There’s something about Maine. Somewhere between the rocky shores and deep, forested inlands, the lakes, the meadows, and the tiny fishing villages, there is an intangible magic. Deer Isle, Maine is no exception to this magic and in fact is home to a program that seeks to capture the enchantment of the Maine coast and channel it into a unique blend of programming for artists of all sorts. If you have not heard of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, it is high time you learn all about what this institution has to offer artists for their continued education, networking, and their very soul.
Deer Isle is one of two towns on an island linked to the mainland by a bridge. There you’ll find a small village, a host of galleries, studios and artist spaces, an inn, and of course, Haystack.
The school itself was established in 1950 with a mission to nurture latent or already present artistic ability and craftsmanship. The campus was designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes and is, in and of itself, a reason to visit. In 1971, the school held its first international arts conference setting up what would become a legacy of bringing artists from around the world together to discuss and collaborate.
The programming at Haystack is a combination of traditional and very cutting edge. In 2011 the school opened what is known as a Fab Lab. Haystack is the only craft school in the US to host one of these labs, part of a network of over 400 such labs across over 30 countries. Part of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, Fab Labs link together innovators, crafters, educators, and learners from all over the world.
There is a two-week open studio residency offering participants the chance for intensive studio time in a quiet and collaborative environment. Studios are available for ceramics, wood, fiber, graphics, iron, and metal. Participants can choose one or many in which to work. There is a fee to apply but the residency itself is free of charge for selected participants.
Haystack is home to a series of symposia. Topics range from technology in art to the creative process. Each symposium is limited to a modest amount of participants offering an intimate experience with world-class educators and topics.
During the summer, Haystack offers a series of one and two-week sessions in a variety of disciplines. Applicants can choose from clay, blacksmithing, metals, wood, glass, graphics, and fibers. Classed are scheduled Monday through Friday for the duration of each summer session but studios remain open 24 hours a day for all participants. Haystack prefers to keep numbers low so spots are limited.
Throughout the year, Haystack offers a full calendar of events. An exhibition series offers opportunities for the community of Deer Isle as well as those at the school to interact with visiting artists and gain exposure to an international blend of work.
A continued visiting artists program brings in those from a diverse field of arts and craft backgrounds. Artists and makers bring their own expertise and influence to the learning community at Haystack.
The campus itself is a place of wonder. Situated atop a cliff overlooking the Atlantic, it is nearly impossible not to derive inspiration from the pristine Maine coastline. The carefully designed buildings are tucked among tall pines with a view to the sea, linked by open air staircases and large wooden landings.
Accommodation at Haystack ranges from eleven person dorms to single and twin cabins. The buildings, all designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, reflect the simplicity of coastal Maine.
Participants at Haystack are selected from a variety of background and skill levels. It is not necessary to be an established artist or craftsperson in order to be eligible for attendance. Beginners are welcomed. There is a scholarship program that offers over 100 scholarships a year. The process is competitive, however.
Because of limited space, friends and family are welcome to visit participants for the day but are not allowed to stay as overnight guests. Communal sleeping quarters and meals mean that there are ample opportunities to get to know your community during your stay.
Haystack offers a number of publications. Their monograph series, founded in 1991, invites writers from all backgrounds to reflect on topics related to craft. The Haystack Reader brings together many past monographs into one anthology. The school publishes a newsletter and, in 2015 a book of cookie recipes was published to mark the retirement of two of the school’s assistant cooks.
Haystack Mountain School provides a dynamic experience and one that is difficult to encapsulate in a few paragraphs. From its very location on the Maine coast to the unique offerings and inspiring accommodations, Haystack stands out as a truly unique opportunity for artists and craft persons from every imaginable background and skill level.
Application deadlines vary depending on the program being applied for. Information and application forms can be found at the Haystack website.