This summer, I had the chance to visit what is now one of my all-time favorite museums, The Corning Museum of Glass, in Corning, New York, a museum with an interesting history. It was established it 1951, then twenty years later. the building and most of its prized artwork was seriously damaged by flooding in June 1972, caused by Hurricane Agnes. Each piece of glass required meticulous cleaning and restoration — and the museum re-opened, amazingly, two months later. In 2001, a huge renovation added 18,000 square feet to the property, creating the Contemporary Glass Gallery, which showcases countless pieces of jaw-dropping glass art I was lucky to see.
Working for a company that solves construction challenges with glass on a daily basis, it was a delight to see what can be accomplished creatively with that same material.In addition to seeing amazing works of art with glass, there were many demonstrations on the processes involved in glassblowing, flame-working, sandblasting, fusing and much more. Gifted artists in auditoriums talked into microphones to crowds of visitors, explaining their complicated areas of expertise, while deftly twisting strands of hot glass into beautiful shapes and color combinations, in and out of raging hot ovens.
I would have liked to have taken a few of the many offered classes, but time didn’t allow for that – at least, not on this trip. I do know that even without trying my own hand at it, I was awestruck by what I saw being accomplished, by so many instructors who made it look easy. Visitors who take classes need to return at a later time to pick up their own work, to allow time for the cooling and annealing of their pieces.
A large part of the museum was devoted to the history of glassmaking through the ages, and I was stunned to learn that it has been a process in which humans have been involved almost as long as the history of mankind itself. It was mind blowing to see pieces from as long ago as 2000 BC and as far away as ancient Mesopotamia. To think that actual pieces of something so fragile could not only survive to present times, but also, to be as beautiful still as when they were created, pushes the level of credibility. At least it did mine. I had no idea that people were capable of and had the means to produce such works in ancient times. For a quick peek at the history, see: Corning Museum of Glass timeline.
A visit to Upstate New York, and the Fingerlakes Region, should be on everyone’s bucket list, and certainly touring this museum should be high on the list. I will be back, knowing that talented artists all over the world will continue to grow the amazing collection of work shown here.