When Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) arts senior Crystal Worl decided to do her senior thesis project in glass, she didn’t fret when IAIA didn’t have a glassblowing class. Instead she went directly to the New Mexico Experimental Glass Workshop (NMEGW) where she had completed a three-credit internship the previous year after studying glassblowing while in a summer program in Venice.
Worl, a Tlingit and Athabascan from Alaska who wants to use recycled glass to create glass totem poles, also wants to explore new recycled glass applications using the ancient art form. In order to aid her and other interns and students at IAIA interested in the medium, the NMEGW applied for a grant from the state Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts to support interns’ ability to make their own works out of recycled glass and host participatory community outreach demonstrations using the recycled glass they collect on campus.
“Before working with NMEGW I didn’t know that recycled glass could be used, or what it would be like in my artwork,” Worl said. “Working in glass creates different shadows, lighting, depth and sometimes illusions that can reveal new ideas or concepts about shape or creating totem poles. Utilizing both traditional and contemporary forms as a Tlingit storyteller and artist can enable cultural growth and discovery.”
Worl and four other IAIA students will share their glassblowing techniques to highlight the importance of glass recycling during the Students Making Change event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 30 on the IAIA campus. NMEGW, a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that makes recycled glass accessible to artists through progressive programming, will set up a mobile glass shop unit on campus. Visitors will be able to help crush recycled glass collected in bins around campus and stamp recycled, glass coins.
“Artists must act on the front lines of environmental remediation,” NMEGW Executive Director Stacey Neff said. “Reclaiming recycled material, such as glass, for art making presents a forward-thinking opportunity for students to work on the leading edge of change.”
While glassblowing is not offered at IAIA currently, the medium has been taught in the past. Internationally acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly taught at IAIA and built a glass shop for the campus in 1974. His time in New Mexico lead to the creation of one of his major exhibits, Navajo Blanket Cylinders, woven-like tapestries made of glass.
Cameron Tafoya, a senior majoring in Studio Arts who is also working toward a small business and entrepreneurship certificate, said the project is important for making a statement about sustainability.
“There is a lot of glass being wasted in this environment and especially in Native communities due to alcoholism,” said Tafoya of Jemez Pueblo. “And to use that as a medium and as a source of artwork I feel that I have the capability to do more with glass and make a statement about glass.”
IAIA has joined other colleges in the national sustainability movement after President Robert Martin signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment last year, a compact to develop student environmental leaders and a plan to reduce harmful emissions from campus.
In addition to being environmentally-friendly, Neff said glasswork teaches students technical abilities, discipline and teamwork. Interns gain valuable skills that apply to their own artworks and qualify them for the workforce as capable studio assistants, technicians, project managers, fabricators and artists.
The event is one of three, live glassblowing demonstrations positively addressing environmental issues planned over a year to engage college and high school students from arts and environmental science classes in glass.
The seniors interning, two students and one alumnus working with the NMEGW – Worl, Tafoya, Russell Frye, August Walker, Monica Gutierrez and Daniel Grignon – have also started a blog about their glasswork and senior projects at nmegwprojects.blogspot.com. A YouTube video also highlights their work: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou7O2kgIUlw&feature=youtu.be.
Students encourage the public to bring rinsed, used glass bottles of any color and size to campus to be recycled. For more information about the event, go to www.iaia.edu/calendar/glassproject/. Or call or email 505-473-0087 or email@example.com.
For more information about IAIA, go to www.iaia.edu. For more information about NMEGW, go to www.nmegw.org.
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