CRAFT AS VEHICLE FOR COMMUNITY: THE FACES OF ARROWMONT

In this series we introduce you to some of the faces of Arrowmont: students, instructors, staff, volunteers, and donors.  We hope to reveal the lasting value of the experiences and relationships that are created when individuals step out of their comfort zone and participate in the Arrowmont experience.

(L to R) Lynn Batchelder (‘13-‘14), Ashley Gilreath (‘12-‘13), Jason Burnett (‘12-‘13), Kristen Kieffer (’97-’98), Paige Ward (’17-’18), Rena Wood (’13-’14), Heather Ashworth (’12-’13)

HOMECOMING: Artists-In-Residence return to Arrowmont in new roles.

Since its founding in 1990, the Artists-in-Residence program has provided early career, self-directed artists time, space, and support to experiment, develop a new body of work, and build their careers. After a rigorous application process, five artists from diverse backgrounds and disciplines are selected to be in residence at Arrowmont for one year.  Recently, five former Artists-in-Residence returned as instructors during the same national workshop week.

Kristen Kieffer (1997-98, clay) received her MFA from Ohio University. For 15 years, she has worked as a full-time studio potter creating Victorian modern porcelain vessels that are influenced by 18th century silver service pieces and Art Nouveau illustrations. She is a regular national workshop presenter and ceramics instructor in Massachusetts.  Kieffer exhibits her elegant vessels nationally and internationally.  She has appeared in publications including Ceramics Art and Perception and Ceramics Monthly.  In 2013, Kieffer was a demonstrating artist at the annual National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference in Houston, Texas.

Jason Burnett (2012-13, clay) is a studio artist and workshop presenter from Kentucky. Influenced by his background in printmaking, Burnett’s pottery utilizes the ceramics vessel as a canvas for graphic imagery that consists of brightly colored patterns and icons.  Outside of his studio, Burnett is establishing a ceramics marketplace in Louisville through Mr. Benny’s Pot Shop and the Southern Crossing Pottery Festival.  He has authored the book, Graphic Clay and has been featured in Ceramics Monthly and American Craft Magazine.

Ashley Gilreath (2012-13, metals) is a studio artist living in South Carolina.  Inspired by antiques, family artifacts and relationships, Gilreath’s jewelry serves as a record of human history. Fabricated from precious metal and vitreous glass, her jewelry is produced for galleries, museums, commissions, and juried shows.  Her intricate and layered work is displayed nationally and shown in publications such as American Craft Magazine.  Gilreath teaches workshops  and jurors exhibitions nationally.

Lynn Batchelder (2013-14, metals) is assistant professor of metal at SUNY New Paltz, New York.  Driven by “processes through metalsmithing and drawing that create limitations to challenge logic and control,” Batchelder’s work utilizes repetition of technique and pattern to create jewelry that is minimal and sculptural in form.  She exhibits her intricately constructed work nationally and internationally including recent solo exhibitions at the Heidi Lowe Gallery in Delaware and The Gallery at Reinstein|Ross in New York. She has presented workshops nationally and is the recipient of the 2016 Art Jewelry Forum Artist Award.

Rena Wood (2013-14, fiber) received her MFA in Craft/Material studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. Nationally exhibited, Wood’s work explores visual interpretations of the evolution of human memories through various fiber mediums; most often embroidery.  This fall, she will join the faculty at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville to lead the fibers BFA program at Tech’s Appalachian Center for Craft.  Wood has participated in artist residencies including the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and the Craft Alliance Center for Art and Design in St. Louis, Missouri.

Joining the reunion were former Artists-in Residence, Heather Ashworth (2012-13, wood) and Paige Ward (2017-18, clay).  Both are now employees of Arrowmont; Heather as technician in the Wood Studio and Paige as Administrative Support Coordinator in Institutional Advancement.

The AIRs and I had a conversation while they were on campus.  In our dialogue, I learned that several of them have remained engaged with Arrowmont after their residency.

Jason Burnett spoke of his experiences when he served as Arrowmont’s Program Manager and creator of Arrowmont’s Ceramic Surface Forum that became Pentaculum in 2015.  He returns to lead Pentaculum every January.  Rena Wood spoke about returning to Arrowmont for three years to teach basketry for Arrowmont’s Smoky Mountain School – a program that teaches a selection of Sevier County children traditional Appalachian craft techniques.  Kristen Kieffer has returned to Arrowmont many times since she was a resident 20 years ago as instructor, Utilitarian Clay VII presenter, and Pentaculum participant. Ashley Gilreath taught a workshop in 2016 during Arrowmont’s Legacy Weekend Workshop.

I related to this myself. As a former work study, studio assistant, resident artist, and now a staff member it is clear that Arrowmont is a place where we all want to return. Rena Wood said herself, “as I was leaving the residency, I instantly felt nostalgic for Gatlinburg and Arrowmont” because Arrowmont had become her home for that year.  I talked with them about their continued relationship with Arrowmont.

According to Ashley Gilreath, “The magic around Arrowmont is that, it’s a smaller community than a lot of other craft schools. You get to know everyone here and when you come back, it really feels like you are coming home.”  She described Arrowmont as a little neighborhood where everyone is welcome to come in each studio to see what is happening.  Visitors are not interrupting but adding to the experience of the class because everyone – instructors and students – want to share what they are doing.  Kieffer described Arrowmont in a similar way by calling it “intimate.” Arrowmont is inviting.

To Burnett Arrowmont is as an “oasis in a sea of tourist attractions.”  He said it provides the opportunity for people of all ages and skill-levels to experience “spontaneity through creativity.” Arrowmont is special to Burnett because as resident artist and Program Manager, Arrowmont was supportive in giving him “the permission to be creative in programming” which helped him develop personally and professionally.  Arrowmont provides creative freedom.

Arrowmont made such an impact on Kristen Kieffer that she comes back as a way to give back to a community that invested so much in her as a young artist.  For individuals who have experienced Arrowmont, Kieffer’s response echoes one of the key components of our mission as a school.  Arrowmont’s goal is to create an environment that is made up of sharing and helping one another, making every one of all skill-levels, backgrounds, and origins welcome.  Arrowmont is a community.

Lynn Batchelder talked about the connections between people. We joked about the seven degrees of separation of Arrowmont.  She said, “Everyone, everywhere else in the craft field has somehow connected to something that is related to Arrowmont.”  This is a feeling that stands the test of time.  Kristen Kieffer was a resident 20 years ago while Rena Wood was a resident four years ago, but they are still able to relate.  Wood explained that connecting with people who have witnessed Arrowmont is easy because whether they are here today or five years ago they each have “shared experiences” with this place.  Arrowmont creates ties that bind.

Evidence of Arrowmont’s mission in action is continually revealed as additional past Artists-in-Residence return home. Arrowmont is intimate. It invites creative freedom.  It is a community that creates lifelong relationships.  Here at Arrowmont, we often call this the Arrowmont Experience. So we invite you to come and join us and make Arrowmont your craft school home.  For those of you who do consider Arrowmont home, we hope that you will come back home soon.

Additional past Artists-in-Residence who have taught or will be teaching the 2018 National Workshop season include: HP Bloomer, Alicia Boswell, Sarah Rachel Brown, Chandra DeBuse, Julia Gartrell, Matt Mitros, Lindsay Oesterritter, Austin Riddle, Nigel Rudolph, Greta Songe, and Jennifer Wells.

Experience Arrowmont’s community first hand – sign up for a workshop today by visiting our website, https://www.arrowmont.org/workshops-classes/workshops/

 

Paige is a former Artist-in-Residence who works on staff as Administrative Supportive Coordinator in Institutional Advancement.

 

ART WORKSTENNESSEE ARTS COMMISIONTENNESSEE FOR THE ARTSTENNESEE GIFT-A-TAGEAST TENNESSEE FOUNDATIONWindgate Foundation

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