Today In the Context of Tomorrow:
And Its Implications On The 2016 GAS Conference
This issue is considered to be one addressing elements of ‘crossover’ between glass and contemporary art. With the writing assignments discussed amongst the GASnews writing staff soon after the San Jose Conference, I couldn’t help but want to kill 2 birds with one stone: to examine the opening of the highly anticipated Contemporary Art + Design Wing at CMOG last March (a ceremonious ribbon-cutting event which I had been on hand for) and to think forward of its role in the upcoming Conference to be hosted in Corning, New York next June.
Although drawing heavily from my own experience and observations of the Wing’s official public opening on March 20th, 2015, the back half of the article was certainly a ‘group effort’. I had the distinct pleasure of reaching out to many, many notable figures of the Corning Museum of Glass’s staff ranging from several departmental corners of its campus. Lots of real and genuine perspective from pillars of that community with a lot of tireless assistance by CMOG’s Public Relations Specialist, Kimberly Thompson. Suffice it to say that every moment working on this article was a real pleasure for me. I hope it comes through in the piece...
Below is the article I submitted in its full, unedited version to serve as supplemental material to what is seen in the Fall 2015 issue of GASnews:
On the morning of March 20, 2015, a substantial gathering of people had traveled from all around the world to witness a historic moment in the Admissions Lobby of The Corning Museum of Glass. A sizeable mass of curious supporters, patrons and fanatics of the Museum had claimed a rather sizeable foyer, standing shoulder to shoulder before a red ribbon. Beyond that ribbon was a white curtain; behind that curtain was an entrance to a highly anticipated expansion; and within that expansion was the promise of experiencing the landscape of contemporary glass within an entirely new context.
The attention of the lobby’s audience turned to a podium sharply at 10 a.m. when a series of local dignitaries and executives provided welcoming remarks to the grand opening of the Contemporary Art + Design Wing. Words were followed by applause, a celebratory rumble of cheer that collectively came to an abrupt hush as ceremonial scissors were drawn. A brief flooding of anxious anticipation filled the air as those scissors opened; each blade positioned wide apart, straddling the ribbon, only to swiftly come together. Within a single cut the severed ribbon fell, an explosion of streamers descended across the lobby and the white curtain just beyond the ribbon had dropped. Gasps from the crowd were loud and distinct, a signal to mark a very special moment as an entranceway now laid before them; a passage not only to a new addition of The Corning Museum of Glass, but to a new way of perceiving the trajectory of studio glass as it presently stands.
In addition to the gallery space is the equally spacious Amphitheater Hot Shop, located in the former Steuben Glass factory. A walkway joins the gallery to a 500-seat amphitheater; a performative stadium with terraced seating and a viewing balcony circulating around the theater’s outer perimeter at the gallery-level. Down below, at the theatre’s forefront, is an elaborate hot glass working stage equipped with state of the art equipment; a stage built for serious hot glass investigation not only utilized by skillful Museum staff glass workers for demonstration, but to host visiting artist programming, performances and public glass-making events. If the galleries next door represent a very contemporary approach to how artists and designers think through glass, then the amphitheater exhibits contemporary approaches to how artists and designers physically handle it. The Amphitheater Hot Shop informs a viewing public how making with hot glass can be done, but the more exciting part of its purpose is in the programming designed to challenge what hot glass and hot glass processes have yet to discover.
The space doesn’t feel as much as a museum as it does a sanctuary; a sacred place that holds the attention of its visitor in a state of wonder. For those who consider themselves a seasoned CMOG patron, the new wing still has potential for impact; a place to allow for moments of rediscovery. In fact, the Contemporary Art + Design Wing withholds new and unforeseen moments of revelation for its visitor in how glass has become a material in search for meaning by way of technology.
‘GlassApp’ can be accessed by a visitor’s phone or device to find supplemental text, images, and video on the exhibiting work and about the artist responsible for making it. The app is not only an opportunity to further enhance one’s experience of a singular piece, but further evidence of the new wing’s intention for visitors to ‘see’ the contemporary collection within a broader consideration.
“GAS has placed [the upcoming] Conference in a unique context surrounded by glass resources that just do not exist anywhere else in the world,” notes Steve Gibbs, Conference Co-Chair and Senior Manager of Hot Glass Programs. The ancient to contemporary glass collections, the Rakow Research Library, The Studio and the Innovation Center already define Corning’s hosting legacy as one of tremendous diversity. “[But] the highlight for GAS Members will be showcasing the stunning new Contemporary Art + Design Wing,” says Christine Sharkey, Conference Co-Chair and Director of Community Affairs at Corning Incorporated. “Corning is such a mecca for the glass community,” adds Amy Schwartz, director of The Studio. “[The Conference] will be a big gathering of new ideas and a reunion of old friends.”
Expanding upon the Conference theme, Curator of American Glass and GAS Board Member Kelly Conway states, “The whole idea of creating context is really about creating relationships. That’s really what GAS is all about, right? We love to come together and relate our experiences and our knowledge to each other.” Notions of history and tradition with the Corning area are complemented by the new wing’s associations with innovation and new possibility, facilitating a dialogue about the present day state of contemporary glass in relation to its past and what that could imply about its future.
Conway continues by saying, “Corning’s legacy as a center for glassmaking is unparalleled. There is a constant reinvention of art and industry alive in Corning, which has existed for nearly 150 years. The GAS Conference is a vital part of our community awareness about trends and forecasts in artistic and educational developments in the glass world.”
To further redefine context within the upcoming Conference, the Museum features an abundance of performative space for glass workers to demonstrate a wide variety of glass making processes. “The daylight filled Amphitheater Hot Shop, Innovations Stage, The Studio and Courtyard Stage all will be ground zero for demonstrations every morning of the Conference,” says Gibbs. “Excellent views, seating, sound and video systems can accommodate large groups of attendees to give an up-close and intimate experience – even at the large venues accommodating hundreds of observers.” Gibbs continues, “The sheer numbers of people able to watch demonstrations has never been available at a GAS Conference before.”
Yet there’s also the context of place associated with the Corning area that indirectly influences the nature of the upcoming Conference. A small community nestled within the hills of the Finger Lakes, the charm and intimacy of its locale lends way to the idea of stronger interactions taking place between GAS Members, the Conference programming and the Museum community. “Corning is a small town and there are fewer distractions than in [larger metropolitan sites],” points out Beth Hylen, the Rakow Research Library’s Reference and Education Librarian. “We need places and events where people can congregate and make [new] connections.”
The addition of the Contemporary Art + Design Wing helps solidify The Corning Museum of Glass’s place as a world leading institution dedicated to a single material. What was already a versatile facility in speaking about the story of glass (and its continual evolution) has somehow surpassed its own ability to articulate that narrative. The new wing promises to impact the 2016 GAS Conference in a similar way; providing a platform for its attendees to not only rediscover the trajectory of the contemporary field of glass at present, but to reevaluate our individual places within it and consider exactly where we’d like that to go.
David Schnuckel is an artist and educator, currently serving as Visiting Assistant Professor
to the Glass Program of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.