The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, has a 10,000-object collection of historic and contemporary glass unexpectedly strong for a regional art museum, and making up nearly a third of its entire holdings. Credit the early 1950s gift of New England Glass Company glasses from the estate of Norfolk resident Florence Smith, add in the 1971 Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. donation of more than 8,000 works of glass, and factor in a steady stream of smaller but significant gifts of English cameo, 20th-century Italian, and contemporary glass. The collection, which is overseen by curator of glass Kelly Conway, also benefited from the two Art of Glass summer celebrations that brought together all of the area’s museum collections of glass to create a blockbuster event in 1999 and 2009. Now, a 7,000-square-foot hotshop will complete the museum’s dedication to the material of glass with a center for education and artist demonstrations. It is currently being built across the street from the main museum building and scheduled to open next autumn.
Bringing together H&A Architects and Engineers and Eddie Bernard and his team of glass studio building experts at Wet Dog Glass, the project will create a state-of-the-art glass facility at the site of a former bank building on the corner of Duke and Grace streets. Scott Howe, the education director for the Chrysler, is the project manager for the museum. The project budget is $7.5 million, which includes an endowment for operating expenses, two new full-time jobs, and several part-time jobs.
The idea for the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio, as it is being called, came about during Art of Glass 2, when the crowds left little doubt about the fascination of hot glass, and event organizers looked for ways of making the area a destination for glass year-round. “The Art of Glass exhibitions exceeded all expectations in terms of visitors who came to see the world-class spectacle” said Andrew Fine, the Art of Glass 2 chairman as well as a Chrysler Museum trustee, in a prepared statement. “Now, the vision to transform Hampton Roads into a major glass center is becoming a reality with this studio that will complement the Chrysler’s brilliant glass collection.”
Chrysler Museum director Bill Hennessey says the focus of the center will be on education, not only for tourists but for art students at local educational institutions. “We anticipate this will draw people to the region to learn about glass, meet visiting glass artists, and tour our collection,” Hennessey said in a prepared statement. “We expect this to be a significant educational component for the region—one that will allow us to further strengthen our partnerships with groups such as Tidewater Community College and the Governor’s School for the Arts. With more than a third of our 35,000-object collection devoted to glass, this is clearly a strong suit for the Chrysler. This Glass Studio will bring these works of art to life.”
The new facility will house a 500-pound tank, three glory holes, five annealers, and a flameworking table with eight torches. The facility will host introductory and master classes, a visiting artist program, and studio rentals by practicing artists.
“The Glass Studio will help our visitors gain a better understanding and appreciation for the wonderful objects in our collection,” said Conway, curator of glass, in a prepared statement. “We devote a lot of time explaining the technical processes used to make these artworks. The studio will provide far more capable and lively answers for these technique-based questions from our visitors, and tours will connect the live studio experience with the contextual history explained in the glass galleries.”
“During Art of Glass 2, mobile hot-shops gave guests a small glimpse of what glassblowing entails, said Scott Howe, education director and project manager for the studio, in a prepared statement. This Glass Studio will be on a level that is unmatched.”
Construction will continue through 2011, and it is anticipated the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio will open to the public next fall. Visitors will be able to enjoy free glassmaking demonstrations, and the Museum will offer a series of classes and workshops for students and adults. These will include a range of educational programs from beginners to master classes for accomplished professional artists.
For more information, see the museum’s official Website about the project.
OFFICIAL INFO ABOUT THE MUSEUM:
The Chrysler Museum of Art is one of America’s most distinguished mid-sized art museums with a world-class collection of more than 35,000 objects, including one of the great glass collections in America. The Museum is located at 245 West Olney Road in Norfolk, and is open Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, noon-5 p.m. The Chrysler is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as on major holidays. Admission to the Museum’s permanent collection is free. Special exhibitions may have an admission fee. For exhibitions, programming and special events, visit www.chrysler.org or call (757) 664-6200.