The 2020 Glass Art Society Conference scheduled to take place in Småland, Sweden became one of the countless events to be scrapped due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. But that won't mean this year will miss the annual gathering of the glass tribe. Kicking off at 10 AM Seattle time on Thursday, May 21st, and running through Saturday the 23rd (the original events scheduled dates) much of the planned program will be in place for the first-ever, totally-online event. The Virtual Conference will be free and open to the public via live-streamed and recorded video. Awards ceremonies, demos, panel discussions, lectures, tours, happy hours, and more will all be available. The goblet grab, portfolio review, and silent auction will all be part of the three-day event. There will even be a virtual version of the prized conference t-shirt, as well as a video experience of the annual collectors' tour.
Translating the myriad programming from real-life to virtual was a monumental task for the relatively small GAS staff, but executive director Brandi Clark credits her intrepid team, and a tech partnership with local university students, for pulling together the first-ever fully digital conference. "We’re committed," Clark told the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet, adding that the event marks another milestone -- it will be totally free to experience. "It’s going to be available to anyone whether a member or not. It’s just another way we feel we can give back to the community at this time."
It's too early to fully assess the financial impact of the canceled live event, but Clark did share that she was "pleasantly surprised" at the number of registrants who either donated their fees for the Sweden conference or rolled it forward for their registration for the 2021 conference (whose location and date will be formally announced during the live virtual event). A "Donate" button is prominently displayed on the virtual conference page, soliciting financial support for the effort.
Clark hopes that the event will not only help the artist organization fulfill its mission of bringing together the world of glass, but to also provide community and a positive spirit during this difficult time for artists and for GAS, itself. "Not only did canceling the conference have a huge financial impact on the organization, but it also created a great sense of sadness from not being able to introduce our members to the people and places in Sweden that we have grown to love while planning the conference," says Clark. The despair over the cancellation was short-lived, however, and the organization was quick to pivot from what was lost to what was possible to do through new technologies.
"We saw that this new situation provided us with an opportunity to share the conference with an even larger audience, partner with people and organizations in new ways, and give something meaningful to the entire glass community during this time of fear and uncertainty," said Clark. "While we are an extremely small staff (four full-time and one part-time), we already had a lot of tools needed to communicate and work with people virtually."
While the GAS staff may have had most the necessary tech tools in place, that wasn't true for everyone involved in the conference. "Many of our scheduled presenters do not, and even more of them don't currently have access to their studios, which has proven to be the most significant challenge," says Clark.
Modifications were made where necessary, but Clark hopes that most of the key elements, and the most important of all -- that unique sense of community that GAS represents -- will remain intact.
"While the Virtual Conference won't be an exact online version of what we had planned for GAS2020 in Sweden, we will be bringing folks a piece of the Kingdom of Crystal and providing a lot of interesting content. We will also be featuring many of the regular conference favorites - the member and student exhibitions, portfolio review, happy hours, and even a closing night party!"
--Additional reporting by Andrew Page
Most events will be live-streamed via the GAS YouTube page, accessible via links from the GAS conference page. Some will require registration.
Thursday, May 21
- Conference Kick-off
- Live Demo (TBD)
- Educator Happy Hour
Friday, May 22
- Collector Home Tour
- Executive Happy Hour
- Small Business Happy Hour
- Portfolio Review
- Goblet Grab Rounds
Saturday, May 23
- Live Demo (TBD)
- “Closing Night Party” Livestream
PRE-RECORDED PRESENTATIONS (ON-DEMAND)
Cathryn Shilling (Hot)
Marta Byrdziak (Engraving)
Jacci Delaney (Kiln)
Geir Nustad (Hot)
Bruce Howard (Hot)
Micke Johansson (Hot)
Shelley James (3D)
Timm Muth (Green)
Frederik Rombach (Community Outreach)
Jennifer Detlefsen (Nurturing Creativity)
Max Jacquard (Kiln)
Dafna Kaffeman (Flameworking)
Zoltan Viczan (Engraving)
Mats Jonasson (Hot)
Grant Garmezy (Hot)
Chris Skibbe (Hot)
Marta Gorski (Art & Economics)
Angus Powers (Education)
Maria Eugenia Diaz de Vivar (Ibero-American Glass)
Laura Quinn (3D)
Matteo Seguso (Engraving)
Morgan Persson (Hot)
John Moran (Hot)
Caterina Zucchi (Flame)
Mark Hill & Paul Swartwood (Hot)
Marta Ģibiete (Kiln/3D)
Maria Almås Frantzsen & Ruth Hol Mjanger
Erika Lagerbielke (Design)
- GAS Member Virtual Exhibition & Catalog
- GAS Student Virtual Exhibition & Catalog
- Silent Auction & Goblet Grab
- Yixuan Pan Workshop
- Partner Events with groups like the Scottish Glass Art Society and others.
For more information, please visit the Conference website.