GlassFest is the massive four-day glass art celebration that has taken the Gaffer District in Corning, New York, by storm. Although the event is sponsored and supported by the world-renowned Corning Museum of Glass, it is the business association known as the Corning Gaffer District itself which throws the event — closing its Historic Market Street off to car traffic to instead fill the space with art, food and entertainment vendors. Having completed its 8th celebration in May 2017, GlassFest has become a cherished community event celebrating glass artistry in and around the town of Corning, proving that glass can thrive outside the walls of the famed museum and setting a precedent for other cities to follow. Taking a page (and the name) from the New York event, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma will be co-hosting its first ever glass festival, Glass Fest Northwest, a free event to showcase Pacific Northwest glasswork. Taking place on Sunday, July 23rd from 12 noon to 5 PM, the event will feature over two dozen local artists and artisans who will join together with area art institutions to celebrate, display and sell artwork made from glass. There will also be live glassmaking demonstrations, food, beer and wine, music and family-oriented activities for the community to partake in.
“Corning has their glass event that's very well-known and very well-attended," said Jana Marcelia in the Museum of Glass marketing department, in a telephone conversation with the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet. "Here we are on the West Coast and we don't have anything like that. What we were really looking for is to put our mark on this here at the Museum of Glass.”
Marcelia noted that the museum did not have enough time to plan an elaborate, multi-day event like Corning’s, but decided to proceed regardless— to start small and let it “blossom” over time.
“It’s not exactly where we want it to be this year, but we thought, let’s just dip our toe in the water and move forward with the event and get us on the map with it,” she said. “And then we can always build from there.”
To kick start the series of annual Glass Fest Northwest events, the Museum of Glass is working in collaboration with the Tacoma Art Museum. The Tacoma Art Museum is a nationally-renowned art museum, home to the largest collection of glass art from Tacoma-native Dale Chihuly, as well as the largest collection of studio art jewelry by Northwest artists. It is currently in the process of building a new wing to house the recently gifted Benaroya Collection, one of the most definitive holdings of Studio Glass with a focus on Northwest artists. The museum was founded in 1935, nearly 70 years prior to the Museum of Glass, which just celebrated its 15th year anniversary this year.
In spite of the substantial age gap between the two, both museums are the only ones in the area that work specifically with glass and have glassmaking capabilities.
“We looked at our artists coming here and a good number of them are represented in the collection that Tacoma Art Museum has,” Marcelia said. “They have many of the artists’ historical offerings and we’ve kind of got those artists coming in here and creating glass in our hot shop. So, we have the future and they have the past.”
Marcelia said that partnering the two organizations together has the ability to increase community interest and accessibility to glass art in the region.
“We have really established what I’ll call a ‘collaborative platform,’ a collaborative relationship with Tacoma Art Museum. We think it’s all about really partnering where it makes sense; on collections, exhibitions, programming, marketing events, that sort of thing,” she said. “Really bringing the community together around glass art and ensuring that we have a complementary story to share across the two organizations around glass art in the area.”
According to Marcelia, the Pacific Northwest is a center point for contemporary glass, but often times smaller glass artists do not have an opportunity to share their creations. This kind of event will allow lesser-known artists a chance to display and sell their work.
“What we hope to accomplish with the event is to put the glass art and the artists that created it in front of the community; make them the showpiece, highlight of the event,” she said. “Some of those artists may not have the chance to promote their materials to a large audience because they’re emerging artists, so we’re giving them a platform. I think it’s connecting the community with the artists who are here.”
"Glass Fest Northwest" Museum of Glass 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, Washington Tel: 253.284.4750 Website