by William Kissane, staff writer
This summer the Warren Wilson College art department was awarded a $2.1 million grant by the Windgate Charitable Foundation which is to be distributed over the next three years. Funding provided by the grant will encourage growth and development of the three craft-based student work crews: fiber arts, blacksmithing and fine woodworking. Internships within each of these three crews will be organized at the college during the grant period for recent Wilson graduates.
“In essence, the grant will support the development of a relationship endorsing increased involvement with the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design (CCCD),” photography professor Eric Baden said. “It will offer new course content, increase our ability to bring in adjuncts for foundation courses and subsidize the funding for a full-time sculpture professor.”
The CCCD is based in Hendersonville and focuses on encouraging and supporting research, scholarship, and professional development in areas of craft. Every year it awards $15,000 Windgate Fellowships to ten college graduates who exhibit exceptional ability in an artistic field, one of the largest awards offered nationally to art students. The Center is very involved in educational programming as it relates to traditional craft. Recently it supported the creation of one of the first major historical art textbooks covering 20th century craft. The CCCD is currently in the process of moving to a location in downtown Asheville and are presently involved with the renovation of the building. They hope to occupy it by early 2014. In the future, this space may offer access to Warren Wilson faculty and students for potential workshops and gallery showcases.
“The grant provides for [the craft-based student work crews] the opportunity to really increase their productivity; to bring in interns to help manage the crews and artists-in-residence to bring different skills, techniques and processes,” Baden said.
As student interest in craft and design began to rise in 2009, Warren Wilson felt the need to create the three student work crews directed towards expanding the traditional craft outlets on campus. The grant will be directed partly towards aiding the expansion of these crews along with funding for general department faculty support.
“The grant will introduce full-time supervisors for these crews,” current Fiber Arts Crew intern and alumna Kelsey Brown said. “None of the art crews have ever had a full-time staff before, so that’s really exciting.”
This will be the Fiber-Arts Crew’s fifth year as a student work crew. The crew was started by four fiber arts-enthused students in the basement of the Schafer B dorm. The crew has grown from donations but the funding has been uncertain as the program was recently introduced. Melanie Wilder, the Fiber Arts crew supervisor, helped the crew in the preliminary phases by providing much of the necessary equipment. Grant funding will also go toward renovations of a vacant house on campus which is to be used as the new Fiber Arts crew central location.
Warren Wilson is sure to see many more improvements and changes with craft arts on campus in the next three years, and beyond, for current and future students.