Warren Wilson College has received a grant of $948,750 from the Windgate Foundation to strengthen its craft programming.
The grant will help position Warren Wilson College as a national leader in liberal arts craft education.
“After many years of building both our academic and experiential craft programming at Warren Wilson, we are ready to take our undergraduate craft programs to the next level,” said President of Warren Wilson College Lynn Morton. “This vision and plan will elevate Warren Wilson as one of the strongest liberal arts colleges in the country with this distinctive focus on craft.”
With the grant, the college will be able to substantially increase the number of undergraduate students taking craft-related courses each semester and provide more scholarships for art and craft students over the course of three years. The grant also enables Warren Wilson to support craft instruction, do facility enhancements, procure new equipment and host visiting artists.
The school’s plan going forward is to align the complementary yet separate areas of undergraduate craft — scholarship, making and programming — under the direction of a more formalized craft program within the arts at Warren Wilson. It will also help connect the existing undergraduate and graduate programs with craft communities in the rest of the world.
Warren Wilson has designed and developed a distinctive strength and focus in craft as an academic field over the past several years. The college currently offers an undergraduate minor in craft and is planning to expand course offerings in craft studies in the next several years. The low-residency Master of Arts in Critical Craft Studies, founded in 2018, is the first program of its kind in the world.
The college also provides experiential programming through its current craft work crews, including fiber arts, blacksmithing, and fine woodworking. The fiber arts crew cultivates a dye garden on campus and uses wool from the college’s sheep to make yarn. The blacksmith crew collects coil and leaf springs from local auto shops and scrap yards and uses them to make tools. The fine woodworking crew creates finely crafted chairs, tables, boxes, bowls, pens and other items from wood grown in the college forest.
The grant will allow the college to enhance these opportunities that already exist for students through the new Craft Studios program, so students can take academic courses for credit and have integrated work learning opportunities.
In addition the college is working with internal and external partners to create “The Craftscape at Warren Wilson College,” an experiential opportunity for students to further connect craft to land and provide academic and research opportunities unlike any found across the nation.
“What distinguishes Warren Wilson’s craft programming is that we can teach how things are made, from raw materials to finished craft objects, with scholarship and history-guiding learning,” said Namita Gupta Wiggers, the director of the Master of Arts in Critical Craft Studies at Warren Wilson. “As an experiential college, how our students learn is as important as what they learn. Craft is central to this.”
Warren Wilson Provost Jay Roberts has a background in aligning program enhancements with institutional strategy. Upon beginning his position at Warren Wilson last summer, he saw the art department and craft programming as a distinctive and compelling opportunity to pursue further integration in order to provide a more cohesive craft vision for the college and its students.
“The arts at Warren Wilson have a high demand for studio courses and there are always waiting lists,” Roberts said. “Our students are eager to participate, make and learn, and with this new funding and structure we will be able to significantly expand our capacity to teach craft and meet this need.”
Warren Wilson’s partnership with the Windgate Foundation began in 2013. The last grant Warren Wilson College received from the Windgate Foundation was $2.1 million to launch both the undergraduate minor in craft and the Master of Arts in Critical Craft Studies, and to continue to foster a partnership between Warren Wilson and the Center for Craft in Asheville.
“We are so appreciative of the Windgate Foundation’s ongoing partnership and support,” Morton said. “Because of our long-term partnership with the Windgate Foundation, we have the educational opportunities, the faculty, and the facilities to attract students and to advance the field of craft. We are excited that this latest gift will help Warren Wilson College become a national leader in liberal arts craft education.”