Jean McLaughlin

Jean McLaughlin’s Leadership at Penland

As her retirement as Penland’s director approaches, the Penland School of Crafts Board of Trustees salutes Jean McLaughlin for her two decades of leadership. Jean was appointed in 1998, and the years since then have been marked by extraordinary accomplishments. Here are some highlights:


  • We focused on planning—Abie Harris and Sam Reynold’s visionary campus master plan and regular strategic operational plans laid the groundwork.
  • We became the Penland School of Crafts District on the National Register of Historic Places and elevated the importance of our historic campus.
  • The number of students served each year grew from 1299 in FY99 to 1473 in FY16.
  • We developed significant outreach efforts through Community Collaborations programs which have devised clever and meaningful connections with the local community.
  • We evolved our programming to take full advantage of our mission and facilities to serve artists and the creative process—the winter residency program is one example and growing the role of the Penland Gallery is another.
  • We created the Jane Kessler Memorial Archives and hired a professional archivist. We have integrated the archives and history of the school into classes, the gallery, Penland emails, etc.
  • We’ve been responsive to new ideas that fit our mission—starting a vigorous internship program, the Andrew Glasgow Residency, and partnerships with University of North Carolina School of the Arts and with inner-city organizations like HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles), LA Art Division, and Glassroots (NJ).
  • We’ve dramatically improved housing and the studios.
  • We targeted and grew our fundraising—The Preserve Penland Campaign ($11.7M) and the Campaign for Penland’s Future ($32M) flowed from these plans.
  • We strengthened the organizational infrastructure—our behind-the-scenes work—building strong, active and evolving boards as well as staffing the school to meet the opportunities we faced.
  • We built new studios for iron, wood, printmaking, letterpress, drawing and painting, and book arts, with construction ongoing for new photography and papermaking studios and the new social hall.
  • There were expansions and upgrades to the glass, clay, metals, and textiles studios.
  • We built The Roost and the Sleeping Cabins and upgraded all other campus housing.
  • The Pines and Horner Hall have undergone complete renovations.
  • Many older structures have been stabilized, repaired, and upgraded.
  • The Penland Gallery was expanded and reworked to include the John and Robyn Horn Gallery, the Lucy Morgan Gallery, the Focus Gallery, and the Visitors Center Gallery.
  • The campus is now more accessible, and safety programs are integrated into all studios.
  • We’ve gone from having no internal telephone messaging system to high-speed internet access.
  • Social networking is creative and dynamic.
  • Penland’s leadership role is recognized nationally.
  • Financial planning has helped us diversify and balance our revenue streams, stretch our contributed income goals, and make our workshop rates less dependent on earned revenue. We moved from deriving 82% of our revenue from earned sources in 1997 to 50% in 2017. At the same time we have grown our individual contributions from $58,700 (1998) to $746,500 (2016). Grant revenue has grown from $150,500 (1998) to $848,000 (2016).
  • The Benefit Auction results have grown from $190,600 (1998) to $702,000 (2016).
  • We established a Building Reserve Fund, an Equipment Reserve Fund, and an Operating Reserve Fund.
  • We’ve grown the endowment from $2.1 million to $17 million.
  • We brought great attention to the school through the 75th-anniversary book and exhibition.
  • We published the Inspired book about the core fellowship and resident artist programs.
  • We’ve greatly expanded the scholarship program. In 1998 Penland offered 25-30 general work-study scholarships per session and had 9 named scholarship endowments. Today we continue to serve 25-30 work-study students each session and have 60 named scholarship endowments. In addition, we have 40 donors who annually fund full scholarships, 40 Higher Education Partner scholarships with colleges and universities, 34 partial scholarships, and collaborative relationships with numerous institutions and organizations. For FY16 Penland was able to award 758 scholarships.