Let’s Talk About Art: Community-building through glass

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This is a biweekly series about art and artists in the region. Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts serves the community through arts education, exhibitions and artist resources.

As Pittsburgh continues to emerge as a city recognized for innovation and creativity, the Pittsburgh Glass Center — which opened in 2001 — has become a vital part of a community-building effort.

Initially, a weekly program called Idea Furnace brought non-glass artists into the glass center studios in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood. It soon became clear that the connection between glass and other  artists was more than just a creative potential. Their collaborations and exchanges became as important as the creative outcomes. For this reason, the glass center made Idea Furnace a six-month residency program.

This year the Idea Furnace was extended to involve the Pittsburgh Biennial exhibition (pittsburghbiennial.org). The glass center selected six non-glass artists to collaborate with six glass artists.

Pittsburgh Glass Center’s portion of the Biennial highlights its combined artistic efforts. It’s on view through Oct. 26.

One of the participating artists is Vanessa German, whose provocative found-object assemblages were part of her Emerging Artist of the Year exhibit at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in 2012.

Ms. German extends Idea Furnace’s spirit of exchange in one of her three Idea Furnace works, which incorporates an 8-foot ladder usually used for glass-pulling in the center’s hot shop. This ladder supports glass vessels created by glass artist Jason Forck.

Viewers can become part of the work by placing inside these vessels personal prayers or hopes they’ve written on small slips of recycled paper. Ms. German says the artworks she has created through Idea Furnace “carry a community’s worth and concern and will grow while being shown.”

Idea Furnace-inspired collaborations among the glass center, Ms. German’s Art House in Homewood and other organizations, such as Artist Image Resource on the North Side, are in the works. Such partnerships with community-based organizations that provide public access and serve younger audiences help the glass center continue its mission to build a more vital arts community, which ultimately strengthens the region’s creative draw and economic potential.

Pittsburgh Glass Center, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Pittsburgh Filmmakers collaborate frequently on workshops, programming and administration. For more information: pittsburgharts.org and pittsburghglasscenter.org.

Savannah Schroll Guz is a mixed-media artist and editor.

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