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An Auction for Our Friend Katie

A group of Penland staff members have set up an ONLINE ART AUCTION to raise money for the family of our late friend and colleague, Katie Chasteen. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn about Katie’s life as an artist, administrator, mother, and important member of this community. 


This spring, Penland staff member Katie Chasteen died suddenly and unexpectedly from heart failure. Katie was a key member of Penland’s development team and a generous colleague and friend. She was also a lover of cats, an inquisitive and creative photographer, a wife to Zac, and a new mother to 8-month-old Mars. 

Among other things, Katie had primary responsibility for managing Penland’s donor relations database, which may sound dry but is a critical part of a good fundraising operation. It’s one of those things that’s nearly invisible when done well but can cause all sorts of  trouble if it’s not done well. Katie, who often wore a T-shirt that said “Nerdy by Nature,” did it quite well.

“Katie was a joy to work with,” said Joan Glynn, Penland’s director of development and communications. “I loved the way her brain worked; she was a puzzle solver. She not only wanted to know how to do something, she wanted to know why. Perhaps that was the artist in her—believing that the process was just as important as the outcome. She was always looking for ways to make things better, more efficient, and easier.” 

“Katie’s spirit was filled with contagious kindness and generosity,” said Rachel Smith, assistant to the director. “She possessed the rare talent of being a steadying force in stressful situations. Her calm demeanor eased those who were quick to worry. She took pride in her work and raised the bar for those who worked with her.”

Before she came to work at Penland, Katie worked for ten years at Piedmont Craftsmen Guild and Gallery in Winston-Salem, where she began as a gallery associate and eventually became operations director. She was also a visual artist. She received a BFA in photography from the Lesley University College of Art & Design (Boston) in 2008, and she continued to make work even as she developed a career in arts administration. Her photographs (show below) are carefully constructed still-lifes, sometimes including parts of her body and almost always incorporating natural materials, which she said were a constant source of inspiration. 



Katie’s husband, Zac, is also an artist. He and Katie were part of a close-knit group of art school friends who have stayed involved in each other’s lives during the decade since they were in school together. After Katie and Zac moved to Mitchell County for Katie’s job, he worked part time at the Toe River Arts Council in Spruce Pine and the Homeplace Brewery in Burnsville. And together they brought Mars Chasteen Trainor into the world. They shared parenting around their job schedules, which made Mars a frequent presence at Penland’s Horner Hall where he was quickly adopted by everyone as office baby. 

“It was a gift to watch Katie become a mother,” said Rachel Smith. “Mars, who Katie lovingly referred to as ‘little man,’ quickly became the light of her life. She was not an overly sentimental person, but she gushed over Mars.” 

“Katie was only with us for a short time, but so much happened in her life during that period,” said Joan Glynn. “She formed deep relationships with co-workers and friends she had met through Penland; we lived with her through a high-risk pregnancy and an early delivery. We were all so happy when Mars came into the world happy and healthy – and just a little small.”

“Katie was a great Mom, and I loved that she was so generous in sharing Mars,” she continued. “I liked to take him into my office for an afternoon game of peek-a-boo. One day he started laughing so hard when we were playing—an unfettered baby belly laugh. I turned around to see Katie peeking in the door with a huge smile on her face. She didn’t want to come in, she just wanted to enjoy her son and a friend having a moment together.” 

It has been a challenge for the development staff to push through a busy Penland summer without the help of this dedicated and gifted member of the team. Several people have taken on extra responsibility and two former employees have been able to spend part of their summer helping out. We are working now to fill Katie’s position, but there will be no filling her place in our hearts. 

Zac, Mars, and Katie


Zac and Mars have moved back to Winston-Salem. Needless to say, it’s been a tough time for them—financially as well as emotionally. Wanting to offer as much support as possible, a group of Penland staff have worked together to create an online art auction to benefit Katie’s little family. The auction includes 32 pieces donated by staff, community members, trustees, and friends, and will also accept direct donations. It will run through July 28. Bidding requires a simple sign-up procedure. We encourage you to participate in this auction—or make a donation—in the spirit of generosity and community that is so central to Penland.

Access the auction here.

Here is a small sample of the work in the auction. Thanks for your participation!

Courtney Dodd & Nick Fruin
Ellie Richards
Jenny Wolfe
Shane Fero
Seth Gould
Morgan Hill