The glass art community – to put it politely – is not quite right.
This crowd is dedicated to an artistic medium that is often actively trying to kill them. Hot glass processes – glass blowing, flameworking, etc.- require the molten material to reach temperatures well over 2,000 F. Other glass art forms (stained glass, glass fusing) are a battle of wits against razor sharp shards. And yet, the Glass Art Society, the world’s largest group of glass artists and enthusiasts, is a robust and growing organization. Better still? It’s coming to Norfolk this week.
The annual Glass Art Society (GAS) Conference is a chance for glassies from all over the world to connect, learn and (let’s be real, here) party. What keeps these gluttons for punishment coming back for more? Wild, torch-wielding demonstrations of glassblowing prowess – check. Cutting-edge flameworking (read: pipemaking) collaborations? Yep. Electrifying fashion shows where models strut in head-to-toe glass — and often very little else — check, check and check. The truest hallmark of a GAS Conference is its unparalleled capacity to wow.
This is Norfolk’s first time hosting this action-packed convention. Thanks to the advocacy of the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio Team (of which I am a member), our fair city is quickly becoming a big red pin on the international glass map. The Perry Glass Studio, which opened in 2011 to complement the Chrysler Museum of Art’s world-class glass art collection, has pioneered glass as a performance medium, which is the theme of this year’s conference. This year, in addition to the usual demonstrations, lectures and panels, there will be a series of glass-based performance highlights.
This gathering usually draws anywhere between 700 and 1,400 attendees. As you may know from seeing the stand-by line outside the hot shop of a Third Thursday, the Chrysler alone doesn’t have the capacity to keep that many glass freaks busy. So, to keep Norfolk from being overrun by a horde of bored pyromaniacs, the Chrysler invited their friends from the Corning Museum of Glass in New York to come for a visit. Corning is taking this opportunity to debut a brand new mobile hot glass shop in the Duke Street parking lot. And just in case that wasn’t enough to keep the glassies entertained, GAS also turned Commune/Work I Release into a temporary flameworking studio, and invited Tidewater Community College’s Visual Arts Center to set up a “Three Ring Circus” of glass furnaces, glory holes (technical term, folks) and kilns in the space between Glass Wheel Studio and Commune NFK.
So why is this info of any interest to the casual, un-glass-initiated Norfolker? Because this year, a significant amount of the conference programming is open to the public. Starting with Wednesday, May 31st – The Day of Glass. The day before the conference officially begins, all of the conference venues – The Perry Hot Shop, the Three Ring Circus, Commune NFK’s flame shop and the Corning Mobile Glass Studio are running free demonstrations throughout the day. Glass-focused gallery talks at the Chrysler Museum proper start at 11; live demonstrations begin at 1PM. These fascinating and highly Instagrammable events are normally only available to GAS Members with a conference pass – but this year, Norfolk is shaking things up. When the conference kicks off on Thursday, the outdoor venues will remain open to the public, with demonstrations and performances continuing through Saturday. Whether or not you’ve had the privilege of watching glass artists at work before, the energy and intensity of these artists and their unbelievably enthusiastic audiences is sure to delight. There’s also a plan in place for those who get their first taste and want more: Conference day passes are available for purchase at $100.
Also not to be missed is the special GAS edition of First Friday Gallery Hop. All of your favorite art stops will be open – and most will have snacks, so bring your appetite. There are simply too many great participating galleries to mention, but a list is available here.
Glass Wheel Studio is hosting the official juried exhibition of GAS member art. From a life-size corset chandelier by Susan Taylor Glasgow and Janis Miltenberger to a sound sculpture by Shaun Conroy, this collection is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Origin Gallery in MacArthur Mall is hosting two shows: “Imported,” a scrumptious exhibit featuring glassy out-of-towners, and “Lumens,” dedicated to art utilizing electricity. At D’Art’s Harbor Group International Gallery, the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio Assistants are exhibiting their work in response to the museum’s collection. The Virginia Glass Guild Member Showcase is on display at the beautiful Slover Library, and the GAS Student Exhibition is just down the street at the World Trade Center. Just a ferry ride away are two more excellent exhibitions in Olde Towne. TCC’s Visual Arts Center put together a show featuring their alumni and that of the Chrysler’s Assistantship Residency and TCC’s Visual Arts Center. At the Portsmouth Arts and Cultural Center, the Virginia Glass Guild paired up with the Washington Glass School to mount “Embracing Narrative,” a truly stunning collection of work.
Norfolk’s glass gurus and galleries are pulling out their A-game for the international visitors – and all of Norfolk is the better for it. Don’t miss out!
Free Opportunities in a Nutshell:
Wednesday May 31st – The Day of Glass
Chrysler Museum GlassGallery Talks: 11AM, 2PM
“Monir” Film Screening at Chrysler Museum: 11AM
Perry Glass Studio Demo: 1PM
Corning Museum of Glass Hot Glass Road Show: 2PM
TCC Three Ring Circus: 3PM
Perry Studio Team at Commune NFK: 4PM
Thursday – Saturday
Three Ring Circus: 8:30AM, 10:30AM, 9PM
First Friday Gallery Hop @ The Plot and Throughout NEON: 6-11PM