Last week, we celebrated Independence Day the best way we know how: with all of you! We kicked off the evening with the traditional Handmade Parade, followed by ice cream for all, picnicking on the lawn, and an impressive fireworks display at dark. A more extensive album of photographs is available to view here; below, we share a few of our favorite shots that encapsulate what we love most about this annual celebration.
It’s all the people here, from students and staff to neighbors and visitors from afar, who make this event feel so full of life. Thank you to everyone who joined us for bringing your energy and helping us celebrate!
Bring your red, white, and blue—and your orange, green, brown, pink, and purple, too! This parade is in full color.
A highlight this year was the entry focused on pollution and single-use plastics, including these remarkable plastic bag outfits and a giant sea turtle float. Thank you for reminding us that celebration and action go hand in hand.
This wonderful beast was born from some cardboard boxes, a couple sticks, bright paint, and a lot of creative vision. It’s always a treat to see the ideas that are brought to life for the parade.
The session 3 weaving class stuck close together to walk this giant choreographed loom all the way up Conley Ridge Road.
Here’s (part of) our facilities and ground crew, aka the folks who orchestrate the entire fireworks display. They each go through a multi-day certification training, as well as spend days before the event designing the show, getting everything set up, and readying the 20,000 bottle rockets you see here!
At the end of the day, it’s not just about the parade or the incredible fireworks. It’s about you all being here together, with us, celebrating the creativity and energy that make this place so special. Bring your ideas, your passions, your friends, and join us on the lawn next year!
Thanks to Mercedes Jelinek for taking and sharing the final two images in this post.
NOTE: This post contains a nice slideshow, which probably won’t look so good in the e-mail version. So if you are looking at this on e-mail, please click here to see the slideshow.
Every March, Penland hosts a community open house that brings about 700 visitors and 100 volunteers to the campus for an afternoon of fun in the Penland studios. Here’s a glimpse of this year’s event.
Thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers, to Mitchell Transport for running shuttles, to The Pizza Shop for the tasty lunch, and to Dr. Taylor Townsend DDS, Burleson Plumbing, and Ledger Ace Hardware who generously donated in support of this event.
Every summer, Penland celebrates the 4th of July much like the rest of the country—with picnics, with a parade, with fireworks. But when you get a whole community of creative people together, there are bound to be some extra quirks and flourishes that make the event memorable and uniquely “Penland.” This year was no different, thanks to the enthusiasm and flair of our students, instructors, staff, residents, and community. Here’s a look at some highlights from the most spirited day of the summer:
7:00 PM – Friends and families gathered on blankets and lawn chairs all along the road to chat, enjoy a picnic dinner or a drink, and wait for the festivities.
7:34 PM – Here comes the parade! A banner printed with the Declaration of Independence headed up this year’s procession, along with a Statue of Liberty costume, a pretty rad bowtie, and quotations from Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, Theodore Roosevelt, and Patrick Henry.
7:36 PM – Matthew Hebert’s wood students came marching by with the kinetic plywood sculptures they designed and made this session. There were snipping scissors, a frog with a moving tongue, a stove with flames that swirled as it rolled, an Uncle Sam statue with gesticulating arms, and more.
7:40 PM – This epic float with rainbows and a giant hamster came rolling down the road. Parade entries are a reflection of the passions and priorities of Penland’s community, and pride and “Keep families together” were both recurring themes this year.
7:47 PM – The impressive La Llorona float, a joint effort between Martin Mazorra’s letterpress workshop and Jay Ryan’s screenprinting students, made its way past the knoll. This crew was also responsible for many of the gorgeous posters that were part of this year’s parade.
7:54 PM – Penland’s facilities and grounds crew (aka fireworks show magicians) brought up the rear of the parade, along with 20,000 bottle rockets decked out in their rainbow finery.
8:08 PM – Two big carts of vanilla and chocolate ice cream rolled out onto the Pines Portico, and a team of heroic core fellows started speed scooping.
8:10 PM – The youngest members of the Penland community showed us all how to truly enjoy a cone.
8:15 PM – Awards were given out to parade participants in a variety of silly and less-silly categories including “Over the Rainbow,” “Most Industrious,” “Dirtiest Clothes,” “Most Patriotic,” and “Most Sparkliest Artist.” Each award was handmade by students and instructors in Penland’s workshops.
8:37 PM – More picnicking and relaxing went down on the lawn while the sun set over the mountains. A bonfire burned out on the knoll, ready to ignite the bottle rockets that accompany the end of the fireworks show.
9:28 PM – The first colorful explosions lit up the sky. Oohs and aahs quickly followed.
9:42 PM – The entire Penland campus burst into screams and applause as the fireworks reached their finale and 20,000 bottle rockets shot towards the sky. Dave and his crew really know how to put on a show, and dozens of folks commented that this year’s was the best one yet.
A huge thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate creativity and community with us! Let’s do it again next year.
“If I am to have a message to the world out there, let it be: ’There are some of us, a good number of us, who strive to be better versions of ourselves, even from behind these walls. Don’t forget about us.” —Robert Reid, Inside Out artist
This spring, through a new collaboration between Penland and the Avery/Mitchell Correctional Institution, three Penland artists led a Prison Arts Pilot Program with a group of local inmates. Iron studio coordinator Daniel Beck, core fellow Sarah Rose Lejeune, and former resident artist Rachel Meginnes worked with fifteen incarcerated men over a period of nine weeks. “Our original intention was to solely focus on drawing exercises, as many of the men were most interested in learning skills and art terms that others are able to learn in school,” they explained. “Over the weeks, though, our drawing exercises turned into communal teaching opportunities in which all participants taught each other and we all learned to grow together as artists.”
The program culminated last month in an exhibition of artwork titled Inside Out: Sketches from Inside. The show, held at Fox & the Fig coffee shop in downtown Spruce Pine, was a collection of drawings from twelve artists who participated in the program. Their pieces included work in pencil, pen, pastels, and watercolor, with subjects varying from landscapes to detailed portraits of people and animals to works combining words and images. The common thread that connected them all was an astonishing level of talent and a real dedication to the practice and craft of drawing. As Daniel, Sarah Rose, and Rachel noted in their introduction for the show, “More than anything, the men at AMCI would like you to know that they have talent, heart, and soul and do not want to be forgotten.”
Although none of the artists could be at the opening, many had written statements about their practice that were on view as part of the show. Just like the drawings, these statements communicated a deep commitment and focus. “When our voices can’t reach the outside we still express our language of art as a reminder of our humanity, love, and our deepest feelings and expression,” wrote Nick Tucci-Caselli. “Art has completely changed my life, and with it came hope, purpose, goals, dreams, and a coping mechanism in times of stress, depression, and loneliness.” Another artist, Frederick Brason, wrote, “I hope to learn as much as I can from this class and all the incredibly talented inmates around me before I go home in three years and have a good foundation to build upon for the future. Through my art I hope to inspire others to explore their own creativity in whatever capacity it manifests.”
Alongside the statements from the artists there was a guestbook that viewers were encouraged to sign to share their thoughts and feedback with the artists. Reading through those pages revealed the power of the show and the impact of each artist’s talent. “I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to see your work and read your words—I see your hearts and souls throughout your creative expressions,” commented one guest. “Thank you for sharing this part of yourselves with us. We need your gifts more than ever and welcome them among us,” wrote another.
Inside Out: Sketches from the Inside will be on view at Fox & the Fig in Spruce Pine, NC through May 19. Visitors are encouraged to come and appreciate this special exhibition and to leave a message for the artists. Donations are also being collected to help support the continuation of the art program at Avery/Mitchell Correctional Institution; in the words of the teaching artists, the classes have been “successful beyond our greatest expectations.”
Thanks to teaching artists Daniel T. Beck, Sarah Rose Lejeune, and Rachel Meginnes; Penland’s Community Collaborations Manager Stacey Lane; Aaron Buchanan at Fox & the Fig; and Angela Lamm, Dawn McMahan, and Jason Penland at AMCI for organizing this program and show. And a big thanks to the artists who participated: Bobby Autry, David Baugess, Frederick Brason, Tyvon Gabriel, Eric Hughes, David Jones, Michael Lewis, Robert Reid, Juan Santiago, Michael Sheets, Antonio Trejo, and Nicolas Tucci-Caselli.
This past Sunday, Penland students, instructors, staff, and friends celebrated Easter and the arrival of spring the best way we know how: with craft, community, costumes, and a bit of candy thrown in for good measure. The annual Easter Bonnet Parade included some impressively creative entries, including a panoramic “Bunny Retirement Home” hat that took first place in the 12-and-under division, a hat adorned with marshmallow peeps and layers of pink flowers, and a rather fashionable leather cap with a giant paper bow. The handmade eggs for the egg hunt were similarly impressive: a fried egg made of white and yellow leather, carved clay eggs with dinosaurs and roses, eggs decorated with hundreds and hundreds of sewn glass seed beads, and turned wooden eggs made on the lathe, to name a few. Take a look at the slideshow above for more views of the fun!
Every year, the Penland Community Open House falls on a Saturday afternoon in March, one week before our spring workshops begin. With the help of over a hundred expert volunteers, we run activities in each studio that highlight the different mediums we teach at Penland, from ceramics and letterpress to hot glass and wood. All afternoon, visitors come through to watch and learn and—especially—to get their hands dirty and make something themselves. It’s the perfect way to wake up our studios after the sleepy weeks of February and to celebrate the craft and community that have been at Penland’s heart since the very beginning.
This year, we welcomed roughly 700 visitors to the Community Open House—young, old, experienced, and complete beginners alike. Some activities were returning favorites, like learning to throw a clay pot on the wheel, forging a steel hook with hammer and anvil, casting a small object in pewter, decorating a sheet of paste paper, and blowing a glass cup. But there’s always something new, too, even for those who come back to enjoy the open house year after year.
In the photo activity, for example, visitors got to decorate their very own cyanotype tote bags to take home. The process started in a “dim room” where UV light had been blocked from the windows with a red film. There, visitors laid out patterns on their coated bags from cut paper stencils—geometric shapes, their initials, mountainscapes, and more. Once complete, the patterns were held in place by sheets of clear plastic and exposed in the sun for twelve minutes. The coated areas that saw sunlight turned a deep, rich blue, while the areas under the black paper remained white.
Also new this year was a raku activity on the kiln pad of the clay studio. Visitors got to choose a bisqued pot, glaze it, and then watch as our expert volunteers loaded it into the kiln, heated it up to a glowing orange, and then quickly transferred it to a smoking barrel of wood chips and sawdust. The whole process took under an hour, and a certain aura of magic seemed to cling to the pots as they emerged with shiny coats of bright red and jewel green. Not a bad souvenir to take home with you!
We couldn’t make all this fun happen without the dedication and hard work of our wonderful volunteers. We also owe a big thank you to Dr. Taylor Townsend, DDS of Spruce Pine, who generously supports the Community Open House each year. And finally, thanks to all our visitors for joining us—we love sharing Penland with you!
See more of this year’s activities in the slideshow below.
Most people know Penland for our workshops and residency programs. To many, our name calls to mind late nights in the studio and views out over the knoll. But the kids who grow up in the surrounding counties get to know a different side of Penland through our Community Collaborations Program, which seeks to provide our local community, and especially school children, with meaningful opportunities for creative exploration.
One recent Community Collaborations project was a joint effort with the Mayland Early College High School and the Rural Education Partnership to create a pair of murals that will be displayed on the Mayland Community College campus in Mitchell County. Penland’s Community Collaborations manager Stacey Lane recruited local mural artist Rhea Ormond to lead a small team of interested students to bring the murals to life.
For six weeks, Rhea met with Lily Adams, Amber Vance, and Katie McMahan, three Mayland Early College students, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. The group set to work on two ambitious murals, both roughly 4 x 8 feet. One, which will be displayed in a big hallway where students congregate between classes, was inspired by local vegetation and the school’s timber wolf mascot. It shows a large wolf on a wooded path lined with trees, trillium, ladyslipper, and other Blue Ridge plants, all impressively rendered by these budding artists. “The wolf’s name is Barkley!” Lily announced excitedly to anyone who came to view their work.
The other mural, which will adorn the walls of the cafeteria, puts lunchtime front and center. A giant sandwich floats on a bright blue background, surrounded by a slew of toppings from cucumbers and tomato to bacon and mustard. The students joked about different names for their piece—”Space Sub” and “Sandwich in the Sky” were two favorite options.
“I really wanted the kids to come up with their own ideas for the murals,” Rhea explained. “They took on this ambitious project and ran with it.” All three students are hoping to pursue careers in the arts when they finish school, which made the mural project particularly exciting for them.
When I came to take photographs, their pride in the results was written all over their faces.