The glass community lost one its pioneers when artist Tom McGlauchlin died on Monday, April 4. He had pancreatic cancer and passed away in his home in Old Orchard, Ohio. He was 76. He attended the glass workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1962 that are now considered the birth of the Studio Glass movement and taught the second-ever glass course in an American university. He dedicated over 50 years to his art and teaching others how to harness glass.
Mr. McGlauchlin was born on the family farm in Wisconsin on September 14, 1934. His father sold the farm in 1937 and relocated the family to nearby Beloit, where McGlauchlin grew up. He studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, devoting his first two years to engineering before switching to art. He began his artist career working in ceramics. In 1960 and 1961 he taught colleague and mentor Harvey Littleton’s pottery classes so Littleton could devote his sabbatical to researching glass. Mr. McGlauchlin’s artistic life changed when he attended two workshops on glass as art given by Littleton in 1962. Those two workshops, given in a garage at the Toledo Museum of Art, are considered the birth of the Studio Glass movement and started Mr. McGlauchlin down a path that led him to the top of the glass art world.
He left the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1961 and spent the next 10 years in the Art Department at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. In the summer of 1964 he taught an introductory glassblowing class at the University of Iowa. It was the second glass course taught in an American university, with Littleton teaching the first at University of Wisconsin in 1962.
“My qualifications were that I had spent more time blowing glass (about eight hours) than anyone else available,” wrote McGlauchlin on his website. “The students were mainly grad students in ceramics and we learned to blow glass together.”
He relocated to Toledo in 1971 and dedicated the next 13 years to teaching glass as part of a joint program between the Toledo Museum of Art and the University of Toledo. When he left the program in 1984, he devoted himself to making art full time. From 1978 until his death he worked on a series of glass sculptures exploring abstract qualities of the human face. Recent works include fused glass panels honoring Henri Matisse and Piet Mondrian, as well as more archetypal figures. 20 North Gallery represented him for nearly two decades.
His work is in permanent collections in museums such as the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, the Kunstmuseum in ü, Germany, the Glass Museum in Corning, New York, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, as well as in private collections, including Elton John’s. Mr. McGlauchlin’s sculpture commissions include pieces at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and at the University of Toledo.
He is survived by his wife, son, three grandchildren, and four siblings. A celebration of his life will be held on Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Tom McGlauchlin Memorial Fund at the Toledo School for the Arts, or to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio or Toledo Museum of Art.
—Jason Gutierrez and Grace Duggan