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Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 30, 2016
At the helm: Sacaridiz takes on new role as Haystack director
Discusses kinship formed with school

New Haystack Director

Paul Sacaridiz has recently started the summer program at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts as the school’s director.

Photo by Monique Labbe Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Monique Labbe

Paul Sacaridiz has only been the director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts since last September, but the relationship he feels with the school is one that has been 25 years in the making.

Sacaridiz, a New York native, spent several summers at Haystack as a young artist before returning in 2012 as a teacher. The ceramic artist said that the teaching experience reinforced a kinship he felt with not only the school, but with former Haystack director Stu Kestenbaum, who stepped down from the position in May 2015.

“Stu and I are of similar mindsets,” said Sacaridiz during an interview earlier this month. “It’s interesting to come in after someone ran it for 27 years, I had to sort of wrap my arms around it and really take it in as my own.”

Assisting in that were the staff at Haystack, said Sacaridiz.

“I was so lucky to inherit such an incredible staff,” he said. “They just understand it here, and they care about this place. It’s been a real privilege to be surrounded by people who really base their lives around what goes on here.”

Another invaluable advantage for Sacaridiz was that nothing at the school needed fixing, as operations ran smoothly before his transition to director.

“Stu did such a great job here, so for the first few months I really spent my time familiarizing myself with the school and the way it functions,” he said. “My position even still is to be a listener, because really I’m learning from the staff.”

Sacaridiz said one thing he has noticed in his first nine months as director is that the school has a supportive relationship with the island community.

“It’s hard to put a finger on what makes that relationship happen, but it does, and I noticed it rather quickly,” he said. “I didn’t feel the need to impose myself into that, but rather just observe it.”

Haystack offers several programs during the winter and spring months for community members, particularly within the youth population. One of those programs included a mentorship program, which brought together local artists and students at the high school. The idea, said Sacaridiz, was for the students to get an idea of the every day life of an artist.

“It’s special because they aren’t just learning the art of painting or ceramics or something,” he said. “The students would go into the artists’ studios, many of which were located at the artist’s home, and they would see what being an artist is like in the everyday context of their lives.”

Sacaridiz said that one thing he would like to do as director is to continue to expand those programs within the local community, including opening up the studios on the Haystack campus to local aspiring artists to give them an opportunity to work with “top-ranked” teachers in state-of-the-art studio facilities.

The school is now in full swing for the summer, with artists and teachers from all media ascending upon campus. The life that has been brought to campus over the last few weeks gives Sacaridiz a sense of community and partnership.

“It truly is incredible to watch some of these things happen,” he said. “You see that light bulb in some of the students’ heads go off when they realize, usually very quickly, that this place can be what you need it to be at any time. They learn the value in risk taking. They learn a lot about themselves, really.”

As for Sacaridiz, being back on campus and in his new role as director just feels right.

“Nothing has ever felt so familiar or so right as being back here does,” he said. “There is just this clear sense that the thing that matters most is I get the very unique privilege of getting to shape something that impacts so many people. This is a special place, and I am very cognizant of the importance of allowing it to stay that way, but also to expand.”