Tuesday July 11, 2023 | by Andrew Page

Brooklyn artist Layo Bright receives the 2023 Pittsburgh Glass Center's Ron Desmett Award

Brooklyn-based artist Layo Bright has been named as the 2023 recipient of the Ron Desmett Memorial Award celebrating artists "who think outside of the box, practice curiosity, and take risks to create unique, imaginative works in glass," according to the official announcement. Named in honor of PGC's late co-founder, the award cited Bright's explorations of African design techniques and symbolism through her glass sculptures as the reason for the award.

A native of Nigeria, Bright cites the capacity of glass to convey "resilience, transparency, reflection, fragility, and transformation" as reasons for her recent focus on the material, one of many media she uses including clay, wood and textiles. Bright holds an MFA from the Parsons School of Design, and has exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions at prominent galleries such as Sean Kelly Gallery (New York), Bode Projects (Berlin), and Monique Meloche (Chicago). She has received two scholarships at UrbanGlass (which publishes the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet) and is currently a visiting artist resident at the Brooklyn nonprofit art center.

Bright will receive a $2,500 cash award as well as studio time at the Pittsburgh Glass Center to create a new body of work, for which the artist is planning to create figurative hollow vessel sculptures with blow molds, and face-size glass masks of family members and her close community members inspired by traditional African masks.

To honor Ron Desmett, each year the Pittsburgh Glass Center awards at least $5,000 annually to an artist (or scholar) in one of the following four categories:

  • YOUTH: A high-school whose work embodies Desmett’s spirit and shows rare talent. An awardee in this category will receive a $2,500 cash award upon high school graduation to be used for further education and a year of free classes and private instruction at PGC.
  • GLASS ARTIST: An artist beginning his or her professional life working with glass, whose work embodies Desmett’s spirit in a creative nature and who shows great promise. An awardee in this category will receive a $2,500 cash award and time in PGC’s studios to create a new body of work.
  • NON-GLASS ARTIST: An artist whose medium of choice may not be glass, but over his or her creative life has embodied the experiential and experimental qualities that Desmett valued. An awardee in this category will receive a $2,500 cash award and time in the PGC studios with the help of an experienced glass artist to create his or her vision in glass.
  • WRITER: A writer who would use this award to focus on glass, with emphasis on craft media as sculpture exploring new thoughts as glass art matures. Critical thinking best exemplifies Desmett’s vision for communicating through art. Writers must have demonstrated manuscripts and be willing to work on questions posed by the committee in an effort to break new ground with this medium and with critical writing. An awardee in this category will receive $2,500 cash award and a residency in Pittsburgh. The awardee would be expected to visit PGC and spend time exploring the medium through the lens of critical thinking. Additionally, the awardee would write an essay for publication on an exhibition at PGC and present a lecture on their topic at PGC. 

PGC co-founder and wife of Ron Desmett, Kathleen Mulcahy, together with a committee of other artists, curators, and community leaders, select the awardees. 

The deadline to apply for next year's award is May 31, 2024. Applications are accepted online.

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.