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Penland University

group photo standing in front of Hannah's paintings
Rachel Meginnes with Earlham College/Penland students Thomas Hill, Hannah Roman, and Johanna Marie at their final exhibition.

What would it look like if the Penland experience were a full college semester? For the three students who were part of the first-ever Earlham College Penland Program this fall, it looked like two different Penland workshops and countless hours in the studios, plus a giant stack of readings, a deep look at the history of craft in this area, and an opportunity to focus on the professional and entrepreneurial skills of being an artist—all under the guidance and mentorship of Rachel Meginnes, former Penland resident artist and director of the Earlham/Penland program.

Thomas Hill, Johanna Marie Monson Geerts, and Hannah Roman joined us from Earlham College just in time for the start of Penland’s 7th summer session. They kicked off their semester with one-week workshops in brushmaking, daguerreotype photography, and weaving, getting a feel for the studios and the pace of life at Penland.

Next, during the three weeks between Penland’s summer and fall sessions, the students embarked on an ambitious course called Craft in Context taught by Rachel Meginnes and Penland archivist Carey Hedlund. Through over 700 pages of reading, local field trips to places like Cherokee, NC, and a road trip up the East Coast to take in sites such as the National Museum of the American Indian, the students gained an appreciation for the history of craft in Appalachia.

Left: Thomas Hill working on a teapot form. Right: Johanna Marie cutting a linoleum block for the press.

Back on campus in mid-September, they started in on eight weeks of Penland concentrations. Thomas studied pottery and surface decoration with Maggie and Tom Jasczcak, Johanna learned letterpress and bookbinding techniques with Beth Schaible, and Hannah immersed herself in shape and color in Tonya D. Lee’s abstract painting workshop.

The final three weeks of the semester were reserved for a course taught by Rachel called Art & Entrepreneurship. It focused on essentials like writing artist statements, building a website, learning photo editing skills, designing business cards, and crafting slide presentations. (Speaking of websites, take a look at their shiny new ones—,, and!)

Hannah at work in the painting studio.

On December 13, Thomas, Johanna, and Hannah got the opportunity to show off all their hard work over the past sixteen weeks with the opening reception for their exhibition On the Road to Heavens Above. They curated and installed the show themselves in the new Gallery North space at Northlight and invited the entire Penland community to come. From Hannah’s bold and surprising color compositions to Johanna’s delicate words printed on her photographs to Thomas’s layered ceramic surfaces, it was a beautiful presentation of an extraordinary artistic effort.

“I couldn’t even have imagined how much growing and discovering I would do here,” Hannah remarked at the close of her Penland semester. For her part, Rachel said, “I could not be more proud of the students’ hard work and dedication to their work and studies.” We couldn’t agree more—congrats Thomas, Johanna, and Hannah! We can’t wait to see where your ideas take you.

Two views of the exhibition “On the Road to Heavens Above” featuring pottery by Thomas Hill, letterpress prints and photographs by Johanna Marie, and paintings by Hannah Roman.