Tom & Friends: 20 North to exhibit work of studio glass pioneerWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
The colorful work of studio glass pioneer Tom McGlauchlin, along with art from his closest colleagues and friends, is on display at 20 North Gallery until July 14.
“Tom & Friends: A Tribute to McGlauchlin’s Legacy in Glass” is one of the glass exhibits happening during the Glass Arts Society Conference commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the studio glass movement in Toledo.
Tom died in 2011 at age 76, but his wife Pat McGlauchlin encouraged 20 North to go forth with an exhibit.
“We initially planned this exhibit with Tom McGlauchlin as an exclusive solo exhibit of his work and just days after he had made that decision [to exhibit] and we were moving forward with the exhibit, he passed away from pancreatic cancer,” said Condessa Croninger, associate art director for 20 North.
Tom was one of the participants in the 1962 glass workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art, where several artists experimented with making glass art outside a factory setting. This exhibit will be the first time since the workshop that the attendees’ pieces have been displayed together.
Pat met Tom when he was an assistant teacher for her ceramics class at the University of Wisconsin.
“He started out in engineering, but he realized after two years that was not for him. He’d never actually done any art before, but he just got into ceramics and that’s where it all started,” Pat said.
Tom, who grew up in Beloit, Wis., became interested in glass because of his mentor Harvey Littleton, whose family was involved in Corning Glassworks. Littleton had wanted to do something with glass his whole life, Pat said. Until the early ’60s, most glass art was done in factories.
“[Littleton] just thought an artist should be able to do [glass art] on his own, just like a potter,” Pat said.
“Back in 1962, glass was not considered a fine art form; it was a decorative object,” Croninger said. “Glass workers were not considered artists; they were considered laborers.”
Otto Wittmann of the Toledo Museum of Art agreed to host Littleton’s glass workshop. Tom, also a potter and sculptor, was teaching at Cornell College in Iowa, but made the trip in March 1962 to explore new ways of making glass art.
“It was an exciting time for them. Tom’s letters said they couldn’t sleep at night because they were just so excited about what they were doing,” Pat said.
In June 1962, there was a second workshop.
“That workshop Tom was late for, because our son was born,” Pat said with a laugh.
After the second workshop, Littleton traveled the country getting universities to teach glass art while Tom began teaching his new craft at the University of Iowa, only the second program of its kind in the country.
“They hired Tom even though he had only blown glass a few days,” Pat said.
The couple moved to the Glass City so Tom could teach at the University of Toledo and Toledo Museum of Art in 1971.
Part of what made Tom special was his willingness to experiment with art, said Pat, who was a potter for 25 years.
“He definitely tried different things and you learn from your mistakes; sometimes your mistakes can be a wonderful surprise. … He came up with new techniques that hadn’t been done before just through trial and error,” she said.
Many of the artists showing alongside Tom came from Pat’s suggestions,while others volunteered, Croninger said.
“A number of old colleagues and friends had come into town for his memorial service and they had stated they would be really honored to have a piece alongside his work in the show,” she said.
The artists who attended the 1962 workshops who are displaying at 20 North include Littleton, Clayton Bailey, Edith Franklin, Norman Schulman, John Stephenson and Dominick Labino.
“When they started, they were up-and-coming younger kids and now they’re legends,” Croninger said.
Other artists included in the exhibit are Herb Babcock, Fritz Dreisbach, Henry Halem, Philip Hazard, Janet Kelman, Shawn Messenger, Mark Peiser, Jack Schmidt, Robin Schultes, Patrick Dubreuil, Kelly Sheehan and Meredith Wenzel.
“This is a very small group of artists compared to the number of artists who could have exhibited. Tom had many, many friends,” Croninger said.
The show will also include previously unexhibited work by Tom and items are available for purchase.
Tom’s work is featured in the permanent collections of the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, N.Y., the Smithsonian Collection in Washington, D.C., the Kunstmuseum in Dusseldorf, Germany, The National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Japan, the Toledo Museum of Art and more.
An open house will be 6:30 p.m. June 15 at 20 North Gallery, 18 N. St. Clair St. This will coincide with the Glass Art Society’s Gallery Hop, from 6:30-10:30 p.m., in which buses will loop between dozens of designed spots. Gallery hours are noon-4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday or by appointment.
Call (419) 241-2400 or visit www.
20northgallery.net for more information.
Tags: 20 North Gallery, Condessa Croninger, Fritz Dreisbach, Glass Art Society Conference, Henry Halem, Herb Babcock, Jack Schmidt, Janet Kelman, Kelly Sheehan, Mark Peiser, Meredith Wenzel, Patrick Dubreuil, Philip Hazard, Robin Schultes, Shawn Messenger, Toledo Museum of Art, Tom & Friends, Tom McGlauchlin