Lucy Morgan founded The Penland School of Crafts. Morgan’s original plans were to teach others crafts to help them find jobs. The school grew in popularity after Edward F. Worst wrote about Penland in the craft outlet, Handicrafter, and Morgan started taking applications from students outside Mitchell County. For over thirty years the school thrived and craftsmen from all over the globe traveled to Penland to learn the art of silversmithing, pottery, metalworking, and other crafts.
A new president, Bill Brown, managed the school after Morgan’s retirement in 1962. Brown organized fall and spring craft semesters. In addition, the craft school expanded, and woodworking and glassblowing were added to Penland’s curriculum. One of the most impacting measures made by Brown was the incorporation of craft programs, particularly the core fellowship program and the resident artist program. The core fellowship program allowed more artists to work and study for two-years at Penland whereas the resident artist program provides artists and craftsmen three years of housing and work space at the school. Since the development of the resident artist program, craftsmen and women have been able to jumpstart their careers and a unique craft culture has emerged in Mitchell County.
Presently, 51 buildings are located on the 400-acre Penland campus, and approximately 1,200 people attend the school every year. In addition to its academic importance, tourists flock to Penland to visit the school’s gallery and purchase student art. According to the Penland website, the school still adheres to its traditional mission. Lucy Morgan believed the Penland School of Crafts existed for “the joy of creative occupation and a certain togetherness-working with one another in creating the good and the beautiful.”
“Penland School of Crafts.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).
“A Very Short History of Penland School of Crafts.” Penland School of Crafts website (About Penland/History). http://penland.org/about/history.html, (accessed January 11, 2012).
By Jonathan Martin, North Carolina History Project
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