Message from the President

Dear NBSS Community,

In June, the president typically sends a letter to the NBSS community to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year and signal the way ahead. Usually, summer is a transition season, a slowing of pace and rhythm, a reset between semesters. Writing this seems quaint and dreamy now, as nothing about the last months have been typical or marked by gradual transitions. Instead, sudden changes and urgent needs have upended our routines, calling us to reimagine our work and ways.

In reflecting on the past year at NBSS, I find myself drawing strength and inspiration from our students, faculty, and partners. This past fall, they dove into another year of deep, thoughtful work in their crafts and trades. Would-be carpenters were building dormitories, future locksmiths were practicing installations, jewelers-in-training were engineering under microscopes, upcoming luthiers were assessing stringed instruments for the Boston Public Schools, and our bookbinders were learning from an international exhibition in our gallery. At the same time, furniture makers crafted toys for charity, piano technicians brought old instruments to life for young students, and preservation carpenters helped revive our historic built environment. Supporting this good work were the staff, donors, and friends who invest in our mission and help us extend our reach into communities.

When we closed the building in March, the resilience, creativity and commitment of our School was clear and steadfast. NBSS violin makers set up varnishing stations at home with buckets and plastic sheets, jewelers fixed their bench pins to kitchen tables, preservation carpenters learned from buildings in their neighborhoods. Meanwhile, our faculty devised ingenious ways to keep students engaged in their training. They tuned their own pianos on Zoom, delivered workbenches and materials, assembled a mock roof frame in a spare room, and presented alongside guest instructors from across the country. Some of the biggest changes came to our Continuing Education program, which shifted fully online, gamely creating new content from scratch.

In all of this, our community stood strong, weathering the upheaval with fortitude. It's the hard work – and heart – of these last few months that gives us confidence to reopen NBSS this fall, albeit with more distance, a shifted calendar, fewer students, and new protocols.

NBSS excels at learning and training through practical work, concrete action, and individual development. These are the strengths we will leverage as we move forward.

The year ahead will be one of change and adaptation, certainly. We will have to teach and work in our shops differently, with distance, adjusted spaces, and limitations to what we can do in groups. The way we move in our building will shift, as we'll limit gatherings and visitors and even shared lunch breaks. Our use of technology will increase, both remotely and in-person. NBSS, which has mentored generations of artisans and educators, is now primed for an expansion through online training. We've proven ourselves to be not only capable of, but also talented in and energized by these virtual endeavors.

Change and growth will not happen only in our methods, however, it will come to the School as a whole. Last week, a school-wide commitment to become a more diverse, equitable, and transformed NBSS was confirmed by the Board, faculty, and staff. These will be both near-term and long-term projects and will involve a critical and honest look at ourselves as an institution. We have dedicated funding to a DEI working-group, which will lead us in hiring outside assistance to bring anti-racism and anti-bias education to the School. From these efforts we will establish a next set of goals, tuned to who we are, and who we want to be as an institution.

Next year, NBSS will turn 140 years old. We were founded to help immigrants adjust to their new home in America with vocational training and social services. Now, we embark on a path that will hold both substantial challenges and great opportunities – simultaneously – for our mission. We will fold together new health realities and new modes of training with the essential work of bringing equity, diversity, and inclusive transformation to the School, and to our chosen fields. NBSS excels at learning and training through practical work, concrete action, and individual development. These are the strengths we will leverage as we move forward.

Looking at the last year feels nostalgic. Looking ahead brings optimism and conviction. I hope you'll join me in this vision for all that NBSS will be.

Sarah Turner, President

Sarah Turner

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A Vantage to the Future
Sarah Turner

Message From the President: The start of 2020 marks one full year for me at North Bennet Street School, which gives me a unique vantage point. I'm new enough to retain my perspective from the "outside," but now also have an awareness of the School as an insider. This vantage point gives me a long-range view for NBSS, an opportunity to look to the School's future. Looking ahead, I see us as perfectly poised to develop the whole ecosystem of craft and trade, to nourish the interrelated networks of our disciplines, with a vision for what we want our fields to be.

About Sarah

As an educator, leading from both the office and the studio, Sarah has worked at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the Rhode Island School of Design, the State University of New York at New Paltz and the Oregon College of Art and Craft. As the Dean at Cranbrook, she directed the Academic Programs of the Academy, including a ‘public-lecture-as-variety-show’ series, and a Critical Studies + Humanities residential teaching fellowship, which she established in 2009. Sarah has also worked extensively in the areas of student success, from enrollment and admissions to developing opportunities for students and alumni. She has lectured widely, regularly serves as a guest critic to studio programs, and has organized exhibitions on contemporary craft and design in the US and abroad. In 2005, Sarah was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to the Netherlands to research Dutch contemporary applied art.

In addition to her work in education, Sarah has maintained a studio practice rooted in craft. Trained initially in metalsmithing and jewelry, her work has ranged from woodworking to weaving to printmaking – always with a focus on the meanings inherent to objects and materials. Her artwork has been included in exhibitions nationally and internationally, including the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, Galerie Noel Guymarc’h in Montreal, and The Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston.

Sarah has been a volunteer and advisor for a variety of organizations, including the Southeast Michigan Fulbright Association, the Vermont YWCA, the Art Jewelry Forum, and the Society of North American Goldsmiths.

Born and raised in Ohio, Sarah received a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from Smith College and a Certificate in Metalsmithing from the Oregon College of Art & Craft. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art.


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