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July 4th Celebrations

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:

Picnic-ing in front of the Dye Shed

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.

the head of the parade marches up Conley Ridge Rd

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.

plywood sculptures on parade

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.

parade float with rainbows and a giant rat

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.

La Llorona float approaches with the mountain in the background

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.

The fireworks crew brings up with rear in a pickup truck full of bottle rockets

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.

core fellows serve up ice cream from big cardboard tubs

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.

Violet gets a bit messy eating chocolate ice cream

8:10 PM – The youngest members of the Penland community showed us all how to truly enjoy a cone.

the parade award for "Most Sparkliest Artist"

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.

sunset over the knoll while waiting for fireworks

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.

fireworks exploding over the knoll

9:28 PM – The first colorful explosions lit up the sky. Oohs and aahs quickly followed.

two views of Penland's fireworks finale

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.

See even more photos over on our Facebook album of the 2018 parade.

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Inside Out: Sketches from Inside

“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

Guests enjoy the artwork at the opening reception for “Inside Out.”

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.”

A viewer admiring some of the work, including portraits of a German shepherd and a parrot
Admiring the details on a portrait of a German shepherd

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.

Angela Lamm of AMCI explains the impact these art classes had on the inmates she works with. She told one story about an inmate who had put in a request for a transfer but then cancelled it when he learned about the classes because he finally felt like his voice was being heard.

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.

 

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Handmade Bonnets, Handmade Eggs

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!

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Community Open House 2018

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.

 

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A Truly Collaborative Piece

Students and others involved with the project pose with the completed wolf mural
Mayland Early College High School principal Stacie Burleson, artist Rhea Ormond, Penland Community Collaborations manager Stacey Lane, and students Lily Adams, Amber Vance, and Katie McMahan pose with the finished wolf mural.

 

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.

— Sarah Parkinson

 

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Photo(s) of the Week: Community Open House 2017

learning to cast with pewter

Hands-on craft activities, a legion of wonderful volunteers, hundreds of eager visitors, and some beautiful spring weather all came together this past Saturday to make the 2017 Penland Community Open House a rousing success. Visitors tried their hands at perennial favorites like glassblowing and wheel throwing, as well as new additions like origami, sewn tote bags, and a letterpress scavenger hunt. We look forward to the open house every year as a way to welcome spring and bring together community members of all ages and skill levels. Thanks to all who participated for making it such a fun day!

In the photograph above, metals studio coordinator Ian Henderson guides two young visitors through the process of casting a spoon out of pewter. It took mere minutes to transform the hot, pourable metal into a spoon to take home and enjoy.

 

two people get their portrait taken

Meanwhile, in the photo activity, Penland resident artist Mercedes Jelinek was busy taking hundreds of portraits of open house attendees. Everyone who sat for a portrait was able to take home their own black-and-white print.

 

learning to make a glass bead

Visitors to the flameworking studio got to work up close with torches and glass. Here, one attendee learns how to melt the colored glass and shape it around a metal rod to make a unique bead.

To see dozens more photos from the day’s activities, take a look at our complete album of Community Open House 2017 pictures. We hope they inspire you to join us for Community Day 2018!

 

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From iPhone to I, Photographer

Mercedes Jelinek teaching at Mitchell High
Mercedes Jelinek explains to her Art 1 students how to edit images on their phones.

 

“Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative.”

—Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1957

 

Although darkroom photography is no longer part of many high school art programs, photography itself is more prevalent than ever. These days, most high school students walk around with camera phones in their back pockets, and snapping photos is almost second nature. As a visiting artist at Mitchell High School in Spruce Pine, NC, Mercedes Jelinek’s goal was to show students that these photos could be more than just a way to record and share—they could be a form of creative expression.

“Photos can mean a lot more than just representing likeness,” Mercedes tells her students at the beginning of class on a Wednesday morning. The students are seated in bright yellow chairs around a projector in Jennifer Robinson’s Art 1 class. On the screen, Mercedes is advancing through portraits they took of each other yesterday, each original photograph shown next to an edited version. “What makes this one so good?” she asks. Her students respond with their thoughts about composition, lighting, framing. Despite being taken with simple cellphone cameras, the photos do look good—really good. There’s personality coming through in each one.

 

black and white portraits of three Mitchell High School students
Three of the many portraits Mitchell High students took of each other during their photo classes with Mercedes. From left, images by Tanner, Kassie, and Billy.

 

As a resident artist here at Penland, Mercedes has years of professional photography experience—both film and digital—to share with her students. Her three-day visit to Mitchell High was part of the Professional Craft Study for High School Students, one of Penland’s Community Collaborations programs to bring creative experiences to students in the surrounding counties. During her lessons, Mercedes started with basics such as camera controls and simple editing, but her students were soon talking about how to interact with subjects to make them comfortable and relaxed and how to set up a shot to lead the viewer’s eye.

 

Mercedes photographs a student
During her class, Mercedes set up a photo booth to take portraits of all her students.

 

On her final day of teaching, Mercedes used the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson as an inspiration for her students. Cartier-Bresson is known for The Decisive Moment, a book of black-and-white street photography. “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression,” he wrote.

In asking her students to take photographs of “decisive moments” as their final assignment, Mercedes enabled them to bring together the technical concepts they had practiced such as lighting and exposure time with their own view of the world. “Go set up the shot absolutely perfectly, then have somebody walk through it,” she instructed them. “You decide the perfect moment to take your shot.”

There was nothing uncommon about the laughter that followed, or the knots of two or three teens talking in groups, or the students wandering on the grassy stretch in front of the school. What was uncommon was the particular care and attention taken to document it all.

—Sarah Parkinson

 

black and white photographs by Mitchell High students
A few of the “decisive moment” photographs taken during Mercedes’s class. Clockwise from top left, images by Rylie, Madison, and Devlin.

 

See more photographs from Mitchell High School Art 1 students on the MHS Art Instagram.

All of Penland’s Community Collaborations programs are funded by grants and donations. The Professional Craft Study for High School Students is able to bring artists like Mercedes to Mitchell High School thanks to the generous support of the Samuel L. Phillips Family Foundation Education Partnership Endowment.