Penland School of Crafts is pleased to announce that artist, educator, and administrator Maria “Mia” Hall will be its next director, succeeding Jean McLaughlin, who has led the school since 1998. Mia is currently interim chair of the Department of Art and Design at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where she has been a faculty member for ten years.
A native of Sweden, Mia holds an MFA in furniture design and woodworking from San Diego State University in California, where she worked closely with renowned woodworker and teacher Wendy Maruyama. In 2007 she was hired by UALR to develop a furniture design program and to teach furniture design and contemporary craft courses. During her time in Arkansas, she worked on the development of the department’s curriculum, served on six hiring committees, helped design and establish a visiting artist workshop series, and organized public events that increased awareness of the university’s craft program. In 2016 she was asked to take the position of department chair, leading fifteen full-time faculty, four staff, and twelve part-time instructors.
She has also been involved with the funding, design, and construction of the new, 65,000-square-foot Windgate Center of Art + Design at the university. She worked on the feasibility study and the design development phase, and she served on the committees that chose the architect and the contractor. As chair, she is the department’s project manager and will be overseeing the task of moving ten disciplines into the new facility before it opens in January, 2018. In addition to her many activities at the university, she has served on several foundation boards.
Mia’s personal work, primarily furniture and mixed-media sculpture, has been shown in numerous exhibitions at venues such as the Arkansas Art Center, 108 Contemporary (OK), University of the Arts (Philadelphia), and Blue Spiral 1 (NC), and is held in many private and public collections.
Mia describes Penland School of Crafts as “one of the leading institutions for the study of craft-based art making,” going on to say that, “in a society that puts increasing value and importance on science, technology, engineering, and math, promoting the hand skills, decision making, ingenuity, inventiveness, and analysis that are required to practice skilled making is not only necessary, but essential.”
Alida Fish, chair of the Penland board of trustees and a member of the search committee, says that the committee saw in Mia the kind of skills and experience it was looking for in a new director. “We were particularly struck,” she says, “by her genuine interest in people and her commitment to Penland. This, combined with her forward-looking and innovative thinking, is sure to result in a winning outcome for the school.”
In accepting the position, Mia said, “I am honored and humbled to be chosen as the next director of Penland School of Crafts. Jean McLaughlin has for years been a formidable role model for me, and I find the Penland staff truly inspiring. My family and I look forward with great enthusiasm and excitement to being part of this phenomenal institution’s future.”
Mia is married to metalsmith and educator David Clemons, a long-term artist-in-residence at UALR and a regular instructor at Penland. They have a ten-year-old daughter, Fiona. Mia Hall will become Penland director on January 1.