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A Scholarship to Explore Iron

Last summer, Cameron Cooper attended a workshop with Mike Rossi in the Penland iron studio. Like 50% of Penland’s students, Cameron’s experience was made possible by a scholarship. As we approach our fall scholarship application due date, Cameron has generously shared his experience so that other’s may be inspired to apply:

Cameron Cooper’s Penland Experience

When I arrived in Penland, I knew my name, my favorite color, and my favorite food, but I didn’t know my hands. I had been longing for a space to create, build, and connect with nature and art, and Penland provided just that. It was a place where I could let go of my thoughts and live from the heart.

Two words that come to mind when I think of my time at Penland are freedom and grace. I had the freedom to explore and wonder, and the beautiful landscape and studios provided endless inspiration. I loved being able to visit other studios and see what others were working on. The community was warm and welcoming, and I felt a sense of love and warmth from the moment I arrived.

The process of forging iron was challenging at times, but I was surrounded by a supportive instructor in Mike Rossi and peers who were happy to help. Penland has a magical quality that makes you feel safe and at peace. It reminded me that creating is a state of being, not just doing, and that the more I can be myself, the more my work will reflect how I see the world. Everyone at Penland made me feel capable and valued, and I grew in my ability to express myself through a new material.

Since graduating in 2020, I had felt lost and creatively blocked, but Penland gave me permission to fail, forgive, and have fun. It’s a place that fosters democracy and provides space for everyone to explore and express themselves. I am immensely grateful for my experience and look forward to returning for a concentration or residency.

Scholarships at Penland

Penland’s robust scholarship program exists to make workshops accessible to those who are not able to participate without financial assistance and to create educational opportunities for people who have been underrepresented at Penland and in craft. In recent years, Penland has taken steps to streamline our scholarship application process, removing image requirements for most scholarships, reducing the application fee to $5, and removing the requirement for letters of recommendation, resulting in an increase in applications.

Immersive craft workshops are at their best when students are surrounded by a diversity of skill, experience, and means. Apply now for fall scholarships (Due March 15) and additional summer scholarships for select workshops (available on a rolling basis).

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The Kent McLaughlin Scholarship for Working Potters

Kent McLaughlin

Penland School is thrilled to announce the Kent McLaughlin Scholarship for Working Potters.

Kent McLaughlin was a wonderful potter, neighbor, human, and friend of the school. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2021. Kent had a vision for a Penland scholarship that would meet the needs of studio potters who make their living selling their work, and in five short months, with contributions from 117 donors, Kent’s friends and family have created a $100,000 endowment to fund this scholarship in perpetuity, The first scholarship will be awarded this summer.

The scholarship will cover the full cost of a Penland summer workshop—in any studio—and will grant a stipend of $1,000 per week to offset the artist’s time away from their studio production. The scholarship does not have a work requirement. To be eligible, applicants must have had a full-time studio practice for at least one year and will need to provide a résumé that demonstrates that they have been making their living solely by selling their work. They will also be asked to provide five images of their work.

In announcing the successful fundraising for the scholarship, Kent’s wife and studio mate, Suze Lindsay, said, “I am unable to find the words to say how much this means to me personally and to our family and community as we honor Kent’s legacy as a working potter and workshop instructor. Penland School is near and dear to our hearts. Kent and I both trained there early in our careers and found the experience an invaluable gift.”

About Kent McLaughlin

In the early 1990s, Kent (a.k.a. Chet, Chester) worked at Penland as services coordinator and then as facilities manager. In 1995, Kent and Suze bought a farmhouse in Bakersville, added a studio, and opened their doors as Fork Mountain Pottery in 1996.

Kent taught at Penland a number of times, sometimes by himself and sometimes with Suze. He also taught at Haystack, Anderson Ranch, Arrowmont, the Curaumilla Art Center in Chile, and the Jingdzhen Ceramic Institute in China. He helped start the Potters of the Roan, Spruce Pine Potters Market, and MICA Gallery.

Kent made functional pots in stoneware and porcelain. He described the look of work as “simple and quietly decorated surfaces made with a wax resist technique, layering glazes while using my own studio-made deer tail brushes.”

But most importantly, he was a funny, warm-hearted, positive person who always had time for other people and welcomed everyone into whatever he was doing. Any day that involved seeing him was a better day.

Click HERE to contribute to the Kent McLaughlin Scholarship for Working Potters.
Learn more about Penland’s scholarship opportunities HERE.

Kent McLaughlin memorial
In September 2021, many of Kent’s family and friends gathered at Penland for a beautiful celebration of his life.

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Artists for Equity

Penland instructor David Clemons demonstrating at the anvil

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been thrilled to hear a strong demand for more opportunities for Black artists and students of color at Penland.

This desire has already resulted in the addition of three new summer 2021 scholarships to our list of scholarships for people of color. They were funded by Penland’s staff, team of directors, and Board of Trustees, respectively. Our staff wanted to make these opportunities as accessible as possible, so each scholarship will cover 100% of tuition, room, and board and also include a stipend for travel and materials.

At the same time, we’ve heard from lots of you, our friends and students and instructors, about wanting to donate to a similar scholarship fund. We’re pleased now to give you that opportunity through the new Artists for Equity Scholarship Fund. The goal of this fund is to increase opportunities for artists of color who would otherwise not have access to Penland due to funding.

In a caring and generous community like ours, even small gifts compound to make a big impact. A single scholarship won’t change the face of the craft world, but it can absolutely open up new possibilities for an individual and start creating the momentum we need to reach a more equitable, inclusive community at Penland and beyond. Please join in with a gift and help bring new artists and new voices to our community!

Contribute to Artists for Equity