Toledo's nickname, "Glass City," reflects the centrality of glass to our community's commerce and industry, and the accomplishments of Toledoans with names such as Libbey and Owens. An exhibit that opens Thursday at the Toledo Museum of Art offers a reminder that glass also is a foundational material of our area's artistic and educational contributions to the world.
The exhibit, "Color Ignited: Glass 1962-2012," inaugurates the museum's Frederic and Mary Wolfe Gallery for Contemporary Art, named for two local philanthropists who donated $2 million of the gallery's $3 million cost. It commemorates the 50th anniversary of the American studio glass movement, which was launched at the museum and did much to define glass as an artistic medium.
The museum's exhibit is a centerpiece of four days of activities there and at SeaGate Convention Centre that will attract 1,200 artists and art lovers to Toledo for the Glass Art Society's annual conference. Dozens of local galleries will sell glass pieces. A Saturday night fashion show at Huntington Center will feature glass costumes.
It's an opportunity for the city and region to present themselves to their best advantage to international visitors. It's also an appropriate recognition of the art museum, which was founded and largely funded by glass magnate Edward Drummond Libbey.
Half a century ago, two workshops at the Toledo museum brought together a handful of ceramicists who experimented with artistic possibilities for glass. Since then, the museum has assembled one of the world's finest collections of studio glass, now housed in its Glass Pavilion, which has been spiffed up for the occasion.
The new contemporary art gallery gives the museum the flexibility to show a wide variety of works. Its high white walls, dark wood floors, and mezzanine make a simple yet dramatic statement without overwhelming the art the gallery will display.
In a commentary in The Blade this week, museum director Brian Kennedy called the "Color Ignited" exhibit "a full-circle moment for the museum." The conference and exhibit provide a similar moment for this community, reinforcing the notion that innovation in glass, both industrial and artistic, is a proud and durable Toledo tradition.
This week's local celebration of the glass arts movement is largely, and properly, a celebration of Toledo itself.