The Pittsburgh Glass Center announced the winner of its 2022 Ron Desmett Memorial Award for Imagination with Glass, which honors artists using glass in experimental and innovative ways. New York-based Ukrainian multimedia sculptor Inna Babaeva’s willingness to take risks and think outside the box were cited in the announcement that she will be the recipient of a $2,500 cash prize as well as studio time at PGC.
Babaeva first discovered glass as a medium in 2016 at UrbanGlass (the Brooklyn nonprofit art center that publishes the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet) , where she would be selected as visiting artist the following year through the UrbanGlass Visiting Artist and Designer Fellowship.
Having won the Ron Desmett award at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Babeva hopes to continue her experiments with glass. In an email exchange with the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet , Babeva said: “I feel very fortunate to receive the Ron Desmett Award. His award aims to help other artists to explore possibilities of glass as a creative medium. As the application mentions, the award is given with the aim to “practice curiosity and take risks”. I look forward to doing that at the Pittsburgh Glass Center very much.”
Working through the global pandemic and conflicts between Russia and the Ukraine, Babaeva has used her art as a means of expression and activism in the face of both issues. Exhibited at the Essex Flowers Gallery in New York, Babaeva’s 2020 work, Word of Mouth focused on themes of isolation, a new appreciation for the freedom that would come post-pandemic, and hope for the future. Babaeva also participated in fundraising efforts on behalf ofthose displaced and injured in the Ukraine, saying that, “The momentum of support for Ukraine in the art world has been very powerful.” She connected humanitarian relief organization Razom for Ukraine with Underdonk, an artist-run gallery in Brooklyn to organize a benefit auction for Ukraine, raising over $20,000. She was also involved with the Ukrainian Artists and Allies League (UAAL), an international collective that promotes Ukrainian cultural arts and programming, through which over $300,000 in art sales were raised in support of cultural organizations, artists, non-profits, and aid for refugees.
In the same email exchange, Babaeva shared her glass philosophy with the Hot Sheet: “I think about glass as a fascinating material. It does not decompose over time, but can be broken in a second. Living in our culture of conformist mass-production, I question how we make choices between ordinary and unique; machine-made and crafted by hand; disposable and precious.”