Sunday June 28, 2020 | by Farah Rose Smith

Pilchuck Glass School announces cancellation of all 2020 programming, teaching artists to be paid anyway thanks to generous donor

With the uncertainty around containing the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States in general, and Washington state in particular, Pilchuck Glass School has announced it is cancelling all of its summer and fall programs and residencies for 2020. Included in the announcement was the positive news that an anonymous donor has gifted Pilchuck with sufficient funds to pay all artists who had been scheduled to teach the cancelled classes. 

"Because of this generous gift, we will once again be able to meet the obligations for our teaching artists while also sending a modest payment to include all other artists who had been engaged to help us deliver our summer and fall programming," read the official announcement. Pilchuck plans to reschedule all the canceled programs and outreach programs to a safer time in 2021.

Pilchuck will be devoting time this year to make improvements on its campus and facilities, and planning for its annual auction in October.

Before the decision was made to cancel all 2020 programming, the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet had gotten comments from Pilchuck executive director Christopher Taylor, director of marketing Pollyanna Manning, and artistic director Ben Wright about how Pilchuck was approaching the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic.

Director of marketing Pollyanna Manning: The first diagnosed case of COVID-19 in the United States was in Snohomish County, WA – where Pilchuck Glass School is located. The Seattle region has been particularly attuned to the earliest outbreaks, so Pilchuck began assessing in mid-March. When stay-at-home orders were launched, we knew that our May programs would not be able to run as planned. As the pandemic grew, travel restrictions were instituted, and crowd sizes were restricted to curtail transmission rates. In close consultation with similar resident-style schools around the country, we were forced to assess the risk to the community if we were to invite 100 people at a time to the campus for our summer sessions. We modeled a variety of options while keeping close watch on the advice of our health officials. Before cancelling the full year, we decided to attempt to salvage the end of the summer, Session 6, Fall 1, and Fall 2 starting August 22. We will monitor the situation, follow advice of public health professionals, and decide in due time. 

Artistic director Ben Wright: Enrollment was very strong before the cancellations and continues to be so for our remaining programs. We have relaxed all refund policies to encourage folks that they are not risking anything by enrolling and staying enrolled. Like everyone, our community is watching the developments and understands that further cancellation is possible. Each summer at Pilchuck brings artists from around the country and across the oceans. Last year, we welcomed participants from 28 different countries and 30 states. We’re proud of this global dialogue but it depends on the free and safe movement of people around the world.  The safety of our community will remain the top priority before we welcome people back to campus.”

Executive director Christopher R. Taylor: Since our founding in 1971, Pilchuck has never had 3.5 months in the middle of the summer to devote to significant campus improvements. Most repairs at Pilchuck have to factor in the rain, slush, and snow of the off-season. We’re not taking this summer off, we’re going to be very busy making Pilchuck a better and safer experience for the future!

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.