Come April, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts’ Executive Director Paul Sacaridiz will head to Michigan, where he will direct the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. HAYSTACK MOUNTAIN SCHOOL OF CRAFTS PHOTO BY DAN RAJTER

“Visionary and tireless leader”: Haystack School director to head Cranbrook Academy

DEER ISLE — The Haystack Mountain School of Crafts’ executive director, Paul Sacaridiz, will step down at the end of April to become the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Director of Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Haystack’s board of trustees made the announcement Jan. 18.

At Haystack, Sacaridiz is described by trustees as a visionary and tireless leader. Under his directorship, trustees say, Haystack has expanded and thrived, while maintaining a tradition of intimacy and community building. Not only has he spearheaded the tripling of the institution’s endowment and doubled the annual fund, he also has overseen the creation of a strategic plan that focuses on reducing barriers of entry and diversifying faculty to shape a more equitable culture of craft.

Ellen Wieske has been appointed interim executive director and will assume that role at the beginning of May. A highly celebrated metalsmith, Wieske has been involved at Haystack for more than 25 years and currently serves as deputy director. The board of trustees will launch a national search for a new executive director in the coming months.

Over the past two years, Sacaridiz also steered the school through the challenges of the pandemic. He secured funding to retain and increase staff, created and hosted cutting-edge programming for a worldwide audience and ensured that the Haystack Fab Lab could support the regional community with the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers. Thanks to his stewardship, the trustees said, Haystack remains a leader in craft education and a unique space for experiential learning.

Sacaridiz leaves the school with a clear vision for the future, and strong resources to achieve new goals. Trustees said his energy, generosity and collaborative spirit will be deeply missed at Haystack.

“Cranbrook will be lucky to have him,” said Ayumi Horie, Haystack’s board president.

Sacaridiz has been the executive director at Haystack since 2015, leading the school through a remarkable period of growth and evolution. During his tenure, he focused on organizational development and put in place long-range planning to guide the organization into its next chapter. He played a key role in the drafting of a comprehensive strategic plan that refined core commitments, mission and values while establishing a 10-year vision and five-year goals. He also launched a long-range campus planning process with a focus on accessibility, historic preservation and sustainability. He navigated the school through two years of the pandemic, developed free online programs with more than 4,000 views from participants from 38 countries and completed major studio and infrastructure upgrades to the historic campus.

Sacaridiz also successfully led Haystack through a period of historic fundraising that has helped ensure fiscal sustainability for years to come. The endowment increased by nearly 300 percent, growing from $9 million to over $24 million, with new funds supporting programming, scholarships, operations and campus preservation. Haystack’s annual fund also saw unprecedented growth during this same period, setting record-breaking totals for five consecutive years. Underscoring all of this work has been a deep commitment to antiracism, diversity, equity and inclusion, which has influenced every aspect of the school from scholarships and programming to organizational partnerships and governance.

Prior to his work at Haystack, Sacaridiz served as professor and chairman of the Department of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and earlier in his career was the associate director of the now Wonsook Kim School of Art at Illinois State University. He was a Fellow with the National Council of Arts Administrators and has extensive experience serving on nonprofit boards including the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) and the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF+). As a speaker he has lectured nationally on art, education and leadership through the College Art Association, Alliance of Artists Communities, American Craft Council, International Academy of Ceramics and the Smithsonian Institution.

Upon leaving Haystack, Sacaridiz will become the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the country’s top-ranked, graduate-only program in architecture, design and fine art. He will be the Academy of Art’s 11th director since Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen first held the role in 1932.

“The past seven years have been some of the most rewarding ones of my career. It has been a profound joy to work alongside a remarkable staff as we made changes that will have a lasting impact on the field of craft,” Sacaridiz said. “The strength of the school is truly reflected through the commitment and care the staff bring to this remarkable place. I am grateful to the board of trustees for their unwavering support and to our community, near and far, for believing so deeply in the mission of the school.”

To learn more about the Haystack School’s programs, visit




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