

To see dozens more photos from the day’s activities, take a look at our complete album of Community Open House 2017 pictures. We hope they inspire you to join us for Community Day 2018!

 

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Photo(s) of the Week: 4th of July Parade!

The following post is a photo slideshow. If you’re looking at it in email, we recommend viewing it on the blog.

Penland students, staff, instructors, friends, and neighbors make the parade a real community event.
The lithography workshop made custom-printed hats for everyone.
It's a party in the U.S.A. on this red truck.
Can you find Tom Spleth in this photo?
Some truly first-rate hats
It's all sunshine and rainbows on this float, which won "Best in Show" at the awards ceremony!
This dragon made a fine (and crafty) addition to the front of the parade.
Even the golf carts got a festive boost of red, white, and blue!
Photographers get loud
That's a glass flag!
Barbara Cooper's class made quite an impressive moving sculpture.
Upper metals takes silverware to a whole new scale.
Is a parade really complete without fire juggling?
King Mark Hewitt on his wheel throne
Pool floaties and a water slide!
Our favorite way to celebrate? Ice cream for all!
Some seriously fierce face painting took place after the parade.
The knoll shining red with the help of some fireworks and a few thousand bottle rockets
ka-boom!

 

Penland’s annual 4th of July celebration actually fell on July 4 this year, and the costumes, floats, and fireworks were definitely up to the occasion. Thanks to all the students, instructors, staff, and everyone in the community who came out, dressed up, and made for such a memorable night. Happy 4th, Penlanders!

 

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From iPhone to I, Photographer

Mercedes Jelinek teaching at Mitchell High
Mercedes Jelinek explains to her Art 1 students how to edit images on their phones.

 

“Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative.”

—Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1957

 

Although darkroom photography is no longer part of many high school art programs, photography itself is more prevalent than ever. These days, most high school students walk around with camera phones in their back pockets, and snapping photos is almost second nature. As a visiting artist at Mitchell High School in Spruce Pine, NC, Mercedes Jelinek’s goal was to show students that these photos could be more than just a way to record and share—they could be a form of creative expression.

“Photos can mean a lot more than just representing likeness,” Mercedes tells her students at the beginning of class on a Wednesday morning. The students are seated in bright yellow chairs around a projector in Jennifer Robinson’s Art 1 class. On the screen, Mercedes is advancing through portraits they took of each other yesterday, each original photograph shown next to an edited version. “What makes this one so good?” she asks. Her students respond with their thoughts about composition, lighting, framing. Despite being taken with simple cellphone cameras, the photos do look good—really good. There’s personality coming through in each one.

 

black and white portraits of three Mitchell High School students
Three of the many portraits Mitchell High students took of each other during their photo classes with Mercedes. From left, images by Tanner, Kassie, and Billy.

 

As a resident artist here at Penland, Mercedes has years of professional photography experience—both film and digital—to share with her students. Her three-day visit to Mitchell High was part of the Professional Craft Study for High School Students, one of Penland’s Community Collaborations programs to bring creative experiences to students in the surrounding counties. During her lessons, Mercedes started with basics such as camera controls and simple editing, but her students were soon talking about how to interact with subjects to make them comfortable and relaxed and how to set up a shot to lead the viewer’s eye.

 

Mercedes photographs a student
During her class, Mercedes set up a photo booth to take portraits of all her students.

 

On her final day of teaching, Mercedes used the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson as an inspiration for her students. Cartier-Bresson is known for The Decisive Moment, a book of black-and-white street photography. “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression,” he wrote.

In asking her students to take photographs of “decisive moments” as their final assignment, Mercedes enabled them to bring together the technical concepts they had practiced such as lighting and exposure time with their own view of the world. “Go set up the shot absolutely perfectly, then have somebody walk through it,” she instructed them. “You decide the perfect moment to take your shot.”

There was nothing uncommon about the laughter that followed, or the knots of two or three teens talking in groups, or the students wandering on the grassy stretch in front of the school. What was uncommon was the particular care and attention taken to document it all.

—Sarah Parkinson

 

black and white photographs by Mitchell High students
A few of the “decisive moment” photographs taken during Mercedes’s class. Clockwise from top left, images by Rylie, Madison, and Devlin.

 

See more photographs from Mitchell High School Art 1 students on the MHS Art Instagram.

All of Penland’s Community Collaborations programs are funded by grants and donations. The Professional Craft Study for High School Students is able to bring artists like Mercedes to Mitchell High School thanks to the generous support of the Samuel L. Phillips Family Foundation Education Partnership Endowment.