The Pittsburgh Glass Center has announced itsfirst Ron Desmett Memorial Award for Imagination in Glass. Artists who take glass to innovative heights and take risks, in the vein of the late Desmett, are called to apply and can do so online by May 31, 2018. PGC will grant at least one award a year, consisting of $2,500 in cash along with classes and studio access valuing $2,500, for a total award value of $5,000. Awardees’ work will embody the innovative and rule-defying spirit of Desmett’s glass work.
PGC will grant the award to an artist in one of four categories. All awardees will receive the cash portion of the prize but the specifics of classes and studio access vary per category. Co-founder of PGC and wife of Ron Desmett, Kathleen Mulcahy, will select awardees with a committee of other artists.
The first category is meant for high school students who show rare and promising talent. If one is an awardee, he or she will receive the cash award upon graduation and a year of free classes at PGC.
An emerging glass artist who shows great potential can also apply. They must be beginning his or her career in glass. Along with the cash prize, the artist would be given time at PGC’s studios to develop a new work.
The next category, entitled “Idea Furnace,” calls for artists who do not have a background in glass art but still express Desmett’s artistic values. Their experience at PGC studios would consist of working with an accomplished glass artist to begin a glass work.
Finally, the last category focuses on critical writing. According to PGC’s press release detailing the award, “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.” Awardees would visit PGC to explore glass through the lens of critical thinking. Further details on the four categories can be found here.
In their application, artists must submit an artist statement and a description of their project or why he or she should be selected for the award. Three references must be included as well, along with a maximum of ten images, videos, or writing samples.
Desmett, who passed away in December 2016, co-founded the Pittsburgh Glass Center with his wife and partner, Kathleen Mulcahy. PGC, a nonprofit that opened in 2001,became a catalyst of change for the run-down city of Pittsburgh. The art center, which has classes in glasswork and a gallery, appealed to artists. In the years that have followed PGC’s opening, Pittsburgh has turned into a nearly unrecognizable city but one that has changed for the better.
With an original focus on painting and ceramics, Desmett did not begin his career as a glass artist. He had a BS in art education from the University of Akron and an MFA in sculpture from Carnegie Mellon, which is where he met his wife. Mulcahy has an MFA in glass sculpture from Alfred University and directed glass studio programs at Carnegie Mellon.
Upon his introduction to glass, Desmett’s life and art were forever changed. His glass works were essentially products of nature’s effect on blown glass. He left behind a legacy that will continue to impact the art world. His work is in the Smithsonian, Corning Museum, Tacoma Museum of Glass and Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art.
Desmett’s final exhibition was a collection of cast glass vessels that were blown in hollowed tree trunks of walnut trees. The exhibition was entitled “Hollowed Truths” and displayed at Alfstad&Contemporary in the beginning of 2017. Desmett called what he did, “Making the ordinary extraordinary.” With the Memorial Award, artists are encouraged to be brave and innovative like Desmett and this will not only strengthen his legacy but also invigorate the world of glass art.