Imagination takes form in Glasstastic exhibit at BMAC

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BRATTLEBORO — To imagine is to picture in the mind something that does not yet exist in reality. To create is to take the imagined idea and give it form.

This process is at the heart of Glasstastic, the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center's bi-annual invitation to children in grades K through six, asking them to draw an imaginary creature and submit it by the deadline. Glassblowers, mostly from New England, are then invited to choose one of the drawings to make in glass in their own studios and send to the BMAC.

The Glasstastic exhibit opens March 9. At the opening, the children who submitted drawings, their parents and teachers, and the glass artists all gather for brunch and to meet each other.

Glasstastic was inspired by the Kids Design Glass program at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington. This is the fourth time the BMAC has sponsored its own version.

By the December 30, 2018, deadline the BMAC had received over 1,200 submissions (nearly five times the number of entries received in 2011, the first year of the project). Linda Whelihan, education curator for the BMAC, looked at every one. Each of the 20 participating glass artists selected one drawing to make into a sculpture. The 20 sculptures will be on exhibit at the BMAC from March 9 to June 16. Every drawing submitted by the deadline will be exhibited in some manner at the museum.

Rachel Mangean, art educator at Green Street School in Brattleboro, said she adores the Glasstastic contest.

"I introduced it to all my classes, kindergarten through sixth grade," she said. "We imagined the weirdest, kindest, scariest things we could. Then I let them go free, drawing their own creature. The creativity and imagination that come from this project — amazing."

Jennifer Towle, who teaches art at Hinsdale Elementary School in Hinsdale, N.H., said her students "really enjoy the idea of creating original creatures and readily jump into the artistic process. They are quite excited to learn that if they decide to enter the contest, their designs will be on display in a museum."

Anna Chechile, in grade five at St. Michael School in Brattleboro, said the name of her creature is "Stoun, and that is parts of the words stars, sun, and moon."

Andrew Weill chose her piece to turn into sculpture.

Chechile's art teacher, Deborah Pickering, described how she introduced her classes to Glasstastic.

"We discussed how glass sculptures are made and then looked at some of the creations from previous years," she said. "After that I had my students think about their creatures, imagining where they live, what they enjoy doing, what they look like. From there, I let my students' imaginations run wild. The students loved the freedom to create their very own imaginary creature."

The glass artists find the children's creations technically challenging to create in a three-dimensional medium. For example, Robert DuGrenier, who has made elaborate glass chandeliers for the Harry Winston jewelry stores and other pieces for Tiffany & Company, has said in the past that making a multi-colored inchworm for Glasstastic was one of the hardest things he's ever done. This year, DuGrenier is creating Esabella Amoah's drawing, Hue the Stick, which has required DuGrenier to work with cane — long, thin rods of glass containing color — something he said he hasn't done before.

"It's definitely a labor of love by these glass artists," said Whelihan. "They are paid a token honorarium, but they put in hours and hours experimenting with techniques to achieve the desired effects. Not only do they enjoy the artistic challenge, but they also develop techniques that they can later use in their own work."

Whelihan asked the glass artists why they choose to participate in Glasstastic.

Randi Solin, who moved her studio from California to Brattleboro in 1998, said, "I think Glasstastic is a wonderful opportunity for a young child to have their artwork validated as important. (It's also a way to) do something for the community. It's important to give back."

Solin chose to create Nosey Ned & Nostril Nebby by Graham Long, who is in fourth grade at Flood Brook School, Londonderry.

"I don't really know how I came up with the drawing, really," Graham said in an email. "I just drew the first thing that popped into my mind. Noses! I named them Nosey Ned and Nostril Nebby because nosey and nostril both have to do with noses."

Alissa Faber has been working in glass for a decade. She is currently an artisan, designer, and educator crating and teaching in Burlington.

"I am excited to participate in Glasstastic," she said, "and I hope to expose more people to the marvels of hot glass. We are surrounded by glass in our life, but many people do not think of it as a handcraft that can create a sculptural monster or a life-sized replica of an orchid."

Faber has created Jelly by Chase Sullivan.

Lynn Latimer is participating in Glasstastic for the second time.

"The children's bold and free-styled drawings are a wonderful technical glass challenge, and an invitation to explore and share someone else's vision," she said. "The show draws a great crowd, including the kids and parents, into the BMAC, and is alive with energy. It's a lot of fun all the way around."

Latimer's piece for Glasstastic 2019, HooBley GooBooley by Tailae Rianne Lynn, includes inlaid design elements. Stencils are applied and cut; the design is carved into the panel by sandblasting, then filled with ground glass (called "frit"). Then it is all melted together in a special glass kiln.

Tailae, who is a fifth grader at Green Street School, said via email that the idea for her drawing came from wanting to "make a really big red monster." She was "happy, excited, and surprised" to find out her drawing had been chosen and is "excited to see my art turned into glass."          

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The sculptures are for sale at $295 each. The families of the student artists have two weeks in which to decide if they would like to purchase their students' pieces. After that, the sale is open to the public. Proceeds go to the BMAC Education Fund for programs, scholarships, and materials.

For more information about Glasstastic, contact Linda Whelihan, BMAC education curator, at education@brattleboromuseum.org or 802-257-0124, ext. 109.

The BMAC is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Tuesdays (closed Jan. 1, July 4, Thanksgiving Day, and Dec. 25). Regular admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for students, free for BMAC members and youth 18 and under. Free admission for all on Thursdays, 2 to 5 p.m. BMAC is wheelchair-accessible, and a guest wheelchair is available. Upon request and with advance notice, the museum will provide an ASL interpreter.

Nancy A. Olson, a frequent contributor, can be reached at olsonnan47@gmail.com.

The following glass works will be on display:

- Devilhorn by Katelyn Croteau of Hinsdale Elementary School, Hinsdale, N.H., and Bryan Randa of Randa Glass

- The Eye Girl by Destiny Dorsey of Green Street School, Brattleboro, and Jocelyn Brown of Terrapin Glassblowing Studio

- A Flying Wonder by Malena Hodgman of Green Street School, and Dan Coyle of CoyleCondenser

- Haterpillar the Caterpillar by Maya Rottenberg of Brown Middle School, Newton, Mass., and Jordana Korsen of Hot Glass Art Center

- HooBley GooBooley by Tailae Rianne Lynn of Green Street School, Brattleboro, and Lynn Latimer of Latimer Glass Studio

- Hue the Stick by Esabella Amoah of Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School, South Burlington, and Robert DuGrenier of Robert DuGrenier Associates, Inc.

- The Imaginary Monster" by Deegan Wilkinson of JR Briggs Elementary, Ashburnham, Mass., and Jen Violette of Jen Violette Glass

- Jeff by Leo Elder of Robinson Elementary School, Starksboro, and Josh Bernbaum of JMB Glass

- Jelly by Chase Sullivan of Hinsdale Elementary School, and glass artist Alissa Faber

- Jos the 7th by Justin Draper of Bellows Falls Middle School, and Kale Stewart

- Kiki by Lily-Ann Nolet of Stockbridge Central School, Stockbridge, and Gen Cole of Funktional Glassworks

- The Leaf Warrior by Lawton Duch of Haddam Elementary School, Higganum, Conn., and Claire Kelly of Claire Kelly Glass

- Miss Piggy by Sawyer Bailey of Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School, South Burlington, and Robert Burch of Robert Burch Glass

- Mushroom Guardian by Colin Chicoine of Salisbury Community School, Salisbury, and glass artist Wesley Fleming

- Nosey Ned & Nostril Nebby by Graham Long of Flood Brook School, Londonderry, and Randi Solin of Solin Glass

- The Oltument Banana by Brian Quinn of Hinsdale Elementary School, and Marta Bernbaum of JMB Glass

- Orange Furrball by Blake Truchon of Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School, South Burlington, and Matthew Donaldson of REfound Works Design Studio

- Smileing Cupcake by Abbie Jarvis of White River Valley School, Bethel, and Ava Scott and Dominique Caissie of Terrapin Glassblowing Studio

- Spaghetti Monster by Bram Salus of Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion School, Hadley, Mass., and David Colton

- Stoun by Anna Chechile of St. Michael's School, Brattleboro, and Andrew Weill of Manchester Hot Glass


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