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Photo(s) of the Week: Packet Mania!

Early this week, Penland teamed up with our friends at Toe River Arts and an all-star crew of volunteers to get a second round of art packets out to students and families in our community. Much like our first round of packets, the goal was to provide inspiration and materials for creative activities that can be done at home by a range of age groups. All told, the Packet Mania team made a total of 590 art packets, the majority of which have been delivered to the Mitchell County Schools Central Warehouse to go out with their local food pickups on May 22.

Penland’s community collaborations manager Stacey Lane described these packets as “much more ambitious” than the first round. They contained a range of drawing supplies and papers, as well as tape, glue, scissors, origami paper, book-making materials, embroidery floss and fabric, needles, and even a small cardboard loom! Each packet also included a fun coloring sheet drawn by Mitchell High student Evelyn Kline and detailed instructions and suggestions for art activities and prompts using the materials. (Want to try them for yourself? Take a look here!)

Of course, a project like this is a big team effort, and we sure couldn’t have done it without the many people who contributed their time, energy, and talents. A big thank you goes out to:

  • Lisa Rose, Meg Peterson, and Stacey Lane, who coordinated the project through Penland’s community collaborations program
  • Mitchell County art teachers Melisa Cadell, Olivia Ellis, Leslie Dickerson, and Marisa Westall, who helped plan and provide content
  • Subs with SuitCASEs teaching artists Taylor Styles, Alena Applerose, and Sherry Lovett, who created lessons for the packets
  • Toe River Arts outreach coordinator Melanie Finlayson, who helped plan and coordinate this project and provided stickers and envelopes for the packets
  • Toe River Arts staff Debra Carpenter, JoAnn Townsend, and Tracy Maisch, who helped assemble packet materials
  • Kristie Autrey of Mitchell County Schools, who acted as liaison for the project
  • Cathy Adelman, Annie Evelyn, Kathie Sigler, and Sam Reynolds, who volunteered to prepare each packet’s pamphlet book materials
  • Penland core fellows Erica Schuetz, Mitsu Shimabukuro, and Scott Vander Veen, who cut burlap for the embroidery project
  • Mitchell High student Evelyn Kline, who created a special coloring sheet to include in each packet
  • Local student Lillian Kline, who helped with the shadow drawing project
  • The wonderful volunteers who helped with packet assembly, including Erica Schuetz, Michael Kline, Evelyn Kline, and Alena Applerose
  • And the generous donors who contributed funds to help make this project a reality!

We feel really lucky to be part of such a warm and generous community, and we can’t wait to see what creative ideas spring from these effort! We hope to share some of them with you in the coming weeks.

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A Quiet Influence

Donna Jean Dreyer at Penland
Donna Jean Dreyer at Penland in 1995. (Photo by Ann Hawthorne)

In early March, the Penland community lost a person who quietly made a deep impact on the school. Donna Jean Dreyer, who died at age 88, worked at Penland from 1986 through 1995 in publications, marketing, and fundraising. She kept the wider community informed through Penland’s newsletter, The Penland Line; she worked with designer Alicia Keshishian to define a basic format and tone for Penland’s workshop catalogs that persist to this day; she helped create Penland’s development office; and she was a trusted advisor to staff throughout the organization.

Donna Jean’s most significant contribution to the school, however, came several years after she retired, when the board asked her to step in as interim director in 1997. Earlier in her life, she had been the personnel director for the American Friends Service Committee, and, following that, she accepted a series of interim director positions in the Committee’s regional offices. This experience, combined with her strong Penland connection, made her uniquely qualified to guide the school through a moment of uncertainty and turmoil.

She gathered the staff together and clearly articulated some basic principles that would guide the next year. She carefully divided decisions and tasks between the ones she needed to deal with and the ones best left for the permanent director who would follow her. It was not a time for grand visions of the future. It was a time when wounds were healed, structural problems were addressed, and stability was restored.

After she turned the director’s office over to Jean McLaughlin, the staff commissioned resident artist Hoss Haley to make a beautiful concrete bench in her honor. It sits just above the volleyball court and includes a plaque that says, “She used her mind and her heart to nurture the work of our hands.” She lived the rest of her life in nearby Yancey County and maintained friendships with many in the school community. Various staff members continued to turn to her for advice and institutional history.

In 1996, after Donna Jean’s first Penland retirement, Dana Moore, who was program director for many years, wrote a tribute for The Penland Line. She distilled much of what was special about Donna Jean, and it seems appropriate to post part of that tribute here.

In trying to say something about Donna Jean, splashy anecdotes and knee slappers don’t come to mind. What I can tell about is this:

A person with uncommon wisdom who has an easy relationship with truth that the rest of us don’t always have.

A disarming honesty motivated by a deep compassion; if she has something difficult to say, she sticks with you until long after the shock has worn off.

An ability to distill and refine a complex situation into a well-posed problem.

A person who brings the same fairness and humanity to small choices that she brings to big issues.

A person who holds the center during times of flux and transition.

Donna Jean is simply the best thinker I know, with a way of taking a poetic route to the heart of a matter.

Though Penland shapes us all, some of us also shape Penland. In Donna Jean, Penland has been shaped by a force of goodwill that has warmed our future, and we thank her.

 

Donna Jean with Tim Veness and Alicia Keshishian at The Pines in 2016. They worked closely together at Penland in the early 1990s. (Photo by Robin Dreyer)

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A Beautiful Gift to Our Community

metalsmiths cat bates and mary lynn in the Penland metals studio
Instructor Cat Bates with student Mary Lynn in the Penland metals studio. Cat is one of the 116 artists who were scheduled to teach Penland workshops this summer.

We are thrilled to announce that Penland has been included in a remarkable gift made to five of the nation’s leading craft schools to provide honorariums to the teaching artists whose workshops were cancelled in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Totaling nearly $1 million, the gift has been made by an anonymous donor to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (TN), Haystack Mountain School of Crafts (ME), Peters Valley School of Craft (NJ), Pilchuck Glass School (WA), and Penland. Over 550 artists, across the country and internationally, will benefit from this support in recognition of the time they have spent preparing and planning their workshops and their ongoing commitment to craft education. The schools are not retaining any part of the gift; it will all go to our instructors. In Penland’s case, the honorariums will include spring and summer instructors, movement instructors, and Kids Camp instructors.

Since 2012 these five schools have worked together as a consortium to promote craft education on a national level. In recent months we have continued to support each other in new ways: thinking together about how to respond to the pandemic and learning from each other as we move through difficult times. This ongoing collaboration created an opportunity to advocate for the teaching artists who are central to our mission, and we are profoundly grateful for this unprecedented support to our community. This gift is truly an act of transformational philanthropy.