Tuesday April 4, 2023 | by Kinshasa Peterson

Pittsburgh Glass Center pours "a translucent foundation" as it breaks ground for $15 million expansion.

The Pittsburgh Glass Center (PGC), an anchoring presence in the Penn Avenue Arts district in the city’s East End, recently broke ground on a new, $15 million expansion that will nearly double its size and allow for additional glassmaking studios, exhibition space, and artist housing to support and engage the community.

At PGC’s groundbreaking ceremony in March 2023, ladles of 2,000-degree molten glass were poured from the second story of the existing facility to form a translucent, symbolic foundation for the organization. PGC Founder Kathleen Mulcahy, capital campaign chairs Jim and Kathe Patrinos, PGC board members, and city and county officials were present at the groundbreaking. 

Opened in 2001, the Pittsburgh Glass Center currently contains 16,000 square feet of multi-functional space and is known as a hub of artistic activity. The founders of PGC, glass artists Mulcahy and the late Ron Desmett, believed in the transformative power of the arts and sought to create a center where experienced glassmakers could hone and exhibit their craft, as well as to offer courses for newcomers interested in learning more about glassmaking. The 11,000 square feet of additional space will provide the capacity to double the number of individuals who visit the center each year. Upon completion, PGC anticipates serving 12,000 students annually.  

Plans for PGC’s expansion first began in 2018, and almost $11 million of the $15 million for the project’s design and construction has been raised through a capital campaign chaired by Jim and Kathe Patrinos. The growth of the center comes at a time of heightened interest in the medium. Glass museums, such as the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, and the Chrysler Museum of Art in Virginia, have increased their gallery and glassmaking space through the launch and realization successful capital campaigns.  

Heather McElwee, Randi & L. Van V. Dauler, Jr. Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Glass Center states that “It’s exciting to see the overall growing interest in studio glass, which is apparent from the fact that PGC is not the only glass institution currently experiencing significant growth. There is no doubt that the Blown Away series has… sparked people’s interest in learning about glass, but PGC has been one of the top glass facilities [in the city] for over 20 years. We are building on this momentum to grow our community… [to provide] more opportunities for artists and people who are curious about glass to be educated.

PGC’s expansion, led by architectural designers Indovina & Associates and general contractor The Albert M. Higley Co. is being performed in conjunction with Vitro Architectural Glass, a consultant that is donating all glass for the new facility. Plans presently underway will add a third story to the main building. A second, 6,500 square foot site in close proximity to the existing facility will create additional gallery space along with new retail. Completion is anticipated in Summer 2024.

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.