Arts and Humanities Local News

Glass Art Conference and Festival Get Underway

Glassmaking helped shape regional industry in the 1800s, when New Albany, Indiana, was a hub of plate glass manufacturing, and today the region is becoming known for its growing numbers of glass artists and glass studios. The latter led the international Glass Art Society to bring its annual conference to Louisville, which starts Wednesday and is running in conjunction with a festival focusing on glass art. The conference is bringing nearly 1,000 artists, educators and industry professionals to the city where they will attend sessions about glassmaking and visit some of the city’s prominent studios.

The Glass Art Society decided to hold the conference here after seeing a burgeoning glass scene and centrally located galleries, says Che Rhodes, a glass artist and University of Louisville assistant professor of fine arts who is working on the conference.

“We have this densely packed proximity between Flame Run, the Cressman Center and Glassworks,” Rhodes says, “three different studios that operate in three different ways which are kind of representative of ways that people approach making careers in glass.”

Glass Art Society executive director Pamela Koss says she thinks the conference will show attendees a side of Louisville they may not know.

“It will really showcase Louisville to the glass art world as a place that you can see major artists and really experience a rich community in glass,” Koss says.

Page von Roen is the CEO of Glassworks and vice president of Architectural Glass Art. She says the conference could help elevate Louisville’s glass art scene and bolster local businesses working in glass.

“It gives us great exposure to a lot of the people who are really leading the industry right now and might open opportunities for them to have shows in the future,” von Roen says. “One of the things that’s really important is the potential of attracting new artists to live in Louisville and work.”

Koss says the Glass Art Society decided to hold the conference in Louisville after visiting and finding it rich in arts and culture, especially for its size.

While the conference is Wednesday through Saturday, this month more than 50 regional galleries are having exhibits of art made with glass as part of the Louiville Visual Arts Festival. Most participating galleries are around downtown, but the list also includes the Louisville Visual Art Association, Oldham County’s Yew Dell Gardens and the Carnegie Center and Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.

PHOTOS: Studio at Flame Run (top, courtesy of Flame Run); Che Rhodes (middle, courtesy of University of Louisville; Flame Run Gallery (bottom, courtesy of Flame Run).

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Mayor Jerry Abramson says the conference for the Glass Art Society will bring up to 2,000 people to Louisville in June of 2010 as well as up to $1 million in spending.

Local glass artists and University of Louisville officials joined the mayor at the Cressman Center for Visual Arts Friday to announce the conference.

Che Rhodes teaches glass art at U of L and has been on the Glass Art Society’s board of directors. Rhodes says the conference could help bring more attention to local artists and galleries from artists and art critics from around the world.

“This is really establishing the beginning of our, sort of, glass dialogue with the rest of the world,” Rhodes says. “This conference is going to give U of L and also everyone else in town a chance to showcase what’s actually here.”

U of L Provost Shirley Willihnganz says U of L offered to co-host the conference.

“One of the things I think any conference is interested in is the academic support,” Willihnganz says. “And our glass program is emerging as one of the best in the country.”

The Glass Art Society has members from the industrial and art glass fields. It has held conferences in U.S. cities including Brooklyn, Seattle and Los Angeles as well as in other countries, including Australia and The Netherlands.

Flame Run Glass Studio and Gallery