October 25, 2010

Exhibit celebrates glass program and its founder

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The University Museum at Southern Illinois University Carbondale celebrates the “40th Anniversary of the SIUC Glass Program” with a current exhibit highlighting the legacy of glass program founder, Bill Boysen.

The exhibit is open at present, and a reception for it is set for 4-8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30. The exhibit features works from Boysen and his students, several of whom have become notable artists in their own rights.

Boysen, now professor emeritus, founded the glass program at SIUC in 1970, which by the modern art glass timeline, is very near the beginning. Harvey Littleton, sometimes called the “father of the studio glass movement,” debuted a glass blowing demonstration at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1962, the year the first university art glass program launched in the United States. Boysen was a Littleton student, and the program he started at SIUC was one of the first. Today, Boysen receives mention in discussions of early studio glass artists, as one of the first half-dozen or so university-affiliated artists.

Besides his role in founding an early glass program, Boysen is acclaimed for his innovations, including, perhaps most famously, his mobile glassblowing studio. Boysen found it more convenient to carry his studio with him as he gave demonstrations around the country and abroad, since glass studios were not available many of the places he traveled. He completed his first mobile studio in 1970, the same year he came to SIUC. He took it with him to Australia in 1974 as part of a push by the Crafts Board of the Australia Council to promote art glass there.

Today, Assistant Professor Jiyong Lee heads up the glass program, with Visiting Assistant Professor, SIUC alumna Cortney Boyd, on staff as well. Lee studied art in his native Korea before coming to the Rochester Institute of Technology for graduate work. He earned awards from the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington and the Glass Art Society recognized him with an Emerging Artist Award in 2005. Currently, he is a member of the board of directors for the Glass Art Society. Boyd also received awards from the Pilchuck Glass School, from SIUC, and is a Glass Art Society Emerging Artist.

The glass program at SIUC started with a glass-blowing focus, but has expanded as contemporary art glass has opened to more techniques, from utilitarian to sculptural, Lee said. Besides renovations and expansions to the physical studio space, Lee said he encourages students to take advantage of externships, conferences, workshops and visiting artists == and he encourages them to bring back and share what they’ve learned with their fellow SIUC students.

Lee said the accomplishments of recent graduates of the program indicate the strengths of the program today. SIUC students recently have taken home awards from the Annual Glass Art Society Conference, and received mention in “New Glass Review,” a prestigious annual juried publication from the Corning Museum of Glass.

Undergraduates, he noted, continue their education at SIUC or move onto other prestigious programs such as the Rochester Institute of Technology. Both graduate and undergraduate students find employment upon graduation, some in glass studios, including the Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis, the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center and the Appalachian Center, or they move on to teaching positions. Field trips to top glass programs and museums further help students make connections in the field, Lee said.

“Our recent students are highly active in the field,” Lee said. “I get many compliments from other artists and educators about our students, and they say they see more and more SIUC glass.”

Visitors to the University Museum exhibit will have the opportunity to see first-hand an overview of the accomplishments of the SIUC glass program -- maybe even to discover a new favorite artist.

The University Museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 1-4 p.m. on Saturday. There is no admission to most exhibits, though donations are always welcome. Visit www.museum.siu.edu to learn more about other current exhibits, including The Vogel Collection, and the Abraham Lincoln “Self-Made” in America traveling exhibit.