When Harvey Littleton conducted a glass-blowing workshop in a garage on the grounds of the Toledo Museum of Art in March, 1962, he certainly had ambitions for glass as a sculptural medium, but he could not have anticipated the astounding international impact of this workshop and a second one that followed in June.
Few artistic movements can trace their origins to a specific time and place as can the American studio glass movement. Although not many of the workshop participants went on to become glass artists themselves, the results of the Toledo workshops inspired a generation of artists to explore glass as a medium for expression.
This year, the 50th anniversary of those seminal workshops is being celebrated at institutions across the country, including here at the museum that hosted them.
The Glass Art Society was formed in the heady, early days of the studio glass movement. Today, it boasts some 2,250 members representing 46 countries.
We are happy that the organization is holding its 42nd annual conference Wednesday through Saturday in Toledo, coinciding with the opening of Color Ignited: Glass 1962–2012. The exhibition and its companion book offer a fresh new look at studio glass by focusing on the importance of color to its development and meanings.
Indeed, the exhibition is a full-circle moment for the museum because it will be shown in the newly renovated Wolfe Gallery for Contemporary Art, space which formerly housed the museum's glass collection.
If you've never visited the Toledo museum, we invite you to do so. If you have, we invite you to return and see what's in store for you now.
The glass collections have been reinstalled and reinterpreted in the Glass Pavilion. The building, which opened in 2006, was the first structure in the United States designed by the Japanese architectural firm SANAA. It is a work of art all by itself. Not only that, you can watch as artists give glass-blowing demonstrations there in the hot shop.
We hope too that you'll take time to visit our other special exhibitions, including For the Birds in Gallery 18, Refraction/Reflection in the Works on Paper Gallery, and Revelation: Major Paintings by Jules Olitski in the Canaday Gallery. In the Classic Court, visitors can travel back in time to explore the great ancient cultures of our world: This reinstallation features new educational components to help families share enjoyment of objects and their stories in exciting new ways. Spend a few moments in the upper concourse of the Peristyle theater taking in the grandeur of that space, which is now open during regular museum hours.
We look forward to seeing you!
Brian P. Kennedy is the director of the Toledo Museum of Art.