We’re excited to announce and welcome our four newest Penland Core Fellows—Alyssa Colón, Lisa Nguyen, Celia Shaheen, and Lily Wilkins. They will join returning fellows Sarina Angell, Molly Bernstein, Maria Fernanda Nuñez, Tony Santoyo, and Hannah Mitsu Shimabukuro. For two years, they will live communally, take classes, expand their practices, and help run the school. With so many strong applicants, the selection was very difficult this year. Meet the new core!
Alyssa Colón “I know that the setting, community, and the amount of time spent in one place matters so much for creating.”
Lily Wilkins “Working with new materials and tools is one of the greatest joys I have ever known and being able to communicate through materials has been a universal connector for me to varied people and places.”
Penland was excited to host—in mid-October—its third annual HBCU Tour, which brought nine students and three faculty members from North Carolina A&T University to campus for two days of tours, talks, mentorship, and hands-on activities.
The event was organized by Yolanda Sommer, who is Penland’s manager of diversity recruitment and partnerships. In the three years the program has been offered, the school has partnered with four different historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to create awareness of Penland’s craft workshops among the students and faculty of these institutions. The idea began with a conversation between Yolanda and artist Sharif Bey, who has taught at Penland and is now on the board of trustees. Sharif noted that the HBCUs offered campus tours to high school students, and it would be great if the craft schools could, in turn, offer some kind of orientation to HBCU students.
After a successful visit with students and faculty from Claflin University and South Carolina State in 2019, the 2020 event, with participation from Savannah State University and North Carolina A&T, was conducted virtually with prerecorded videos and live Zoom content, making it one of the few Penland programs that was not cancelled in 2020.
This year’s group arrived on Thursday evening and stayed through midday on Saturday. They were joined by three Black artist-mentors: metalsmith David Harper Clemons, glass artist Ché Rhodes, and printmaker Althea Murphy-Price. These three stayed with the group throughout and were able to have individual conversations with students about their career paths in both making and teaching.
The students were a lively and engaged group of art and design majors with strong areas of interest but limited experience in craft disciplines. They were treated to a deluxe tour of Penland’s studios led by work-study student Shae Bishop with lots of supplemental information from the three artist mentors and the instructors of the six Penland workshops that were in progress at the time.
The visit also included a session explaining Penland’s scholarship programs in detail, a presentation by studio operations manager Amanda N. Simons about the novel approach she took to financing her education, a talk by Dr. Tamara Brothers, deputy director of the North Carolina Arts Council, shared meals, and freeform discussions with the whole group.
The culmination of the visit was two hands-on activities, one in metals led by David Harper Clemons, and the other in flameworked glass led by Penland Core Fellow SaraBeth Post. It was the middle of fall leaf season, and the activities were both based on the forms of tree leaves. The result was several high-energy hours of sawing, hammering, and torch work before the group loaded into their van for the trip back to Greensboro.
Follow-up will include two full scholarships for 2022 summer workshops with travel and materials stipends that are specifically for students who have participated in one of the HBCU tours. The students are also encouraged to apply for all categories of Penland scholarship (including 25+ other full scholarships that specifically target people of color). Yolanda has also made herself available to the students for any assistance they might need with their applications. In 2021, five former HBCU participants attended Penland workshops with scholarships.
Penland hopes to have an ongoing relationship with the schools that have been part of this program, and to foster that relationship, Penland has also designated two 2022 scholarships (with stipends) for faculty members from the HBCUs. These scholarships are funded by a grant from the Maxwell Hanrahan Foundation.
Kyesha Jennings, content director for the North Carolina Arts Council, also joined in for part of the tour, observing, taking photographs and video, and talking to the students. She recently posted an excellent article with her take on the program.
Penland School is grateful to the Windgate Charitable Foundation and the Kenan Charitable Trust for their support of the HBCU tour. Yolanda is currently planning next year’s tour with Spelman College and Morehouse College.
What a day! On Tuesday, October 19th, the Penland community came out of the woodwork to show their love and commitment to helping people live creative lives. On Penland’s fifth-annual “Giving Day,” the goal was to reach 350 gifts of any size in 24 hours and to engage with our community near and far on social media, using the hashtag #WeMakePenland. We asked our Penland family to share their stories and to tell us what the school means to them.
The day was a whirlwind of heartfelt posts and grassroots giving. Around midday, we received some exciting and surprising news: an anonymous donor would make a gift of $20,000 if we met our goal or 350 donors by midnight. And we did, with your help. By the end of the day, we had blown our goal out of the water, generating a total of 478 individual gifts for Penland! All of these gifts added up to $51,286 was raised. With the challenge grant, we reached a grand total of $71,298 for Penland! We are so honored by each and every gift. Small gifts and those from new donors carried the day and helped us reach our goal! 38% of Giving Day donors gave under $25 and 25% of Giving Day donors were first-time donors to Penland.
These funds will support scholarships, community outreach, and Penland’s mission to help people live creative lives!
On Giving Day, you gave the gift of your stories! So many of you took the time to reflect on your experiences here, sharing them with us and with your personal networks. We heard from past and present students, teachers, staff members, board members, and community members. By early evening, our printers were running constantly, printing out more than 70 thoughtful posts and stories, which we hung up at the Northlight building for everyone on campus to view. By midnight, there were many more!
The outpouring of support shown by the Penland community reminds us that we are doing important work here. Here are a few of the wonderful posts from the day:
Many of you met your spouse at Penland! We love love love catching up with you, seeing how your love and your families have grown over the years, or hearing about the start of your journey together. Highlights from this year included two beloved staff members who took the occasion to make their pregnancy announcement and a former instructor who met her spouse in 1989 while teaching in the Penland Textiles Studio!
Many of you shared how being immersed in the Penland community has touched your lives and art practices. We heard from those who are on campus right now as students, staff, and resident artists, as well as those who have experienced the magic of Penland in years past. Folks on campus expressed themselves in a photo booth at The Pines during lunchtime!
Creating the Future
It is an honor that artists, teachers, and friends will lend their voices to advocate for our school, and we are truly touched by your messages. What we heard, again and again, is this: You support Penland because you believe others should have access to the transformative experiences you have enjoyed here. This year, there is no one who captured this sentiment better than our friend and neighbor, Joe Lee:
“One cannot ever truly answer “what if” questions about how one’s life would be different if events had played out differently. However, we can recognize events that significantly influenced our lives. For me, my experiences at Penland were life changing in the most literal sense. The school is one of only a handful of places where the traditions and frontiers of craft media are actively explored and expanded, and being immersed in an environment where one is surrounded by others with similar pursuits primes them to make unique breakthroughs in their creative practice.
My hope is for as many people to be able to access the same life changing experiences that I had, and continue to have. In these times where we are increasingly outsourcing much of our lives, making something with one’s hands for one’s self is increasingly rare; but the experience of doing so is like nothing else I have encountered. It is so affirming that I wish for everyone to be able to experience it, especially those who, like me, have felt or been told that these fields and these experiences are not for them.
With those inspiring words, we thank you humbly for being a part of Penland’s past, present, and future. Together, and with the support of each and every one of us, we are Penland, working to make immersive craft workshops more enriching and accessible. THANK YOU, FRIENDS!
This post starts with a slide show. If you are seeing it as in e-mail, please click here for best viewing.
A highlight of every year at Penland (except 2020, because…) is the core show: an exhibition of carefully selected work made during the year by our wonderful core fellows. The evening starts with a beautiful, quiet dinner made by their friends. This is followed by a reception and moment for honoring each of these hardworking artists. This year’s exhibition was in Gallery North, which is part of the Northlight complex.
The Penland Core Fellowship is a two-year work-study residency that has brought generations of hard-working, dedicated artists into the Penland family–taking workshops, covering important work assignments, and inspiring everyone around them. We are also delighted to say that many core fellows continue to have a long-term relationship with the school after their fellowship comes to an end. We are always delighted to welcome them back as instructors, staff members, and in other roles.
Thank you, Erica, Mia, Mitsu, Mo, Molly, SaraBeth, Sarina, Tony, and Scott (who left for grad school before this event) for everything you have brought to Penland. Because everything was canceled in 2020, we got to keep this group for an extra year, and it’s getting hard to imagine the place without them!
Shoe lasts are molds used by people who make or repair shoes. Amara Hark Weberis here teaching a six-week shoemaking workshop this fall, and these are just some of the lasts she brought with her. In her workshop, of course, students are making shoes that will last–for a long time.
(Apologies to all shoe people for the obvious puns.)
James Henkel first came to Penland in 1971 with a scholarship that, he says, made him “a photography student and a proud dishwasher.” Since then he has served as studio assistant, core student, resident artist, faculty, and neighbor. At Penland he met Debra Frasier, his wife of 37 years. In 1991 they bought a small cabin near the school where they began spending summers. And their daughter, Calla, now an artist working in Berlin, was a founding member of Penland Kid’s Camp. “That one act of generosity— a Penland scholarship in 1971—has nourished me artistically for fifty years,” Jim said.
“My work begins with finding and collecting objects. These curiosities are then used to generate pictures that touch on the relationship between our ideas about beauty, function, and the meaning of objects in our lives. With the choice of an object for a photograph, I am leaning into a sense of shared familiarity with the viewer, but changing the perspective by introducing the unexpected within the frame.”
Jim is professor emeritus at University of Minnesota and a long-time Penland instructor. He now lives between Asheville and his Penland house/studio.
Learn more about Jim and his work in the short video above.
As part of the 2021 Penland Benefit Auction, we will honor Clarence Morgan as this year’s Penland School of Craft Outstanding Artist Educator. Clarence’s fifty-year career as an artist has encompassed drawing, painting, printmaking, writing, and curatorial projects. His many works are rigorous explorations of line, color, pattern, and form that he describes as, “situated somewhere between figuration and abstraction.”
His work has appeared in over 200 one-person and group exhibitions nationally and internationally and can be found in the permanent collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art among others. He has received grants and fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Bush Foundation, Art Matters, Inc., the Minnesota State Arts Board, and a Southern Arts Federation/NEA Artist Fellowship.
Along with his extensive activity as an artist, he has been a teacher of art continuously since 1978, first at East Carolina University and then at the University of Minnesota where he chaired the art department for six years and is currently head of drawing and painting. He taught his first Penland workshop in 1989, and he has taught here a total of nine times, most recently in 2014. At Penland, he was invariably accompanied by his wife of 40 years, the artist Arlene Burke-Morgan (1950–2017), who seemed capable of making friends with everyone on campus.
“The best definition of a teacher” he said in a recent interview, “is not someone who puts information into an individual, but someone that has the capacity to draw the best out of someone. What is really good about them is already in them. A good teacher just brings that out. . . . If there’s a little spark, my job is to fan the spark, to turn it into a big flame, so they can get excited on their own.”
Please watch the video above to learn more about Clarence’s art work and teaching.