Enriching lives through art and craft

Pentaculum Winter 2022: A beacon for the new year, by Suzi Banks Baum

Pentaculum 2022 group portrait by Heather Wetzel for Arrowmont

“The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is–
it’s to imagine what is possible.”
-bell hooks
In an approach much like a crazy quilt, the Winter Pentaculum at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts brings together six studios of artists for five days of collective making at the beginning of the new year. Aimed to give space and time to those who crave hours to work while living full lives as teachers or administrators of academic art programs, people with full professional lives as parents, teachers, family members, caregivers, students, and every occupation you can imagine from head of a Chamber of Commerce to web developer to elementary school teacher, this group arrives to the new year and an open studio space hungry and ready to work.

In the face of COVID times, we arrive but we don’t hug. We don’t have a full group orientation or socialize in large groups around the fire pits for hours into the night. We don’t mix it up in the dining hall or share a yoga class in the auditorium. We hunker down in our studios, we dine in the propane heated tents or on the porches outside the Staff House, or in small groups with our studio mates.

We don’t mingle as we usually do at Pentaculum. Not much mingling.

But we do imagine, as bell hooks proclaims, we do imagine the possible.

And for that reason, as if the year needs us to kindle her flames, as if the new year desires tender sentences from fresh stories and freshly dyed fibers screened into supple sheets of paper, Pentaculum supplies the new year with what is required, thanks to the generous support of Arrowmont and the fierce leadership of Nick DeFord, program director at Arrowmont and wizard of Pentaculum machinations.

Collage of artists at work by Suzi Banks Baum, Anne Anthony, and Heather Wetzel

In the same way that the year relies on us to stir up new glazes or cast original forms in metal, to set a new year to blaze we artists also rely on each other.

We need this time of refreshment and focus, of extended studio hours and lovingly prepared meals, comfortable places to sleep.  While we cannot necessarily lean into each other physically, we can as a group press towards the possible by making this gathering happen as safely and jubilantly as possible, finding new traditions that assure we have left our marks on each other.

That happened on Friday night at the Marion Heard Library and Resource Center. In the jewel at the heart of the Arrowmont campus with new double-fold glass doors that open the back wall to the terrace, we hosted an evening of writers reading new work. The five writers of the Writers Studio read to an assembled crowd of Arrowmont staff and artists from every studio of Pentaculum who were spread carefully throughout the library, well distant from the podium, with the back doors wide open. The outdoor terrace was peppered with hearty souls who listened under cover of starshine and the moon.

We made it all happen. New writing was written and read and witnessed. Appreciation was shared. Then we all tumbled back to our studios to work over well-lit worktables until it was time to lock up.

Tintype Portrait of the Writers Studio by Kelsey Dillow
Back row left to right: Kelli Fitzpatrick, Anne Anthony, Melanie Mowinski
Front row: Suzi Banks Baum and Kyle Lang

At the Saturday evening raffle which helps finance the Pentaculum Scholarship fund, I won a turned wooden figure made by Wyatt Severs. I held it by the loop of black thread that extends from one end of it and asked Wyatt, “is this an ornament?”

“Some people call them that,” he answered, “but I think of them as beacons.”

Portrait of Wyatt Severs by Suzi Banks Baum


That is exactly what Pentaculum is for this new year. A beacon.


Arrowmont provides a well-lit steady presence that warms the lives of almost 50 artists who can leave the gathering fueled for the year ahead. No matter how we spend our hours, whether as a production potter in a busy commercial space or as the director of an arts center in need of time with graphite and paper, we all require the warmth of other artists, the work of others to show us what is possible.

I hope you visit the Geoffrey A. Wolpert Gallery at Arrowmont to enjoy an exhibition of work by the studio coordinators of this Winter Pentaculum: Adam Atkinson, Brandon Donohue, Jason Schneider, Max Seinfeld, Rena Wood, and myself. There is a slide show of work by all the participants, including a hand bound book containing writing by this year’s writers. And, on a pedestal, a growing collection of entries from past Pentaculum-ites in a Coptic Stitch book. Come get a hands-on look into Pentaculum!

artists mentioned:

Wyatt Severs: https://www.wyattsevers.com/
Adam Atkinson: http://www.adamatkinsonart.com/
Kelsey Dillow:  https://www.kelseytdillow.com/
Brandon J. Donohue: https://locatearts.org/artists/brandon-donahue
Jason Schneider: https://jasonschneiderfurniture.com/home.html
Max Seinfeld: https://www.maxseinfeld.com/
Rena Wood: https://renawood.com/home.html

Suzi Banks Baum builds community wherever she goes. Her work dwells at the crossroad of literary and visual arts. A writer, mixed media and book artist, her devotion to daily creative practice is the super-food for her signature teachings: Backyard Art Camp, the Powder Keg Writing Workshops, and Advent Dark Journal. Suzi travels to Gyumri, Armenia to teach the book arts to women artists. She will teach at the Genesis Retreat Center in the winter of 2022 and at Snow Farm Craft School in May 2022. Her first book, An Anthology of Babes gives voice to 36 artist mothers. Her writing appears in the inaugural edition of Kerning literary magazine (2021) and in The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory by Anchala Studios and the Walloon Writers Review. A selection from her memoir-in-progress won third prize in the Hypertext Literary Magazine Doro Böhme Memorial Contest in the fall of 2021. Follow her on Instagram for a look inside her daily practice @suzibb.

ART WORKSTENNESSEE ARTS COMMISIONTENNESSEE FOR THE ARTSTennessee Specialty License PlatesEAST TENNESSEE FOUNDATIONWindgate Foundation Arrowmont is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number SLFRP5534 awarded to the State of Tennessee by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

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