Celebrating 50 Years: the Penland Resident Artist Program

In 2013, Penland School of Crafts celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Resident Artist Program. What began as the brainchild of then-director Bill Brown has developed into one of the most unique and enriching programs of its kind in the country. Throughout its fifty years, the program’s participants have gifted the Penland community with their creativity, support, and artistry.


Penland's resident artists are full-time artists who spend three years living and working in the school's community. The program is designed for the artist who is some pivotal moment in her or his career. The residency is an opportunity to test ideas and make choices that will have a lasting effect on the artist's work and life.


Resident artists may use the time to develop their studio practice, to work out the practicalities of making a living, to push tecnhical and conceptual boundaries, and/or to explore entirely new directions in their work.


The primary expectation of Penland resident artists is that they engage intently with their work, setting their own goal for the residency. They do so in an atmosphere of support, encouragement and creative energy. Their studios and living spaces are clustered so that interaction with other resident artists is inevitable. Living at Penland also gives resident artists access to the many craftspeople living nearby--as well as to the national and international Penland community.


Education at Penland is built around intense, total-immersion workshops, and Penland resident artists enrich the workshops in a variety of ways. The work, work spaces, and presence of resident artists serve as models for the kind of commitment required for sustained artistic production. And, with seven or eight resident artists at any given time, resident artists provide diverse examples to Penland students of ways to make a life in craft.


Selected through a competitive process that draws applications from across the country, resident artists are chosen based on the quality of their work and articulated goals. At the end of their three years, some Penland resident artists move on to other residencies or pursue teaching careers, but the great majority set up independent studios and continue to pursue the work they started at Penland.



Origins of the Penland Resident Artist Program

Shortly after he arrived at Penland School of Crafts in 1962, Penland’s second director, Bill Brown, talked to his board of directors about his plans for using the facility when classes were not in session. Chief among these was his idea for a residency program, an opportunity he saw missing in craft. The first two resident artists came in 1963, and by the fall of 1965, there were four artists making work in the teaching studios during the off-season.


Then in the spring of 1966, Penland was able to buy a 220-acre property owned by the nearby Appalachian School. In 1968, with a grant from the James G. Hanes Memorial Fund, the Appalachian School barns were renovated to make studios and apartments for the resident artists. The new facility allowed Penland to give residents year-round studio and housing for a modest fee. Brown compared the Penland residency to a medical internship, and also made it clear that he hoped that bringing artists to live and work at the school for several years would inspire some of them to settle nearby, creating an artistic community near the school.

By the late 1970s, Penland School was surrounded by craftspeople, many of whom had first come as resident artists. During its fifty-year history, the program has nurtured the careers of dozens of artists who have gone on to make significant contributions to the craft world. The resident artist program and the lively relationship between the school and the surrounding craft community around it have become distinguishing features of Penland School of Crafts.


Former and Current Penland Resident Artists, 1963-2015

Penland resident artists are listed below with a clickable link to the artist's website, when available.




Dear Former Resident Artists: if your name or website is missing or incorrect, please be in touch with us so that we can correct or add your information.


Please email your update to Kathryn Gremley at: