A Penland School Auction at Cassilhaus

General / People / Places / Products / January 23, 2014

On March 2, works by alumni from the photography department at Penland School of Crafts will be auctioned to raise money for a new studio there.

Penland’s been educating students of the arts at its inclusive, communal campus, nestled into North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, since 1929.

Its reputation as a forward-thinking institution has been polished to a modern sheen by its taste in architects. Recent vernacular designs on campus include work by Raleigh-based Cannon Architects, as well as Frank Harmon. And the auction itself will take place at Cassilhaus in Durham, an Aalto-esque home and artist’s studio designed by Ellen Cassilly and featured extensively in The New York Times in 2009.

An Expansive Vision: Photographers Working for Penland’s Future will auction 35 color and black-and-white prints from former Penland students and instructors. The prints are expected to fetch between $500 to $4,500 each.

“It’s a very eclectic group of work,” says Alida Fish, an alumna who helped organize the auction. “Some of the photographers taught here in the 1960s – Evon Streetman, for example, got the photography department started, and John Pfahl, who taught in the 1980s, and other former students who’ve done quite well. It’s a diverse group of people in different stages of their careers.”

Most were eager to support the non-competitive learning environment that inspired their personal growth. “They say that Penland changed their lives,” she says. “It’s a very energetic, quirky place. They want to see a new photography studio there – they know it needs to move into the 21st century.

So they’ve donated their work, from formal to documentary photographs. “There’s a whole range of photographic practice,” she says. “There’s Keith Johnson’s piece, with text embedded into the image, and another historic, 1860s-style, handmade silver nitrate print, exposed with sunlight.”

A preview will be held on Feb. 2 from 2 – 5 PM, with a gallery talk by photographer Robin Dreyer.

For an online catalog, go here.

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

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