Glass Imaginations

“Teal Blue” was designed by Harley Pecor and created in glass by Mariel Bass.

The pandemic may have shut museum doors over the past year, but it didn’t stop artists from creating.

Glasstastic 2021 opens today at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, a collection of 27 sculptures in glass inspired by the drawings of children in grades K-6 from all over the country. Young artists are asked in advance of every Glasstastic event to submit drawings of imaginary creatures, and glass artists bring those creatures to life.

There were about 1,200 submissions to the last Glasstastic event in 2019; this year there were 800. Entry closes in late December and artists create 3D renderings of the select few drawings in about a month. Museum Director Danny Lichtenfeld attributes the drop in entries to the fact that normally schools are involved and school hadn’t been in session for much of 2020. The museum also closed from March through June.

“We’re pleased that many submissions came in almost entirely online,” he said. “We received some nice notes from teachers and parents thanking us for keeping it going.”

Area art teachers have assigned drawings for Glasstastic in past years.

Linda Whelihan, the museum’s former education curator, said Glasstastic, which was formerly named Vermont Kids Design Glass, was inspired by a show at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Wash. Lichtenfeld had read a piece about that museum, where children blow their own sculptures at its in-house glass facility and it hosts a show of the finished pieces.

Lichtenfeld’s relationships with schools and regional glassmakers helped launch the Brattleboro show, one of the museum’s most popular.

The group of artists has more than doubled in size since the first year of Glasstastic in 2011.

“They are a tight-knit group,” Lichtenfeld said. “They all follow each other on social media and suggest their artist friends to participate [in Glasstastic]. Most of these artists have been posting videos and photos of their sculptures in-process.”

This year, the museum celebrates 10 years since the first Glasstastic (there have been five such events) with a show that is bigger than ever. The final submissions in the show are mounted next to their coinciding glass sculptures — and every single drawing submitted will be displayed in a digital gallery (searchable by young artist and glass artist name) on view at the museum and on its website. While no prizes are awarded, young artists get to take home the sculpture of their drawing.

They will also feature a special Blast from the Past gallery (the name a nod to the blast furnace in which glass sculptures are created), filled with some drawings that inspired past editions of Glasstastic and videos showing how these creatures are created as well as a display of glass sculpture-making tools.

For each Glasstastic event, young artists are asked to give their imaginary creature a name and story: Lucia Carr’s “Kelpie,” for instance, is a creature that lives in seaweed and likes to roll down the beach toward the ocean.

“Apart from the incredible sculptures and the hard work that went into making them so faithful to these kids’ drawings,” Lichtenfeld said, “the other amazing thing about this exhibit is reading the kids’ stories about these creatures.”

Glasstastic is on display at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, and at brattleboromuseum.org, through June 18.


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