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Thursday September 16, 2021 | by UrbanGlass Staff

UrbanGlass Partners with STEM Matters NYC

This August the UrbanGlass studios were buzzing with STEAM-y explorations thanks to our new partnership with STEM Matters NYC, a city-wide program funded by the NYC Department of Education. We were thrilled to host a series of free in-person teen and family programs investigating the natural intersection of glass, science, and art, and highlighting how creative expression bolsters the learning process across all areas of education. We are so happy we were able to provide a safe, inspiring, and joyful environment for public school students emerging from a year of remote schooling, especially as they prepared to ease back into fully in-person classes this fall. Coming back together again for the first time can be overwhelming, but we’re thankful we had the chance to help some take their first step back towards togetherness. 

Discovery Days offered a special interactive experience for students in grades K-8 with their adult caregiver. Over the course of three Saturdays, we were delighted to have 79 people from across the five boroughs join us to see the many different ways glass art is made at UrbanGlass and how it shapes the world around us. Each Discovery Day session featured live glassblowing and neon bending demonstrations, and fun hands-on art making activities like coloring faux stained glass postcards and making drawings for a community mosaic mural. We loved all of the imaginative, funny, and cheerful contributions we received for the mural that now adorns our lobby. From colorful scenes of hotdogs and ice cream on the beach, to a family outing at UrbanGlass, everyone shared something that brings them joy this summer in New York.

This collaboration also enabled us to develop two High School Intensives in the form of a 2-week program for rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. Two cohorts of students were selected through a careful application process. From a pool of over 300 applicants, 13 students joined us to discover the magic of glass and the tight-knit community fostered around this medium. In Bright Matter: Intro to Neon Bending and Layered Stories: Intro to Imagery and Stained Glass students dove deep into the creative possibilities of these art forms and learned how problem solving, teamwork, and research inform the artistic process.

Our amazing roster of teaching artists, including Stephanie Lifshutz, Emily Craddock, Esteban Salazar, Jess Krichelle, Dorie Guthrie, and Kelsie McNair, inspired students to create stunning artwork with kind encouragement and generous expertise. Demonstrations, fun team competitions, and skill building drills illustrated the scientific concepts behind what makes glass tubes glow, and how glass behaves on a molecular level in response to temperature changes or physical stress. While Bright Matter focused on the process of manipulating glass tubes using specialized torches to create neon lighting, Layered Stories explored imagery techniques using different forms of glass like liquid enamels, decals, powders, sheets and rods, as well as stained glass methods for creating structural forms. Each session also offered insights into the historical contexts of these glassmaking processes and instructors’ personal journeys along their creative career paths. 

It was incredibly heartwarming to see how the students poured everything they were learning into their work, and to watch as they built friendships playing games during lunch breaks and working alongside each other in the studio. Caregivers and friends were invited to join us for a group show on the last day of each session to see the results of their hard work. We were delighted to celebrate all of their stunning artwork exhibited in the UrbanGlass classroom, and learn more about the students through their designs. Speaking about her son’s experience in Layered Stories, Qi Li observed how the program’s blend of art making and communal bonding helped shaped a positive experience. “He really enjoys every minute in UrbanGlass, not just the cool things he has been learning there, but the kind, patient and rigorous guidance from your teachers, as well as the accompanying and playing with amazing boys from diverse culture[s]…” she said. 

UrbanGlass is committed to fostering community partnerships with organizations that share our passion for educating and inspiring young people. Please contact our Youth & Outreach Coordinator at karina@urbanglass.org to learn more.