UW-Madison is home to the first collegiate glass program in the U.S. It turned 60 in 2022, and the glass program is kicking off a year-long celebration called Glass Madison, starting this month. October features six gallery shows on campus, all open to the public.
Helen Lee, associate professor of glassworking, is spearheading the exhibitions as well as pulling together info on all the Glass Madison public programming for the rest of the year (including a show of her own work at Arts + Literature Lab in January). A registration-only symposium for other college and community glass programs takes place on campus in October.
Lee is keen on “updating the narrative of glass at UW-Madison and offering the public an opportunity to learn about how contemporary glass artists are working with glass today.”
The story of the glass program at UW often centers on Harvey Littleton, known as the “father of the studio glass movement,” who launched the program in 1962. And sometimes, people know program alumnus Dale Chihuly, who may be the closest the glass world has to a pop star.
In the 1980s and 1990s the program centered on more commercialized market-oriented glassmaking, Lee says. The program’s more recent alumni and current students are using glass “in far more exploratory, research-based, creative fine art practices,” and that will be showcased in the six exhibits this month.