Mia Hall named director at Penland

Sweden native takes over Jan. 1 for retiring Jean McLaughlin

PENLAND – Penland School of Crafts announced in a press release that artist, educator and administrator Maria “Mia” Hall will be its next director, succeeding Jean McLaughlin, who has led the school since 1998.

Hall is currently interim chair of the Department of Art and Design at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, where she has been a faculty member for 10 years.

A native of Sweden, Hall holds a Master in Fine Arts degree in furniture design and woodworking from San Diego State University, where she worked closely with renowned woodworker and teacher Wendy Maruyama. In 2007 she was hired by the University of Arkansas-Little Rock to develop a furniture design program and teach furniture design and contemporary craft courses.

During her time in Arkansas, she worked on the development of the department’s curriculum, served on six hiring committees, helped design and establish a visiting artist workshop series and organized public events that increased awareness of the university’s craft program. In 2016 she was asked to take the position of department chair, leading 15 full-time faculty, four staff and 12 part-time instructors.

She has also been involved with the funding, design and construction of the new, 65,000-square-foot Windgate Center of Art and Design at the university. She worked on the feasibility study and the design development phase and served on the committees that chose the architect and the contractor. As chair, she is the department’s project manager and will be overseeing the task of moving 10 disciplines into the new facility before it opens in January 2018. In addition to her many activities at the university, she has served on several foundation boards.

Hall’s personal work, primarily furniture and mixed-media sculpture, has been shown in numerous exhibitions at venues such as the Arkansas Art Center, 108 Contemporary in Oklahoma, University of the Arts in Philadelphia and Blue Spiral 1 in North Carolina and is held in many private and public collections.

Hall describes Penland School of Crafts as “one of the leading institutions for the study of craft-based art making,” adding that, “in a society that puts increasing value and importance on science, technology, engineering and math, promoting the hand skills, decision-making, ingenuity, inventiveness and analysis that are required to practice skilled making is not only necessary, but essential.”

Alida Fish, chair of the Penland board of trustees and a member of the search committee, said the committee saw in Hall the kind of skills and experience it was looking for in a new director.

“We were particularly struck by her genuine interest in people and her commitment to Penland,” she said. “This, combined with her forward-looking and innovative thinking, is sure to result in a winning outcome for the school.”

Hall said she is honored and humbled to be chosen as the next director of Penland School of Crafts.

“Jean McLaughlin has for years been a formidable role model for me, and I find the Penland staff truly inspiring,” she said. “My family and I look forward with great enthusiasm and excitement to being part of this phenomenal institution’s future.”

Hall is married to metalsmith and educator David Clemons, a long-term artist-in-residence at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and a regular instructor at Penland. They have a 10-year-old daughter, Fiona. Hall will become Penland director Jan 1, 2018.

The MItchell News

Mailing Address: PO Box 339 
Spruce Pine, NC 28777 
Phone: 828-765-7169
Fax: 828-765-1616