2018 Essay | BSU’s Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass: Creating a Foundation for the Future

2018 Essay | BSU’s Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass: Creating a Foundation for the Future

Ball State University’s Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass: Creating a Foundation for the Future

By Lara Kuykendall, PhD in American art history, and Davira S. Taragin

Tom Patti
Solarized Blue Echo, 1988
Glass, fused, hand-shaped, ground, and polished
2  1/2 x 5 3/8 x 4 inches
Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass,
School of Art, Ball State University;
Gift of the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Photo by Serena Nancarrow

Life at the Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass

Even now, seasoned artists in all media marvel when they first visit Ball State University’s Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass in Muncie, Indiana.¹ The Center embodies Mrs. Glick’s dream to establish a premier university glassmaking program in Indiana. For Ball State, it has meant continuing the legacy of the Ball family, longtime civic leaders who were seminal to Indiana’s glass industry as the manufacturers of the iconic Ball jar.

Glass is one of twelve disciplines embraced by Ball State’s School of Art, and the Glick Center has its own 9,000-square-foot facility. It is the only American center for contemporary glass in academia with an endowment for facilities updates, materials, faculty salaries, graduate assistantships, student scholarships, and visiting artists. Since its inception in 2010, the Glick Center has expanded its offerings from blowing, casting, slumping, coldworking, sandblasting, kiln-forming, kiln-casting, and hot sculpting to include lampworking and neon. According to Brent Cole, the head of the Center, “students are shown the various methods of glass forming and then challenged to incorporate them into work that engages in a contemporary conceptual dialogue.”

Mark Peiser
Homage to Escher IS296
from the “Inner Space” series
, 1985
Compound cast glass, cut, polished
11 x 7 x 2 1/4 inches
Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass,
School of Art, Ball State University;
Gift of the Indianapolis Museum of Art
© Mark Peiser
Photo by Serena Nancarrow

Integral to the educational experience at the Glick Center is its growing collection of Studio Glass. At the core are the forty-two works by international artists that were donated by the then Indianapolis Museum of Art (now known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields) in 2015 for faculty and students alike to use as a study collection. These works were part of the Studio Glass collection that Mrs. Glick and her late husband, the philanthropist and builder Eugene Glick, gave the Indianapolis Museum. While Mrs. Glick’s interest in Studio Glass dates from the 1970s, her involvement during IMA Director Bret Waller’s tenure was transformative for both collector and institution. Working with Waller and curator Barry Shifman after determining in 1989 that the museum would be a repository for their holdings, Mrs. Glick built an encyclopedic collection spanning the movement, resulting in the first such assemblage in a major general American art museum.²

Mrs. Glick’s decision to help build IMA’s documentation of a wide variety of glassmaking techniques proved particularly fortuitous when Dr. Charles L. Venable, current Indianapolis Museum director, and Marianne Glick, former BSU trustee and daughter of the collector, started discussions in 2014 about a possible loan or gift of Studio Glass from IMA’s collection to the Glick Center at Ball State. The resulting gift, according to Cole, has enabled the students “to identify works by artists from the movement’s past and understand how these artists brought their concepts to fruition.” The works are installed in spaces adjacent to glassmaking studios alongside objects fabricated by visiting artists such as Michael Glancy, Matthew Eskuche, and Ethan Stern. The Glick Center organizes approximately three visits per academic year of individual artists and/or collaborative teams to work with students. In developing this program, it offers both a variety of aesthetic approaches and glassmaking techniques. The visiting artists are gracious enough to leave examples of their work and that of others for student study. Artists Stephen Paul Day and Sibylle Peretti donated, for instance, Erwin Eisch’s drawing Mein Wolken Peter Paul, 1995, which Eisch had given Day, because they so enjoyed their experience as visiting artists at the Glick Center in 2017.

Matt Eskuche
First Hundred Days, The Greys, 2017
Flameworked glass
14 x 20 x 25 inches
Courtesy Habatat, MI
Photo courtesy of Matt Eskuche

Recently, the Glick Center collection was enhanced by a gift of nine works from Studio Craft collector Martin Messinger. Unlike Mrs. Glick, who focused exclusively on Studio Glass, Messinger was interested in all craft media. His gift of glass and ceramics documents the work of artists such as husband and wife Marc Petrovic and Kari Russell-Pool whom Mr. Messinger discovered early in their careers. Supplemented with donations of earlier twentieth-century glass from Janis and William Wetsman, the collection provides students with a virtual lexicon of glassmaking techniques.

Ethan Stern
Black Adit, 2009
Blown and wheel-cut glass
14 x 13 x 5 inches
Collection of Diane and Jerome Phillips
Photo by Rob Vinnedge

In addition to students taking advantage of events on campus, devoted Ball State patrons Patricia Schaefer and the late Tove Stimson frequently opened their home and collection to BSU’s artistic community. Developed after Schaefer saw the 1998 Chihuly exhibition at the Columbus [OH] Museum of Art, the collection primarily showcases international developments involving the interplay of light, color, and glass’s reflective/refractive qualities. Cappy Thompson, an artist represented in the collection, recently noted that unlike many contemporary art collectors who tend to commodify artists, Schaefer saw meeting them as a way to genuinely further her knowledge of the material

Similarly, expanding upon the visiting artist experience, students sometimes have had opportunities to watch—even assist—artists-in-residence such as Anders Ruhwald, Dafna Kaffeman, and Silvia Levenson prepare for shows at Ball State’s David Owsley Museum of Art. Ruhwald’s was the most interactive: students and faculty helped the Cranbrook Academy of Art–based artist translate a ceramic sculpture into glass as part of his exploration of form in a variety of media. After its Owsley debut, Ruhwald’s show traveled to New York’s Urban Glass and to Seoul’s prestigious Cheongju Biennale.

Erwin Esch
Mein Wolken Peter Paul, 1995
Ink, crayon, and watercolor on paper
9 1/4 x 12 1/2 inches  
Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass,
School of Art, Ball State University;
Gift of Stephen Paul Day, Sibylle Peretti
Photo by Serena Nancarrow

The Marilyn K. Glick Center in Context

It is fitting that the School of Art at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana should celebrate its roots in glass and education while looking to the future at SOFA Chicago 2018. Glass has been both a key component of Muncie’s economic history for more than a century and an important aspect of Ball State University’s identity since the school’s inception in 1918.

Kari Russell-Pool
One True Love, No. 1, from the “Gardener’s Valentine” series, 2006
Flameworked glass
13 3/4 x 13 15/16 x 3 3/8 inches
Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass,
School of Art, Ball State University;
Gift of Martin Messinger
Photo by Serena Nancarrow

The tradition of glassmaking in East Central Indiana is over 130 years old. In the 1880s, the discovery of the enormous natural gas deposits known as the Trenton Gas Field lured commercial glass operations with the promise of free fuel to power their furnaces. Indiana came to be seen as a capital for glass manufacturing for much of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Indiana Glass Company in Dunkirk made decorative objects in a range of styles and colors, while Opalescent Glass Works in Kokomo made sheets for stained glass artists like Louis Comfort Tiffany and John La Farge. Most notably, the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company began making their iconic Ball canning jars in Muncie in 1887, and the success of their industrial enterprise coupled with their philanthropic spirit continues to shape Ball State University and the Muncie community.

People are always delighted to hear that the name of the university comes from the name of the company that made the ubiquitous glass canning jars. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Ball State University, an event precipitated by a generous gift from the five Ball brothers who moved the company from Buffalo, New York to Muncie where it prospered and grew quickly. In 1917, the Indiana Normal Institute, a local training ground for teachers, was struggling financially and in foreclosure. The Ball brothers purchased the school and donated it back to the state. The following year the school reopened as a public teachers’ college and the name Ball has been attached to the institution ever since. The Ball family has maintained that tradition of philanthropy and generosity throughout the school’s history with funding for new buildings as well as continuous donations by Ball family members of historical and contemporary works to the university’s David Owsley Museum of Art, which is named after the grandson of Frank C. Ball, one of the five Ball brothers.

Anders Ruhwald
Number II, 2013
Ceramic, glass, and wood
Ceramic: 51 x 14 1/4 x 14 5/8 inches;
glass: 51 5/8 x 13 x 13 inches;
wood 49 15/16 x 13 x 13 1/8 inches
David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State University,
Muncie, Indiana; Museum purchase in honor of
Peter Blume on the occasion of his retirement 2013,
Photo © David Owsley Museum of Art

While the Ball Company no longer makes their jars in Muncie, glass has expanded its presence in the region. The Indiana Glass Trail celebrates the area’s transition from a hub for commercial glass to a thriving community of artists who realize the creative and aesthetic possibilities of glass as an artistic medium.³ This is why the establishment of a renowned glass education program at the Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass at Ball State is so appropriate. It capitalizes on the rich history of glass production and mobilizes twenty-first century philosophies of art and craft education to provide an exceptional experience for artists at every stage of their career.

Dafna Kaffeman
Defeated (wolf #01), 2013
Flameworked glass with aluminum and silicone
32 11/16 x 27 9/16 x 1 15/16 inches 
David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State University,
Muncie, Indiana;
Purchase: John and Janice Fisher Glass Endowment,
Museum of Art Endowment, and
The Friends of the Museum,
Photo © David Owsley Museum of Art

Ball State’s Glick Center for Glass is remarkable in its combination of undergraduate and graduate programs in glass as an artistic medium with its own art collection and a vibrant visiting artist program. The interactions between practitioners at various levels are sustained and varied. Students witness the kind of camaraderie and athleticism that goes into producing glass art, and they participate in the interrogation of ideas and methods at every step of the process. These opportunities are not only available to glass majors, but to students studying other studio disciplines, art history and art education, as well as the broader university community. Students from any division on Ball State’s campus can enroll in a glassmaking class, which allows them to foster a connection to the history of this place that is unique and lasting.

Artist and educator Ernesto Pujol has called for twenty-first century art schools to function as “conceptually based, multidisciplinary studios [and] hybrid learning environments.” He means that ideas must be cultivated, exchanged, and practiced among faculty, students, and artists working in diverse media on a regular basis. Historically, this sort of philosophy has thrived at institutions like the Bauhaus in Germany and Black Mountain College in North Carolina where world-class artists have collaborated with students to advance new causes in art and explore a wide range of materials to best express themselves. These models remain exemplars of art pedagogy and influence the way Ball State’s School of Art encourages students and faculty to reach across disciplinary boundaries as they make and teach art.

Lara Kuykendall is Associate Professor of Art History at Ball State University. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas and was a Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center Fellow in 2010. Her most recent publication, “John Steuart Curry: Regionalism at War,” appears in The American Midwest in a Scattering Time: How Modernism Met Midwestern Culture (Hastings College Press, 2018).

The Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass,
School of Art, Ball State University
Photo by Don Rogers

Former Detroit Institute of Arts and Toledo Museum of Art curator, Racine Art Museum director of exhibitions, Davira S. Taragin currently is consulting curator to both Ball State University School of Art and the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum.

Authors’ Note: This essay was based upon conversations between Davira S. Taragin and Brent Cole, August 6, 2018; Tom Hawk, August 3, 2018, and Cappy Thompson, August 3, 2018; and an email from Martin Messinger to Taragin, August 4, 2018.

1 Taragin was reminded of the impact that the facility has upon artists seeing it for the first time during a conversation with metalsmith and craft activist Gabriel Craig, July 21, 2018.

2 For an in-depth discussion of Marilyn K. Glick as one of the leading Studio Glass collectors, see Barry Shifman, “Introduction,” in Martha Drexler Lynn and Barry Shifman, Masters of Contemporary Glass: Selections from the Glick Collection (Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1997), 11–13.

3 For more information, see: http://indianaglasstrail.com/glass-history/.

4 Ernesto Pujol, “On the Ground: Practical Observations for Regenerating Art Education,” in Art School (Propositions for the 21st Century), ed. Steven Henry Madoff (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2009), 6.

Faculty and students at work in the Hot Shop
at the Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass
From left to right: Associate Professor Brent Cole,
Thomas Williamson, Glass Facilities Manager Slate Grove,
Veronica DeBone, Assistant Professor Jennifer Halvorson
Photo by Don Rogers


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