The Glass Art Society's annual world conference is coming to St. Petersburg

The conference, 'Charting a Course: Visions in Glass,' blows into St. Pete and surrounding cities in March.

click to enlarge Adrienne DiSalvo — that glass kraken, named "Wicked," is her work — will be part of the conference coming to Tampa Bay in late March. - Adrienne DiSalvo
Adrienne DiSalvo
Adrienne DiSalvo — that glass kraken, named "Wicked," is her work — will be part of the conference coming to Tampa Bay in late March.

St. Petersburg is hosting the Glass Art Society’s Annual Conference for 2019, and it will be quite the event. Last year the GAS Conference was in Murano, Italy, a city renowned for its beautiful glass, so St. Petersburg is happy to welcome this elite group of artists.

“We’re thrilled to be part of this event,” said Andrew Schlauch, executive director of the Chihuly Collection and Morean Glass Studio. “This will bring us so much creative energy.”

And indeed, there’s no lack of events coinciding with the great group of  artists about to invade the area with their beautiful glass. 

“We have the Chihuly, Imagine, and Duncan McClelland studios where there will be GAS events, plus the Morean Glass Studio,” he said. “There are many other glass studios in Tampa Bay and Sarasota — this will bring lots of attention to the growth of glass art in the area.”

The actual conference begins Thursday, March 28, and will definitely bring an eclectic group of international visitors to view this upcoming glass experience. Organizers expect as many as 1,000 attendees; Murano, by comparison, had 2,000 in 2018.

 “Having GAS in St. Pete will bring glass artists from everywhere,” said Schlauch. “It also attracts professors, collectors, curators — anyone who loves art glass.”

After all, as Schlauch said, “It’s a coup for St. Petersburg, it’s the bees knees!”

But even before GAS comes to Tampa Bay, glass opportunities aboutnd. From March 23-26, there’s a “Blow-Cast-Hot-Cold” workshop at Gott Glass Studio and Gallery, opened in 1991 by Susan Gott, in Tampa’s Seminole Heights. Instructor Rob Stern will offer a “full immersion into combining glass casting and blowing together with hot and cold construction techniques that will expand your awareness threefold.”

A special section for student work is included, as well as scholarships and internships to encourage glass art. 

The Glass Art Society was founded in 1971 to promote art glass, “to encourage excellence, to advance education, to promote the appreciation and development of the glass arts, and to support the worldwide community of artists who work with glass,” according to its website. Membership includes the journal, and the website lists shows, resources, and other news of the glass art world. 

In addition to local venues, conference attendees can visit Sarasota’s glass community with a special tour of private collections in the homes of  significant collectors. It’s a pricey tour, but if art glass is your passion, let’s hope the beauty and the splendid hors d’oeurves fulfill your dreams. 

The tour also visits Sarasota’s latest contributions to the world of art glass,  the John and Mabel Ringling’s new contemporary Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion that leads into the new Studio Glass Museum Wing showcasing its growing glass collection. Also on the Ringling tour is the new Richard & Barbara Basch Visual Arts Center, designed and built for hands-on art-making, including glass (hot shop and cold shop) and other media. The remarkable building houses equally impressive state-of-the-art studios and equipment, plus a gallery for exhibiting the work of both emerging and established artists.

This year’s GAS conference takes place in several venues: Bayfront Hilton, at St. Pete’s two Morean Arts Glass Studios, Imagine Museum and inside and outside the Zen Studio.

The Corning Museum of Glass will have its Hot Shop mobile truck doing demos, and the glass studios around the area will be featuring performances by some of the world’s most prestigious glass artists.    

There’s going to be so much to do that weekend, but one thing to plan on for sure is the Friday Gallery Hop on March 29, where many artists will be present with their work. The Morean Center will have between eight and 12 artists on hand, and there will be live performances with some of the well-known artisans of the glass world.

The GAS conference’s opening ceremonies take place at the Mahaffey Theater March 28 at 2 p.m., followed by an awards presentation. The opening reception follows at 5 p.m. 

But if you’re not interested in the lectures and awards, there are loads of demos happening throughout the city. Planning will require particular consideration, because there’s lots going on at the same time. 

Most of the attending glass artists who will share their expertise are listed on the GAS website, where there’s a complete schedule of events for the upcoming conference, as well as activities both before and after that are linked to the gathering. 

A post-gathering workshop (Hot Casting—Rigid Sand Molds and Thinking Outside of the Sandbox) will take place at Gott Glass, where Susan Gott will take you “beyond basic sand-casting and explore a variety of techniques …to take sculptural ideas to the next level with hot glass casting.”

In conjunction with the Glass Art Society Conference in St. Petersburg, Duncan McClellan and Mary Childs are co-curating an exhibition at Florida CraftArt of glass masters who, according to their website, “express intimate and expansive journeys of self-exploration and communication through mythological, cultural, and personal imagery.” The exhibition features work by John Brekke, Hyunsung Cho, Terri Grant, Jack Gramann, Eric Hilton, Richard Jolley, Richard Logan, Duncan McClellan, Paul j. Nelson, Stephen Pon, Eduardo Prado, Lisabeth Sterling, Alexis Silk and Tim Tate.

So whatever your preference in glass art, there’s sure to be something for you. It might even inspire you to try it yourself. 

Charting a Course: Visions in Glass | The 2019 Glass Art Society conference happens at various venues throughout St. Petersburg, Tampa and Sarasota | March 28-30 |

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