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Studio furniture maker wins $15,000 fellowship

Brendan Barrett

Brendan Barrett

Brendan Barrett, a recent graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, has received a $15,000 Windgate Fellowship from the Center for Craft to help start his career.

“This first year out of school seems to me like a real ‘make or break’ moment when recent graduates are at risk of losing the momentum they’ve built up and sacrificing their plans because of financial burdens. Receiving the fellowship allowed me to relax, worry a little less about crushing debt, rent and thousand-dollar tools, and really put my head down and focus on the hard work of building my furniture practice on my own terms,” says Barrett, who plans to remain in Minneapolis.

Each year, the Windgate Fellowship identifies 10 graduating college seniors with $15,000 for demonstrating exemplary skill in craft. Now in its 14th year, the center’s fellowship program has awarded a total of $2.1 million to 140 emerging craft artists.

Barrett’s “Cement Board” credenza

Barrett’s “Cement Board” credenza

This year, four panelists reviewed a national pool of 109 applicants based on artistic merit and their potential to make significant contributions to their field of craft.

“The Windgate Fellowship is an exciting opportunity for art students who are between college and graduate school or life as a working artist,” says Stephanie Moore, the center’s executive director. “The fellowship instills confidence and encourages innovative risk-taking at a critical period in the students’ career.”

Barrett’s design process employs wooden furniture as a structure to present a specific form or material, calling attention to its individual characteristics, personality and significance, according to his application statement. He plans to connect with others who are just as committed and passionate to the world of craft and continue his education.

Barrett’s “Sawdust Brick Bench”

Barrett’s “Sawdust Brick Bench”

“With the support of the Windgate Foundation and the Center for Craft, I plan to travel to Haystack Mountain College in Maine this summer and join a woodcarving class with sculptor Julian Watts. Carving appeals to me as a way in which I can continue to work with wood on a smaller scale while going through the process of acquiring shop space, machinery, and tools,” says Barrett.

“The financial support of the fellowship is going to allow me to purchase essential shop tools, allowing me to smoothly transition from the school environment to my own studio. I’ve worked in multiple shops during my education and am excited to start the design and building of my own wood shop as my next big project.”

For more information, visit Barrett’s website at and

This article originally appeared in the July 2019 issue.

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