Assembled To Give:
This content in this issue addresses notions of ‘collecting’ within the contemporary field of glass; a variety of interesting articles approaching topics of both literal and figurative associations to the word. Once the issue’s theme was nailed down this past September amongst the Print Media Committee, I pitched an idea to feature the origin story, development, and long-term implications of the budding Robert M. Minkoff Foundation Academic Symposiums.
Although I wouldn’t have been able to clearly articulate the connection the Symposiums have with ‘collections/collecting’ back in September, I did state the case that these Symposiums were certainly a ‘gathering’ of educators; a ‘congregation’ of people devoted to contribute to the growth of others; a series of presentations for each person in attendance to ‘acquire’ an arsenal of new information; an ‘accumulation’ of ideas by those in attendance to be taken back home and distributed upon their communities; students and learners within these communities then ‘assembling’ and ‘amassing’ new understanding of their own creative potential within themselves as a result. I simply saw a chain reaction of positive influence in the simple idea that the Academic Symposium - and community in general - is really about bringing people together by means of shared interest.
The article below is the culmination of a conversation had with Robert M. Minkoff and Andrew Page over several emails regarding the Symposium's past, present, and future. It is the draft I submitted in its full, unedited version to serve as supplemental material to what is seen in the Winter 2015 issue of GASnews:
These virtues to connect, learn, and share wholeheartedly amongst the early generations of the Studio Glass Movement are still very much in play today…not only in developed platforms of exchange to further inform our glass-based making, but new and exciting platforms to further inform our glass-based teaching. The Robert M. Minkoff Foundation Academic Symposiums have been a truly unique example of this extension of creative fellowship, specifically in the effort of advancing the field of glass education.
Sponsored by Robert M. Minkoff, directed by Andrew Page, and hosted by UrbanGlass, these symposiums have been designed to bring together educators, students, artists, and administrators of art organizations from around the world to approach challenging issues related to teaching and learning within a glass context. “We wanted to establish a higher level of discourse than you might find at a typical presentation,” notes Robert Minkoff, Founder and Managing Trustee of the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation, Ltd. “We wanted people to present academic papers in an effort to signal our expectations of a more rigorous discussion [involving innovative approaches to enhancing the glass field through education].”
The impetus to develop and organize a new platform of exchange came to Andrew Page, editor of GLASS Quarterly and Director of the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation, following his panel “Post Studio Glass: A Look At The New Parameters For Work In Glass” at the 2012 GAS Conference. A vigorous conversation amongst the audience followed the panel discussion; an indication of a new dialogue beginning to take place within glass teaching practice as a younger generation of artists were beginning to take over academic positions. Further conversations between Page and sculptor/educator Daniel Clayman (who was in attendance at that panel discussion) planted the conceptual seeds to give this sort of conversation shape in the form of an organized conference. “The need to reassess the teaching of glass emerged as a focus, and so the concept of a forum on ‘Glass Pedagogy’ took shape,” says Page. “A key step was when I approached the Minkoff Foundation and the concept was enthusiastically embraced.”
In addition to the Minkoff Foundation, support was also found at UrbanGlass, where Larry Pitterman, then Acting Executive Director and currently Chairman of the Board, offered staff, facilities, and strategic input to make the event a reality. With these two organizations on board, Page began assembling an advisory board that included Clayman, Jack Wax (Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University), and Ruth King (then Artistic Director of the Pilchuck Glass School) to help select the proposed academic papers to be presented at the first Robert M. Minkoff Foundation Academic Symposium at UrbanGlass in December of 2013.
Page adds, “We also wanted to establish the symposium as a place for serious academic thinking about pedagogy, and so modeled it after other academic conferences where papers are presented.” The keynote address was delivered by Jack Wax and was followed by lectures and presentations by a new guard of glass academics, established department heads, non-degree-granting instructors, and administrative directors of educational entities; a line up of speakers from all around the world to approach a wide variety of issues related to contemporary glass teaching practice and methodology.
Two years following that inaugural symposium, the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation has again partnered with UrbanGlass to deliver a second opportunity of academic exchange. During this past October, department heads, professors, educators, students, and arts administrators once again gathered in New York City to attend “Issues in Glass Pedagogy: New Technologies in Practice.” The nature of the symposium set its sights on a much more specific conversation regarding new curricular integrations of technology within glass making and its implications upon glass education.
The second day took place at Founder’s Hall of St. Francis College, getting underway with a keynote from Tina Aufiero, Artistic Director of the Pilchuck Glass School. Saturday’s presentations took place in the studios of UrbanGlass. The nature of topics ranged from various approaches of integrating technology within educational curriculum, technology as an aid in both teaching practice and personal making practice, unique developments involving science and art as seen in the The Corning Museum of Glass/Corning Incorporated Specialty Glass Residency, and insight into the development of the MIT Media Lab’s breakthrough hot glass 3D printer. Page adds, “These are the kinds of things that the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation was hoping to foster through the symposium: advancing glass education as a whole…and it is exciting to get the ball rolling and watch it take off.”
When asked about the direction of future Academic Symposiums, Page adds, “I think we will get better and better at fine-tuning the symposium to the needs of glass educators everywhere, but that we’ve hit upon a good model. We had a very productive focus group at the end of the symposium where a lot of great ideas came up, many of which we will be implementing, so stay tuned.”
For anybody with a penchant for issues related to education (whether glass-specific or not), the anticipated continuation of the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation Academic Symposium is something to be truly thrilled about. Even in its budding momentum, ‘Issues in Glass Pedagogy’ has certainly revealed itself to be a valuable platform of exchange within the contemporary glass field…a gathering similar to a GAS Conference, yet directed at a public specifically interested in amplifying the impact of teaching. Aside from being a collective opportunity for educators to come together and challenge the notion of contemporary glass-based teaching practice, the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation Academic Symposium makes for a dynamic exemplification of what community is best in service of: to support and encourage unforeseen possibilities within one another.
to the Glass Program of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.