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Kentucky’s Art Center of the Bluegrass to Open GLASS National Art Museum

September 11, 2023

Kentucky’s Art Center of the Bluegrass to Open GLASS National Art Museum
GLASS to Display and Celebrate the Work of American Artist and Former Danville Resident, Stephen Rolfe Powell
Additional New Spaces Include Fern Curated Gifts, Murrini Café, and Forthcoming Glassblowing Studio

Danville, K.Y. (September 11, 2023)—Today, Art Center of the Bluegrass announces an expansion project in celebration of its 20th anniversary: GLASS National Art Museum, opening November 3, 2023. The epicenter of Central Kentucky’s art scene, Art Center of the Bluegrass has long served as a creative catalyst for the region, and the opening of GLASS will now serve as a sparkling new reason for artists and cultural travelers to visit Danville. As its name suggests, the museum will showcase the creativity of contemporary artists working in the compelling medium of glass—most notably providing a permanent home for the collection of American glass artist, Stephen Rolfe Powell.

The $3.7 million renovation and expansion project more than doubles the footprint of the Art Center of the Bluegrass, enabling it to expand its reach and usher in the next 20 years of creativity and leadership within the arts sector of the Appalachian region. Key supporters of the Art Center’s initiatives, the City of Danville purchased the 12,600-square-foot building next door to the original space; they’ll be leasing it to the Art Center for the next 100 years—breathing new life into a former community building through the vibrancy of the arts.

“With the addition of GLASS National Art Museum, we are aspiring to become a national leader in the glass art field over the course of our next 20 years,” says Niki Kinkade, Executive Director of Art Center of the Bluegrass. “We have long taken great pride in our role at the intersection of history and future, providing a glimpse into the past and artistic inspiration for the next generation of creators. GLASS will help us expand our reach, attracting visitors from across the country to Danville, KY, with our captivating permanent collection, anchored by Stephen Rolfe Powell’s work and legacy.”

Prior to his death in 2019, artist Stephen Rolfe Powell was a longtime resident of the Danville community and professor at Centre College (just down the road from Art Center of the Bluegrass). In addition to creating a name for himself in the glass community through his visually stunning work, he founded and built the glassblowing program at Centre College in 1985, teaching aspiring glass artists from across the country for more than three decades. Powell’s personal work is held in the permanent collections of art museums around the world, including The Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY), Chrysler Museum (Norfolk, VA), the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA), and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.).

It was following a successful retrospective exhibition of Powell’s work in fall 2022 that the idea to create GLASS was born—not only to create a permanent home for Powell’s work to be enjoyed, but to educate the public about glassmaking.

“GLASS is a perfect way to honor and extend Stephen Rolfe Powell’s legacy,” says Susie Silbert, contemporary art + design expert and former curator of Contemporary Glass at The Corning Museum of Glass—the world’s preeminent glass museum. ”Powell is a beloved figure, known as much for his richly colored sculpture as for his inspirational teaching. Through his work at Centre College and the atmosphere of possibility he cultivated there, he made Danville, Kentucky, a beating heart of contemporary glass known across the nation for quality, integrity, and the excellence of its graduates. GLASS will allow people to enjoy Powell’s incredible art and build on the work he started to ensure Danville is a must-visit destination for people interested in glass, in art, and in learning.”

Powell’s work will serve as an accessible lens through which to discover glass as an art form and generate conversations about creative expression. Museum visitors will be able to explore the relationship between light and glass in a captivating way: a dark gallery will display a selection of rotating works—starting with Powell’s Echoes series—under spotlights, casting color onto surfaces below.

GLASS plans to collect work by other prominent contemporary names in glass, including Dale Chihuly and Lino Tagliapietra. The Historic Hallway Gallery will be a permanent display highlighting key moments of the Studio Glass Movement, the pivotal period during which glassmakers moved out of production work in factories and started experimenting with glass as a medium for creative expression. The museum’s three gallery spaces will display work from both the permanent collection and rotating exhibitions from regional and national artists working in glass.

Not unlike other small communities across the country—Corning, NY; Toledo, OH; and Tacoma, WA, to name a few—Danville has aspirations to become known for its glass culture.
“Art Center of the Bluegrass is the artistic anchor of the Danville community,” says J.H. Atkins, Mayor of Danville. “Nearly 30,000 people come to Danville to experience the Art Center’s programming every year, and with the opening of GLASS, our community will become a bucket-list destination for glass artists, enthusiasts, scholars, and appreciators. Community art centers foster creativity, and GLASS is a powerful way to nod to the past, champion and educate current artists, and contribute to Danville’s ever-evolving identity as a destination for cultural tourism. GLASS will become the place to learn about this mesmerizing artform in this region of the country, putting Danville on the map in a major way.”

GLASS is the first in a series of enhancements that will be made to Art Center of the Bluegrass. In the coming months, other additions will include:

  • Fern Curated Gifts, Opening in October: A retail area where artists can sell their hand-crafted works, and discerning patrons can collect unique pieces. Works available for purchase will range from jewelry to beautifully woven textiles. Fern will also carry house plants, a book nook, and a selection of eco-friendly items.
  • Murrini Café, Opening in Fall/Winter 2023: A café where patrons can enjoy small plates, salads, charcuterie, sweets, wine, and specialty beverages, connecting in an art-forward environment. Afternoon Tea will be served each Tuesday. (Murrini is an Italian term for intricate, repeating designs created in glass canes, or rods, then cut into cross-sections).
  • A Glassblowing Studio, Set to open in 2024: Art Center of the Bluegrass plans to establish a glassblowing studio and educational programming to share both the history of glass and its contemporary artistic applications.

For more information about GLASS National Art Museum and Art Center of the Bluegrass, visit glassmuseumky.org.

About the Art Center of the Bluegrass

Art Center of the Bluegrass—a cornerstone of the Danville, KY, community—connects people to art, culture, and creativity. Now in its 20th year, Art Center of the Bluegrass is reimagining what an art center can be. In November 2023, it will add GLASS National Art Museum to its offerings along with a retail space and café. Welcoming 30,000 people through its doors each year, Art Center of the Bluegrass inspires creativity through hands-on classes and workshops in its Art Studio (including experiences designed for individuals with disabilities), community gatherings, cultural conversations, and wide-ranging art exhibitions by local, regional, and national artists. For more information visit: artcenterky.org.