Wednesday August 9, 2017 | by Lindsay Hargrave

Philadelphia glass-art museum to spotlight philanthropists, artist Jen Blazina at annual gala

The National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia will feature Separation, a sculpture by Jen Blazina as part of its 18th annual glass auction and gala coming up on October 7, 2017. The museum fundraiser not only supports this unique institution that sees a linkage between the material of glass and the concept of freedom, but also calls attention to the work of community role models, as well as spotlights the philanthropic efforts of an individual artist. This year’s honorees are Sandy and Steve Sheller, who funded the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Beasley School of Law, The Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center of Drexel University, and The Stephen and Sandra Sheller Commons of the South Philadelphia Free Library. This year’s "artist hero" is Pearl Dick, who co-founded Project Fire, an initiative to use glassblowing as a healing and mentoring, and job-creating tool for trauma victims and young victims of gun violence.

In an email exchange with GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet, NLM glass department manager Meegan Coll said “Each year, we look for honorees who embody our mission in their daily lives. Are they working to develop leadership potential in young people? Do they advocate for peaceful conflict resolution? Are they civically engaged? This year’s honorees meet and exceed all of those criteria—Pearl Dick in her work with Chicago youth, and the Shellers in their tireless service to the community.”

Among these values, glass art fits in in a unique way. “We celebrate freedom of expression by featuring the work of glass artists, who work in a medium connected to transparency, another key element of a free society (especially when it comes to the government),” Coll said. The museum began showing glass when its founder Irvin Borowsky (1924 - 2014) organized an exhibition of glass to commemorate the Holocaust and Kristallnacht, which means the “night of broken glass.” When the museum came into being, many of these works remained, and thus began the NLM’s development of a permanent collection. The museum  exhibits glass art not just for its aesthetic appeal, but also for educational purposes that coincide with their mission. “Our educators use art criticism concepts to guide discussion about complex ideas, and students discover creative analogies between our glass sculptures and the real-world events that inspired them,” Coll said. “By combining our glass collection with our educational exhibits, we’re aiming to engage the emotions of our visitors as well as their intellects.”

This year’s featured piece will be Jen Blazina’s “Separation,” a cast glass and bronze sculpture of a girl’s dress. “I think it speaks to the human condition in some personal format,” Blazina said in a telephone interview. “I like to support the local art scene, since I'm a part of it, and I just always like to donate work, or try, if I have enough, to different places that I think are worthy of support.” Blazina has two works in the museum’s collection, but this will be her first gala as the featured artist.

This year, the NLM expects a mix of familiar collectors and new ones in attendance. It hopes to raise money to support continuing programs and raise the visibility of those making a difference artistically as well as socially. “We’re delighted to be able to showcase the work—both artistic and community-based—of Pearl Dick, and we are also so grateful to be able to recognize the amazing work that the Shellers are doing in our community,” Coll said.

Glass Auction & Gala
October 7, 2017
National Liberty Museum
321 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA
Tel: 215.925.2800 x136
Website and tickets here

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.