Recently retired, Jean McLaughlin led Penland School of Crafts through a period of growth and evolution for 20 years. She is currently exploring her own artist voice and serving as a volunteer on boards of the American Crafts Council, the Community Foundation of Western NC, the UNC School of the Arts, Wildacres Retreat, and United States Artists.
The Campaign for Penland’s Future was completed in 2017 and raised $31,751,000 following the Preserve Penland Campaign which raised over $11 million—each to grow the endowment, build scholarships, address critical facility and infrastructure needs, and increase annual giving. New studio facilities were constructed for iron, wood, letterpress, printmaking, books, drawing and painting, photography, and papermaking. Existing studios for textiles, metals, and clay were updated. New housing facilities were built and existing ones renovated. The school became a district on the National Register of Historic Places, ensuring long-term commitment to preserving Penland’s historic fabric. Penland School is an artist-centered retreat sponsoring one to eight week workshops in ten media, the Penland Gallery and Visitors Center, a three-year resident artist program, a two-year core fellowship program, an archives, a winter residencies, and educational outreach in the local region.
Prior to 1998 Jean worked with artists and visual arts organizations as the Visual Arts Director of the NC Arts Council for 16 years. Her bachelor’s degree in studio art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was followed by two years of classes in design and textiles at the California College of the Arts (formerly CCAC) and a master’s degree in liberal studies from NC State University. She has served on the boards of the NC Arts Council, Craft Emergency Relief Fund, and the Center for Craft Creativity and Design. She is a life-long advocate for the needs of artists.