By Morgan Lampman
BOONE, N.C. -- Only 42 miles of winding mountain road separates the two institutions where the lives of so many artists have crossed paths over the years. The Penland School of Craft and Appalachian State University have influenced the lives and careers of a number of artists, all who have found their time in the High Country to be reflected in their work.
How is it possible that so many artists were influenced by these two places, with some returning years later to teach the next generation of artists? IlaSahai Prouty, an associate professor of studio art in Appalachian State University’s Department of Art, wanted to showcase the strong connection between the Penland School of Craft and Appalachian State University that she herself has lived in, so she created the Orbits and Fields Exhibition at the Toe River Arts Council gallery in Spruce Pine, N.C.
Orbits and Fields presented the work of over 20 artists who at one point or another found themselves attending both Appalachian State University and the Penland School of Craft -- “an international center for craft education dedicated to helping people live creative lives”. Prouty’s time at Penland--over 30 years--is what led her to begin teaching at App State after finishing as a Resident Artist at Penland.
“Penland is a really unusual craft community where people come together to learn how to make things,” Prouty said. “Over time it has seeded the area of Western North Carolina with lots of artists and craftsmen.”
Prouty, who started her artistic career as a printmaker and painter, went to Penland to immerse herself in other “material languages” that she could teach at App State.
“I realized that I was speaking in a particular language that I had learned, which was printmaking and painting.” Prouty said. “I knew that there were lots of other visual and material languages that I wanted to learn--that’s why I came to Penland.”
Her time at both schools led her to cross paths with a number of other artists who had similar experiences as she did building a career out of a compilation of experiences and education at Appalachian State University and the Penland School of Craft.
“There’s many more than just the 22 people in the exhibit with a connection to both places,” Prouty explained. “It’s quite fun to see how those connections evolve. I wanted to have a chance to bring our work together and to see how the tangible parts of how these communities are interwoven.”
The Orbits and The Fields
The Orbits and Fields exhibit was on view from August 6th to September 11th at the Toe River Arts Council’s Spruce Pine, N.C. gallery location where it is open to the public. Like Prouty, each of the artists in Orbits and Fields have stories of the way their paths intersect at Appalachian State University and the Penland School of Craft. The artists, many of whom are in other parts of the country, sent Prouty their work, and then Prouty, the artists, and Kathryn Andree, the Exhibitions Manager of the Spruce Pine gallery, hung the show in the gallery.
Orbits and Fields incorporates a variety of artists and ways of working. The “orbits” refer to the people who make up the interwoven App State and Penland community: artists, teachers, students, community members, staff members, etc., and the “fields” are the vast array of materials and methods used in the show’s displays: metals, fibers, printmaking, painting, photography, etc. The learning communities at App State and Penland foster a wide range of work that engages with craftsmanship and concept.
“There are people at all different points in their careers, many different materials, and that richness of all the different [artistic] languages people use in making things is wonderful to see in the world,” Prouty explained.
For Prouty and the exhibit’s contributing artists, Orbits and Fields offers the opportunity to build community. Prouty proposed Orbits and Fields at the height of the pandemic in April of 2020, and the exhibit, which started as a way of thinking about the artistic community post-pandemic, became a reality that reunited that same community after almost two years of separation.
“The show feels like exactly what the community crossover between Penland and App State feels like,” Prouty explained. “We share common experiences that are hard to put into words. It’s this idea of straddling these two places and being a maker in the mountains of western North Carolina.”
A Community of Connection
Each of the contributing artists in Prouty’s Orbits and Fields Exhibition have their own unique story and a connection to Appalachian State University, spanning across different departments and roles in the Mountaineer community.
Kurt Anderson teaches periodically at Appalachian State University as a lecturer, teaching foundations and ceramics.
Ben Carter received his BFA in Studio Art from Appalachian State University.
Lynn Duryea is a Professor Emerita of Art (ceramics) from Appalachian State University.
Richard Elaver is an Assistant Professor of Industrial Design at Appalachian State University.
Emi Lynn Holler received her BFA in Studio Art from Appalachian State in 2015.
April Flanders is a Professor of Studio Art, foundations and printmaking in the Department of Art at Appalachian State University.
Frankie Flood is Professor and Area Head of the Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design area at Appalachian State University.
Jeff Goodman has been a Senior Lecturer in the College of Education at Appalachian State University since 1993.
Carmen Grier was an Adjunct Instructor Fibers in the Department of Art at Appalachian State University for many years.
Brooke Hofsess is currently an Associate Professor of Art Education at Appalachian State University.
Dani Iris received her BFA in Studio Art from Appalachian State University in 2018.
Elliot Earl Keeley holds a BFA with a concentration in metalsmithing and jewelry design from Appalachian State University.
Jeana Klein is a Professor of Fibers in the Department of Art at Appalachian State University.
Kellee Morgado received her BFA in Graphic Design at Appalachian State University in 2017.
Lilith Nielander is a Senior Lecturer in Foundations and Metals/Jewelry, and Advisor for the Department of Art at Appalachian State University.
Richard Prisco is a Professor of Industrial/Furniture Design at Appalachian State University and the Concentration Coordinator for Furniture Design.
IlaSahai Prouty is an Associate Professor of Studio Art at Appalachian State University.
Rebekah Richardson received her BFA in Studio Art from Appalachian State University in 2017.
MJ Sanqui is graduating from Appalachian State University this December with a BFA in Studio Art with a focus in photography, and a self-designed BA program in Interdisciplinary Studies centered around socially engaged narrative media.
Lisa Stinson is a Professor of Ceramics at Appalachian State University.
Tricia Treacey was faculty in Graphic Design at Appalachian State University from 2013-2020.
Devyn Vasquez received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art and a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Management with a business minor from Appalachian State University.
Joshua White is an Associate Professor of Studio Art and the Studio Art Photography Area Coordinator at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. White helps coordinate scholarships between Penland and Appalachian State University.
You can check out the Orbits and Fields artists at their linked websites, and be sure to check out the Toe River Arts Council website event page to see a list of their upcoming events and exhibits.
About the Department of Art
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Art at Appalachian State University prepares students to explore art, identity, expression and creative problem-solving while challenging them to go beyond their previous limits by discovering new connections to culture. The department offers degrees in art and visual culture, art education, graphic design, studio art, commercial photography and graphic communications management, with minors in art history, studio art, commercial photography and graphic arts and imaging technology. Learn more at http://www.art.appstate.edu.
College of Fine and Applied Arts
Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.