Penland Resident Artist Program
Image by Penland resident artist Mercedes Jelinek
Penland's resident artists are full-time artists who spend three years living and working in Penland's school community. The program is designed for artists who are at some pivotal moment in their career—the residency is an opportunity for them to test ideas and make choices that will have a lasting effect on their work and their lives. Resident artists may use the time to develop their studio practice, to work out the practicalities of making a living, to push technical and conceptual boundaries, or to explore entirely new directions in their work.
The primary expectation of resident artists is that they engage intently with their work. They are also expected to have an open door policy, welcoming students, instructors, and the public to their studios, both informally and formally through the resident open house that is part of each Penland session. They are welcome to visit workshops, attend slide lectures, and to participate in all aspects of the life of the school.
Resident artists work independently and set their own goals for their residencies. They do this, however, in an atmosphere of support, encouragement, and creative energy. Their studios and living spaces are clustered so that interaction with other resident artists is inevitable. Living at Penland also gives them access to the many working craftspeople who live nearby as well as the national and international Penland community.
Education at Penland is built around intense, total-immersion workshops. The resident artist program enriches the workshop program in a variety of ways: students are inspired by the work and the work spaces of the resident artists, who serve as models for the kind of commitment required for sustained artistic production. And, with seven or eight participants at any given time, the program provides diverse examples of ways to make a life in craft.
Resident artists are selected through a competitive process that draws applications from all over the country. Selection is based on the quality of the work and on clearly articulated goals. At the end of their three years, some Penland resident artists move onto other residencies or decide to pursue teaching careers, but the great majority of them set up independent studios and continue to pursue the work they started at Penland.
History of the Resident Artist Program
At the first board meeting Bill Brown attended as the second director of Penland School of Crafts, in June 1963, he talked about his ideas for using the facility when classes were not in session. Chief among these was his plan for a residency program, an opportunity he saw missing in craft. Ed Brinkman and Skip Johnson came in 1963, and by the fall of 1965, there were four artists living at Penland School and using the studios in the off-season to produce their work.
Then in the spring of 1965, a 220-acre property owned by the nearby Appalachian School was offered for sale. Brown called for help and, with support coming from all directions, Penland School was able to buy the land. In 1968, with a grant from the James G. Hanes Memorial Fund, the Appalachian School barns were renovated to make studios and apartments for the resident artists. The new facility allowed Penland to give residents year-round studio and housing for a modest fee. Brown compared the Penland residency to a medical internship and also made it clear that he hoped that bringing artists to live and work at the school for several years would inspire some of them to settle nearby, creating an artistic community near the school.
By the late 1970s the Penland School was surrounded by craftspeople, many of whom had first come as resident artists. The presence of the resident artists and the complex and lively relationship between the school and the craft community around it have become distinguishing features of Penland’s program.
Current Penland Resident Artists
Penland Resident Artists, 1963-2013
The program welcomes self-motivated, focused individuals working in traditional and nontraditional studio crafts. The primary basis for selection is the strength and quality of the applicants' work. Residents must also have a clear objective for the time of their residency and be willing to live and work as part of a close-knit community.
The experience of living at Penland is shaped in many ways by its rural location, its mountainous terrain, and by the age and nature of the facility. A successful residency depends in part on expectations consistent with what Penland has to offer. For this reason, most resident artists have previously spent time at Penland as students, studio assistants, studio coordinators, visiting artists, or instructors. Applicants with no prior connection to the school are strongly encouraged to visit or take a class before applying for the program.
Penland encourages interaction between residents and its other programs. This may include demonstrations in classes, class visits to resident studios, and personal contact with students. Residents are asked to host an open house during each Penland session and to maintain an open door policy at their studios. They participate in the annual benefit auction and are encouraged to participate in resident group exhibitions and other events as they arise.
The current base rental rate for Penland resident artists is $175 per month for unfurnished housing and studio space. With considerable seasonal variation, utilities costs per resident for studio and housing currently average $150-$200 per month.
Please note: resident artist studios are simply raw studio spaces; residents are expected to provide all tools and equipment relevant to their studio practices. Penland will work with individual residents to upfit a studio at the start of the residency to provide basic support (i.e. ventilation, equipment installation, electrical needs, etc).
Candidates are recommended to the school's director by a selection committee which includes the program director, a current resident, a past resident, and one or more qualified Penland affiliated artist(s). The committee is looking for strong work by individuals who will enhance the program, especially those who are open to new ideas and are involved in some kind of transition in their artistic career.
All media taught at Penland are considered appropriate for the resident program. With the exception of one glass studio, resident studios are not media specific. However, the particular qualities of the available studios and the balance of media represented by the artists already in the program usually limits each year's openings to a certain range of media.
In 2017 there will be four openings. The application deadline is January 15, 2017. We will be selecting residents in all media except glass (our dedicated glass studio is currently occupied). 2017 residencies will begin September 15, 2017.
For application requirements and to apply online, click the following link:
Slideroom provides support for the technical aspects of the application process. Please refer to their website:
If you have questions related to the Resident Artist Program, you can direct them to:
Betsy DeWitt, Programs Coordinator
Leslie Noell, Director of Programs
Diversity & Inclusion at Penland