Earlier this month, the Penland School of Crafts held its 33rd Annual Benefit Auction, the first under new director Mia Hall. The gala weekend on August 10th and 11th at its historic North Carolina campus featured the sale of over 240 works in clay, drawing, glass, iron, letterpress, painting, photography, printmaking, textiles, and wood. All works for sale were donated by current and former Penland instructors, resident artists, and core fellows, with all proceeds benefiting Penland’s educational programs. Sales of art generated $336,622 with a total revenue of $614,026.
Some of the notable sales included the $24,500 winning bid for a Tim Tate piece titled 8 Bats 4 Seasons. The catalog described it as “a wall-mounted piece that contains an arrangement [of] vibrantly-colored bats and seasonal foliage made of cast resin. Through the clever use of multiple mirrors, the objects are reflected back in receding layers that seem to stretch to infinity.”
Other notable glass sales included works by Shane Fero, Alex Gabriel Bernstein, Rick Beck, and John Littleton and Kate Vogel.
In conversation with Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet, Penland communications and marketing manager Robin Dreyer said: “The event was a great success, and brought 649 attendees — both guests and artists — and 182 auction volunteers to the school’s Western North Carolina campus for the gala weekend.
This year’s event was also notable for being the first annual auction hosted by new director Hall, who took over from Jean McLaughlin;s 20-year tenure when she took the reins in January of 2018.
Dreyer noted that Hall’s first year would be dedicated to maintaining upkeep of the organization and familiarizing herself with its structure. Hall has also been working to streamline operations and organize programs. Having recently opened two new studios for photography and printmaking, Penland is looking to find an “optimum balance between different kinds of workshop programming.”
As for Hall’s vision for the future, Dreyer cited three main concerns.
First, diversity and inclusion has been an ongoing concern for Penland, and Dreyer has said that its new director is “hoping to make progress in that area in terms of really making Penland as welcoming as possible to all different kinds of people, and to have it be a safe place for all to have educational experiences.”
Second, Hall is interested in the integration of digital technologies with craft materials, with Dreyer suggesting that she sees a great deal of potential - “not for technology to replace handwork, but to be used in tandem” - especially with all of Penland’s different studios. It’s a forward-looking focus that will be interesting to see manifest in the programming of an institution that is nearing its 90th year.
And finally, Hall “is interested in finding ways to make Penland more integrated and more visible in the larger craft world and maybe to some extent in the larger art world.”
The annual auction has clearly supported that aim, and fostered a lively community that also came together that weekend to commemorate one of its great mentors. Named Penland School’s 2019 Outstanding Artist Educator, Doug Sigler was a “lifelong woodworker, furniture designer, and teacher and a pillar of the Penland community.” Sigler passed in April of this year, and the event was held in his honor.
Hall and auction chair Fish write in the catalog: “What brings us all together is our love for this place, the energy of our community, the importance of lifelong education, and the power of craft itself. We are here to support and celebrate Penland and to share our collective awe at the beautiful things humans are capable of making.”