Ten years ago, a group of glass artists decided to form a guild as a way to procure more buying power, market collectively, and simply to build a community in a large, mostly-rural New England state. The Vermont Glass Guild, a non-profit organization that now numbers more than 40 Vermont-based glass artists, will be celebrating their 10th Anniversary on May 9, 2020, with a hybrid exhibition and lecture event at the Southern Vermont Art Center's Wilson Museum that will feature a presentation by New England-based glass artist Toots Zynsky.
The Vermont Glass Guild (VGG) was established in 2010 to unite glassworkers that live and/or work in Vermont, in the medium of glass. They accept and encourage all methods of glassworking in the Guild: Hot (furnace-worked), lamp (torch-worked), warm (fused/slumped), and cold (stained glass). Robert DuGrenier, a glass designer as well as an artist, is the board president (he also serves as a board member of UrbanGlass, which publishes the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet).
DuGrenier’s own glass studio is solar-powered, and he is focused on developing new processes and techniques that allow glass artists to become more sustainable. “Glass is such an energy hog that it is nice to develop tech that can be more energy efficient," he said in a telephone interview with the Hot Sheet. "I’m taking a look at the world with clarity and what is happening politically. The piece that I have in the first show is looking at the world with climate change in the forefront. I've revisited my work with hermit crabs, and I'm building a globe that is a terrarium. Various areas in the globe will be highlighted through lenses and spotlit areas that won’t be around in the next 50 years. I’ve been inspired by old vessels from Mesopotamia that were used for food storage, like clay pots with hand works/forms. I'm creating an archaeological dig with my glass vessels buried in sand. I believe in a couple hundred years, Brattleboro and the beginning of the mountains of Vermont will be the seashore.”
DuGrenier, and others, are seeking ways not only art, but technology, might hold the key for mitigating the effects of climate change. To him, the glass process is a blend of both.
“Without technology, glass wouldn’t exist. The advancement in furnace, melting procedures, and more,” says DuGrenier.
It is fitting, then, that the Vermont Glass Guild's 10th anniversary exhibition is part of a year-long series organized by a different organization -- the Vermont Curators Group, which has grouped a schedule of events under the banner "2020 Vision: Seeing the World Through Technology."
This statewide collaboration is a project of the Vermont Curators Group, a network of nearly 100 Vermont curators and institutions. This year, the exhibition collective is exploring the intersection of art and technology. Three glass-centered exhibition events are included in their extensive schedule.
Gillian Sewake, project manager of the 2020 Vision Initiative, explained in a telephone conversation with the Hot Sheet, “The Vermont Curator’s Group conceived of this state-wide project in late 2017, and at that point they knew they wanted to create a theme to gather exhibitions around, to create a cultural conversation. People were drawn to the theme and how it looks at how technology impacts the modern world. It’s a theme that brings together art institutions, historical societies, science museums, and a way for every institution to reflect on the concept in a way that is meaningful.”
Anne Corso, executive director of the Southern Vermont Arts Center, shared that, “There is wonderful synergy between the Vermont Glass Guild and the Vermont Curator’s Group, with incredible glass artists who by nature are working with technology and art."
The keynote speaker at the Vermont Glass Guild's event at the Southern Vermont Arts Center will be Toots Zynsky. Corso adds, “While she is not officially part of the glass guild and not exhibiting, she is an internationally known glass artist who has, in her career, espoused the idea of glass and innovation."
For more information on the Vermont Glass Guild, please visit their website.