Monday, October 11, 2010

Inspired Lives: David Willard

It was my intention on my recent trip to visit both the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee. Arrowmont’s reputation lives somewhat in the shadows of the better-known Penland, so I was less prepared to be impressed on my trip there. So much for preconceived notions!

They say that an organization often mirrors its leader, and clearly this was the case with Arrowmont. David Willard is the Executive Director of this 100 year old institution nestled against the entrance to the Great Smokies National Park. He had graciously invited me to visit and tour, and from the moment I arrived, it was clear that his love, passion, and generosity of spirit pervade the atmosphere of the school. The place was quietly abuzz with enthusiastic students, residents, teachers and staff. While feeling something like summer camp for adults with its buildings and location, the reality is that serious art takes place here, and David's mission is to gently foster that creativity, to provide a place with outstanding studios, faculty, library, and spirit.

The current gallery show of work by the 2010 faculty was dynamic and exciting, exhibiting a fearless embrace of both contemporary explorations as well as more traditional in craft. It makes me wonder why the craft world as a whole can’t embrace the new and the old with the same enthusiasm, why there so often seems to be a divide between artists who came of age in the ‘70’s and the current generation who see things so differently when working with similar materials. It takes bold leaders like David to show the world that craft new and old can cohabitate. It takes gentle leaders like David to show the world that this can be done in an environment of gentility. And it takes, and will continue to take, ongoing sponsors to financially support and acknowledge crafts as a vital part of our country's culture.

Blessing Bowl by David Caldwell
The Overseer by Lanie Gannon

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