Equity, Inclusion, Diversity

Equity, Inclusion, Diversity

Penland School of Craft welcomes everyone and believes that equity, inclusion, diversity, and antiracism are essential to our mission. We want the Penland experience to benefit from varied ideas, world views, and personal experiences. We stand against all forms of discrimination and are committed to creating an environment grounded in our equity values. 


Equity Efforts

The staff and board of Penland School of Craft are committed to engaging in activities that will increase equity, inclusion, and diversity in our programs: as part of creating an exciting and inspiring educational environment, as a contribution to the vibrance and relevance of the craft field, and as a response to the historic exclusion of makers of color from institutions like ours. We believe that by creating a community grounded in the principles of equity and antiracism, Penland can play a role in addressing the marginalization of people of color in our field. We also stand in solidarity with other historically marginalized groups including women, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities.  

We know this work will never be done. We know that what we are doing right now is not enough. We also know that we must commit to making change within our sphere of influence and in our own lifetimes. Our commitment is to factor equity and diversity into all of our decision making and to welcome anyone who wants to help us in this effort. Our goal is to do what we can to dismantle structures of oppression and remove barriers to participation. 


We are committed to inclusion.

Instructors and Visiting Artists

Recruiting instructors and visiting artists of color has been a conscious effort since at least 1995, and we have had measurable success, increasing our percentage of instructors who are people of color from around 12 percent in the mid-1990s to more than 30 percent in recent years. 

Some years this percentage is higher than others, but our goal is to build relationships rather than simply track numbers. Our program staff is engaged in constant research to learn about excellent teaching artists who may be less visible in the field. In hiring instructors we are also trying to balance a number of other variables such as gender, age, nationality, and new or returning. We encourage instructors who identify as LGBTQ+ and/or nonbinary. We also find instructors through an open call for teaching proposals received throughout the year and recommendations made by students, instructors, trustees, staff, and colleagues. We actively solicit recommendations for instructors who are people of color and workshop topics that will expand the cultural reach of our program. 

Student Population

In 2021, about 15% of our students were people of color. This number has increased by several percent over the past five years, and we hope it will continue to go up. 


Penland’s current, thirty-three-member board of trustees includes eight people of color and fourteen women. The board works continuously to identify and invite people of color and women to serve as trustees.


We are committed to allocating resources in support of these efforts. 


Penland has an extensive scholarship program; each year about half of students attend Penland with financial assistance. The 2022 scholarship program included 33 full scholarships reserved for people of color and 10 reserved for people of color, people with disabilities, or veterans. Eight full scholarships are reserved for women.

We have been working to identify and remove barriers to the scholarship application process. In 2022, we reduced the application fee to $5, we eliminated the need for letters of reference, and we reduced the number of full scholarships that require images of work. It’s worth noting that we had a record number of scholarship applications for summer 2022.

We have recently written a new mission statement for our scholarship program that identifies, as one of two primary goals for the program, creating opportunities for people who have been underrepresented at Penland and in the craft world. Our scholarship program is a key component of our equity work. 

Summer Residency Fellowship

Penland has received three years of funding from the John and Robyn Horn Foundation to create up to six invitational fellowships annually for artists of color that include a two-week summer residency in a Penland studio. The Windgate Foundation provided additional funds to create  a $10,000 award for each fellow. In 2022, these fellowships went to six members of the Black Women of Print consortium who worked in the print and papermaking studios during fifth session. 

Crafting the Future

Crafting the Future has done exemplary equity work in the craft field, most notably in creating craft school scholarships for people of color. This organization was founded at Penland in 2018 by a group of artists associated with the school. Penland School is Crafting the Future’s fiscal partner and is providing assistance to the group as they work to form their own 501(c)3 nonprofit. In 2022, seven students attended Penland with Crafting the Future scholarships with half of the funding coming from Penland. 

In 2022, Penland also partnered with Crafting the Future and former Penland resident artist Cristina Córdova to create two residencies for Puerto Rican ceramic artists who stayed in Penland housing while engaging in an internship with Cristina followed by a Penland workshop. The cost of this residency, which included a stipend, was split between Penland and Crafting the Future.


We are building partnerships with organizations that support makers of color. 

Since 2019 we have hosted the annual HBCU Craft School Tour–a Penland visit for students and faculty from historically black colleges and universities. The goal of this program is to create ongoing relationships with these institutions. Tour participants are given guidance in applying for Penland scholarships and several full scholarships with stipend are offered each year exclusively to HBCU Tour participants, including scholarships for faculty participants. In 2021 five tour participants attended Penland with scholarships; in 2022 Penland offered six special scholarships for our partner HBCU institutions.  

Through the generous support of Cathy Adelman and Alan Adelman, Penland has an ongoing relationship with Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), which, according to their website, “gives underserved kids an equal chance to succeed through a comprehensive array of after-school academic, arts, athletics, and wellness programs.” Since 2002, Cathy and Alan have funded 33 scholarships–covering tuition, room and board, studio fees, and travel–for HOLA students and staff.


We are committed to using our residency programs to create a more diverse craft community.

We have restructured our residency selection processes so that all residency selections are made by national panels of artist peers, curators, educators, and other arts professionals. These panels always include people of color and women, and promoting a diverse group of residents is one of the stated goals of selection. Committee members rotate frequently to bring new perspectives to the application process.

Core Fellowship–The current group of eight Penland Core Fellows and the group that preceded it each included five people of color. The current group has six women and one person who identifies as nonbinary.

Winter Residency–For our 2022 winter residency program we created 40 fellowships that removed the residency studio fee, with a stated preference for “first-time applicants who reinforce our goals of rewarding artistic merit and achieving a diverse group of residents.” We also created 12 invitational fellowships that covered studio fee, housing, and included a $1,000 stipend. These were awarded to innovative artists in the field who are people of color or faculty members at HBCUs. In 2022, 36 of 116 winter residents were people of color, 94 were women, 4 identified as nonbinary. The fellowships are supported by grants from the John and Robyn Horn Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Resident Artist Program–Our current resident artists are all white, and, historically, most program participants have been white. We are presented with a number of challenges in recruiting artists of color to this program, not the least of which is our location in Western North Carolina. We are currently reassessing the marketing for the program and the structure of the program itself to see what can be done to make this opportunity more visible and a viable option for a more diverse group of applicants. We also hope that increased participation by people of color in the core fellowship and the winter residency will have a long-term effect on the applicant pool for the resident artist program. 

Summer Residency Fellowship–See information above. 


We are committed to integrating racial equity practices throughout our organization.

Staff position

We have created a full-time position for diversity, recruitment, and partnerships. This person works on various aspects of student recruitment, and devotes a significant portion of their time to diversity efforts and partnerships that further these efforts. 


Recruiting and retaining people of color as staff members has been a challenge with Penland’s location in a mostly white, rural community in Western North Carolina being a significant contributing factor. Currently there are only eight people of color in a staff of sixty-four (these numbers include Core Fellows). We are always looking for ways to present our job opportunities to a wider, more diverse group of potential applicants, and we have challenged ourselves to be aware of the tendency to favor candidates who are similar to people who already work here.  


We are committed to ongoing learning and analysis in the area of racial equity.

In 2018 a significant number of staff participated in an eight-hour racial-equity training conducted by Marisol Jiménez of Tepayac Consulting. In 2021 the entire staff and a group of trustees participated in a twelve-hour racial-equity training conducted by Marisol Jiménez along with Tamiko Ambrose Murray of Ambrose Consulting. This allowed the group to begin to develop shared language and analysis for understanding structural racism and racial equity. Following the workshop a smaller group of staff met to explore the ways in which Penland participates in structural racism and some of the ways it impacts the culture, policies, practices, and relationships with people of color at every level of the organization. 

Marisol and Tamiko also recently completed a racial-equity listening and learning project and produced a report that was based on a survey and 13 hour-long interviews with staff members, board members, students who are people of color, core fellows, and others who have a relationship with the school. The goal was to create an understanding of racial-equity issues at Penland and to identify “areas where an equity issue has been named and the organization has an opportunity to make a choice to adapt towards deeper equity work.” Tamiko and Marisol are doing ongoing consultation with Penland, and new staff will engage with their racial equity program through video. 

In 2017 the entire staff participated in Safe Space training, and this training is being repeated in 2022. 

In 2022 four Penland staff participated in a training session, presented by Art Equity, on “antiracist approaches to radical recruitment in the arts.” 


We are committed to making our campus more accessible for people with differing physical abilities.

Penland’s campus, built over many decades on the side of a hill, presents numerous accessibility challenges. The school has worked continuously since the 1990s to address these problems, and we are slowly making progress. Currently all but three of our sixteen studios are accessible. The three that are not have had access improved through the use of stair lifts. The school has fully-accessible housing units. There is accessible parking associated with the dining hall, housing, and all studios, and golf carts are frequently provided to students who can benefit from their use. Workshop applicants are encouraged to contact the school to discuss their particular needs, and our staff works hard to make accommodations. 

Nevertheless, some of our accessibility strategies are less than ideal. A recently completed master plan for the core campus identified universal access as a key goal. While the realization of this plan will require years of fundraising and construction, we look forward to a future with a much more accessible campus. 

In May 2022 we have created two special work-study scholarships for students who use wheelchairs. As their work assignment, they created personal assessments of our facilities, ground, and written materials.


Strategic Plan

Penland’s current strategic plan, completed in February 2022, identifies access, inclusion, and sustainability as the top priorities for the next five years. You can read the plan here