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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!