Core Fellowship

Penland Core Fellowship Program

Penland Core Fellows

The Penland Core Fellowship Program is a two-year work-study fellowship that offers emerging artists the opportunity to explore artistic 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, working in their own studios, and performing integral jobs for the school.

Core fellows are selected through a competitive process that attracts applicants from every part of the country. Applications are assessed for the quality of the art work and the interest of each applicant in being part of a close-knit community of artists. 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.

Penland’s ever-changing learning environment, which includes world-class artists and teachers in a dozen media, allows core fellows to tailor their experience to meet their individual goals. The program can serve as preparation for careers in studio art, education, or design.

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 “the Penland experience.”

Core fellows live and work together and often learn as much from each other as they do from their classes. 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.

core fellow Tony Santoyo in the Penland core studioHistory of the Core Fellowship Program

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 selected students lived and worked at the school year-round in exchange for room, board and classes.

Over the years, many core students 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 students who have gone on to make a life in crafts. To date over 200 people have participated in the program, and about 80% are practicing artists today.


Core Fellowship Program Frequently Asked Questions

Core Fellows 2020: Short Videos
Current Core Fellows 2020-2022
Current Core Fellows 2019-2021

A List of Former Core Fellows

Core FellowshipResponsibilities

Core students 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.

Selection Criteria for the Core Fellowship Program

Core fellows are selected by a committee that considers the quality and direction of the applicants’ art work, their work experience, their character, and how they will contribute to the overall balance of the group and the 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 excellent work, but we are also looking for potential. Candidates must be interested in working with materials that are part of our class program.
  2. Work Experience
    Core fellows are asked to do many different kinds of work, ranging from basic physical labor to supervisory tasks. Whether your work history is one of employment or volunteer work, we are looking for experience that will prepare you to adapt to these different tasks and work situations.
  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 with balanced personalities and slow fuses.
  4. Program Balance
    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 beneficial to the program if the group includes a variety of backgrounds and interests.


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


Openings for our 2021 Core Fellowship are currently on hold due to Covid-19 concerns and restrictions. We anticipate having 4 openings during our next round of applications.

To Apply

Applications are currently paused. Please refer back to this page for updates as we work through the Covid-19 crisis.


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, Director of Programs
828-765-2359 ext. 1313