Core Fellowship

Penland Core Fellowship Program



  • October 15, 2022: Upcoming Application Deadline
  • September 12, 2022: Zoom Application Informational Session 5:00 – 6:00 PM ET


The Penland Core Fellowship Program is a two-year work-study fellowship that offers early career artists the opportunity to explore creative interests and career possibilities in a supportive artistic community.

Penland core fellows are energetic, bright lights who soak up everything and bring something truly special to the Penland community. These artists fully engage with Penland by taking classes, exploring their own educational interests, and performing integral jobs for the school.

Core fellows are selected through a competitive review process that attracts applicants from every part of the country. Applications are assessed for the quality and potential of the art work, the interest of each applicant in being part of a close-knit community and program, and the willingness and ability to work hard in support of Penland’s operational needs. When selecting new core fellows, Penland is looking for talented individuals who have reached a moment in their lives when the program will be a pivotal experience and provide essential support for their evolving interest in craft.

Penland’s ever-changing learning environment, which includes world-class teaching artists in a dozen media, allows core fellows to choose classes that support their interests and tailor their experience to meet individual goals. The program can serve as preparation for careers in creative, non-profit, educational, and entrepreneurial sectors.

The work that core fellows do for the school—jobs such as dining hall manager, weekend cook, and entertainment coordinator—places them at the heart of Penland’s operation and gives them an opportunity to develop leadership skills. They are a bridge between the staff and the studios and serve a unique role in helping others have a meaningful experience at Penland.

Core fellows live and work together and often learn as much from each other as they do from their instructors and mentors. In the process, they form close friendships and become part of each other’s lifelong professional networks. The core house is an incubator for great ideas and deep conversations.


The Penland Core Fellowship Program was established in 1970 by Penland’s director, Bill Brown. He and his wife, Jane, were looking for ways to expand scholarship opportunities for dedicated students and to keep up with the needs of Penland’s growing programs. Out of these interests came the original Core Program, so named because students were given core jobs at the school—jobs that enabled the school to run at a fundamental level. The informally selected students lived and worked at the school year-round in exchange for room, board, and classes.

Over the years, many core fellows have returned as studio assistants and instructors. Several have later become resident artists and others have settled in the immediate area and set up studios that are now integral to the Penland community. A measure of the program’s success is the number of core fellows who have gone on to make a life in craft. To date over 200 people have participated in the program, and about 80% are practicing artists today.

core fellows working in the Penland kitchenResponsibilities

Core fellows work an average of 20-25 hours/week in various service positions. In addition to fulfilling their work responsibility to the school, they are considered fully participating students and are expected to be engaged, productive members of each class they take. Work responsibilities begin each year in late February and end just before Thanksgiving. There is no work obligation from late November until late February, so most core fellows take advantage of this time to dive deeply into studio work.

Selection Criteria for the Core Fellowship Program

We encourage early career artists of all backgrounds to apply for a two-year fellowship. We celebrate varied ideas, world views, and personal characteristics, and are committed to being an organization that welcomes and respects everyone regardless of age, ability, ethnicity, race, religion, philosophical or political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, nationality, geographic origin, and socioeconomic status. Applications are reviewed by a national panel of artist peers, educators, and other arts professionals, including a former core fellow, that consider the direction and potential of the applicants’ artwork, relevant work experience, personal path and career goals, and how they, their work, or their interests will contribute to a diverse cohort of artists and program.

Specifically, we are looking at these factors:

  1. Artwork
    We are looking for work that shows a strong foundation and enough direction to tell us that the candidate will be able to take advantage of what this unique program offers. We are looking for compelling work, but we are also looking for potential, inquisitiveness, and versatility. Candidates must be interested in working with craft materials and processes that are at the heart of our immersive workshops.
  2. Work Experience
    Core fellows are asked to do many different kinds of work, ranging from basic physical labor to supervisory tasks. Whether a candidate’s work history is one of employment or volunteer work, we are looking for experience that will prepare the candidate to adapt to different tasks and work situations and work with confidence, sometimes with minimal direction or supervision
  3. Group Dynamic
    The nine core fellows share a house with limited privacy. They are involved in group tasks and decision-making along with the normal challenges of group living. We are looking for participants who can thrive as part of a group but also know when and how to step away and recharge as needed.
  4. Program Goals
    Because core fellows are given absolute preference in class selection, it’s important to the school that the interests of each core group span a range of media. It’s also vital to the program, the school, and the craft field that this program supports artists of all backgrounds who have a range of career interests and goals.
  5. Representation in the Field of Craft
    We believe the Core Fellowship Program can shape the future of contemporary craft by providing access and support to artists from underrepresented groups who are at a pivotal moment in their education and early career.


Penland provides housing throughout the year, tuition for classes, and meals while the school is in session. Core fellows are responsible for all personal expenses, studio fees, and art materials.


We anticipate four openings in the program for 2023.

To Apply

Apply online using Slideroom; Applications will open July 15, 2022, the deadline is October 15, 2022. You can view a sample application HERE.

Slideroom Application


If you have questions related to the Core Fellowship Program, you can direct them to:

Courtney Dodd, programs manager
828-765-2359 ext. 1313

Leslie Noell, creative director
828-765-2359 ext. 1313

Informational Session

Monday, September 12, 2022 5:00 – 6:00pm ET via Zoom

Email with the subject line “Core Fellowship Application Informational Session” to register for the zoom conversation.

Please join this session if you are interested in or have questions about applying to the Core Fellowship Program at Penland School of Craft.



Is the deadline the same each year?
Generally, yes. Each year we have an application deadline in mid-October. The exact date is listed on the Core Fellowship web page.

When are applicants notified about final selection?
We do our best to notify all candidates during the first week of December following the deadline.

When does the program begin each year?
New fellows arrive in mid February to begin their first year. There are no exceptions to this start date. The fellowship season runs February to February, but work obligations for the school are only from late February to late November. During winter break, from December to February, fellows have the option to work in the studios at Penland but have no work responsibilities otherwise.

How many spots are open each year?
We fill either four or five open positions each year, depending on how many current fellows are leaving the program.

Do you accept international students?
The Core Fellowship Program includes a significant work component that requires U.S. citizenship, a green card, or resident alien status.

How many applications do you receive each year?
We generally receive 60-90 applications for 4-5 spots.

Do I have to have been to Penland or taken classes there in order to apply?
No, there is no prerequisite for applying.

What level of experience do I need in order to apply?
General craft skills in one or more media, a developed sense of ideas and direction—beyond beginner level in at least one studio. This program is designed to serve early career artists of all backgrounds and interests, so we are looking for potential more than proficiency. Fellows who have a genuine curiosity about craft materials and processes will benefit most from our immersive workshops.

Have most core fellows finished a BFA program prior to applying to the program?
Some have, but not all. We actively seek candidates with a range of craft/art experience. Some have just graduated from art programs, some have been out of school for several years, some have chosen a non-academic route to learning and exploring ideas. We are looking for people who seem to be at the right point in their creative pursuits to most benefit from our program, regardless of educational background.

Should my portfolio show a range of work, or should I focus on one body of work or medium?
Your portfolio should support your reasons for applying to the program. Some fellows focus in one area, others explore processes in several media. Either is great depending on your creative and career goals.

What should my CV include?
Your CV should include formative experiences such as education, employment, volunteer commitments, and selected artistic accomplishments. We rely heavily on the CV to give us an indication of your work background—what kind of work you have done, what kind of employee you have been, how long you have stayed at past jobs, your practical skills, etc. We also want to know what your art/craft background is and the timeline for this background. Please edit your CV to one page and make sure it contains experiences that are most relevant to your application.

Where do core fellows live?
Core fellows share a large house on the edge of Penland’s campus. Each core fellow has a private bedroom with a shared bathroom (2-3 people per bath). There is a large communal kitchen, dining and living area, laundry room, and outdoor spaces. We provide shared living as part of the work/study exchange. We cannot accommodate partners or families and do not recommend living off campus. We also have a no pets policy.

How much is the stipend for core fellows?
Fellows receive a modest stipend of $50/week.

How many classes do core fellows take?
Core students generally take a one-week class and an eight-week concentration during the spring, five classes during the summer, plus a one-week class and a six-week concentration in the fall. Daily class schedule and curriculum are determined by the visiting instructor, and core fellows do their best to dovetail job responsibilities with class participation.

What kind of studio access do core fellows have?
Core fellows have a shared studio space a short walk from their house that is for their use only, year round. They can also sign up to work independently in school studios during the winter months for no charge. Otherwise, they are enrolled in classes and work in the teaching studio for a particular workshop.

Are there opportunities for fellows to show work while at Penland?
Core fellows are encouraged to show and sell their work in the Core Gallery located in the Penland Coffee House. No commission is taken on these sales, and responsibility for rotating work and keeping the space looking its best falls to a core representative. Core fellows are welcome to organize small pop-up exhibitions/sales in Gallery North throughout the year and core fellows have an annual exhibition (Core Show) of their work each year.

Core fellows have the opportunity to show finished work in the Penland Gallery after meeting with the gallery director to determine if work meets the gallery’s standards.

What are core jobs like?
All core jobs require about 25 hours/week and involve one of the following: working in the kitchen for meal prep; facilitating/planning school functions such as slide talks, parties, instructor gatherings, etc; managing teams of work/study students in the dining room for set-up and clean-up. All core jobs involve working before and after each session to get the school ready for the next session. Jobs responsibilities may be adjusted at any time, at Penland’s discretion. It is not feasible for a fellow to have an additional work obligation outside of their commitment to the school, but some take advantage of seasonal breaks to pursue project related or short-term work opportunities.

What costs are core fellows responsible for?
Core fellows are responsible for paying discounted studio fees associated with each workshop. It is difficult to estimate the annual cost of studio fees, but most fellows report annual studio fees in the $2000-$3000 range. When budgeting for the fellowship, please also account for personal expenses such as car insurance, cell phone plans, student loans, etc.

Does Penland provide health insurance?
Penland will provide documentation that allows each fellow to apply for personal insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. While it varies depending on each person’s financial situation, most core fellows who do not have significant income outside of the program receive full or close-to-full subsidies for ACA plans.

What is a typical schedule for a Core Fellow?
The Core Fellowship runs from February to February and schedules vary throughout the year. Work responsibilities begin each year in late February and end just before Thanksgiving. There is no work obligation from late November until late February, so most core fellows take advantage of this time to dive deeply into studio work.

During workshops, fellows help prepare, maintain, and facilitate daily tasks on campus by leading a team of work study students. Each fellow has a different work schedule that is planned to accommodate class demonstrations. Protected demo times happen twice a day at 10:00-11:30 AM and 2:00-4:00 PM and allow fellows to participate without work distraction. Fellows are responsible for balancing their studio, work, and personal responsibilities with consistent support from two mentors.

Is there an age requirement?
Applicants must be 21 or older to be eligible for the Core Fellowship.