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Glass Art and Cookies in the Midwest

The Midwest has a very different approach to hospitality – as Marlene arrived at the airport in Fort Wayne, Indiana, she was greeted by a lady with a welcome wagon giving out delicious cookies to welcome you to her city.

And where is Fort Wayne, you might ask? It’s equidistant from Chicago, Toledo, and Indianapolis smack dab in the middle of ‘Nice People’ country.

As it happens, Fort Wayne boasts a very exciting art museum, with a real go-getter director, and Marlene had been invited to show her work there.

The President of the Museum, Charles Shepard, had set aside the main gallery, a gorgeous room with 40 ft ceilings and lots of natural light, for Marlene’s work.  The museum also provided an amazingly dedicated and competent staff to help set up the show.

Thomas, Marlene’s husband, and her right-hand man drove the trailer up from Florida with some pieces that were too big to ship easily. This tells you something about the scale of the show.

The presentation of glass sculptures succeeds or fails on the quality of the lighting. Glass is beautiful by itself, but the life inside is awakened by the quality of the light put into it.

Thomas totally geeked out at the quality of the lights in the Museum and the professionalism of their resident installer. Up and down on the traveling lift they went – and the results were incredible.

The Museum team was amazing, not just for the big things like layout and lighting, but also all the little things, like wall tags that are so absolutely vital to create the true Museum experience.

Marlene had originally allocated three days for the setup, but the team was so good they spent a good amount of that time lazing about the city and eating some very fine food.

A museum show is very different from a Gallery showing or an Art Fair. A museum show gives the space and time to allow an artist to breathe, settle back, and create a coherent body of work that illuminates and explores, in depth, a common theme.

Marlene had been wanting to do such a show for a while.  She mentioned her ideas to her dear friend, Corey Hampson of Habatat Galleries, the oldest and largest glass gallery in the world. He got excited and called her back minutes later to say that he had negotiated a two-month slot for her at this great museum.

Marlene titled the show CULTURAL BLUEPRINTS.

She started by asking these questions,

What is it that draws our eyes to the beauty of things that might come from far away in time and place? What is at the core of this fascination? Could there be common denominators that transcend images, themes, colors, and shapes? And above all, what are the ideas that underlie and cut across cultures and times? What are the things we share, what are the things we can agree on?

In these days of division and turmoil, we need to be reminded of the wonder we can see in each other, and in ourselves.

And so, she got to explore her personal fascination with the iconography of the beauties that bind us.

This museum doesn’t usually do a formal opening for a show, but because Marlene was in town to set up, they arranged an opening champagne brunch and artist lecture.

The day before the brunch Marlene discovered there were not one, but two bike races scheduled for opening day and that all the roads around the museum were to be closed. She freaked out! What if no one could get there?

To her amazement, they had a full house, standing room only.

How people got there, we have no idea. But get there, they did. The mid-westerners are not only the Nicest People, but they are also very determined to enjoy their art!

Marlene gave her talk, illustrated with lots of pictures and the short award-winning documentary From Fire, which showcases her work and inspirations. Nobody wanted to leave, there were so many questions!

Eventually, we lured everyone out of the lecture hall (with champagne!) and into the exhibition where the questions continued. Each piece was pored over as the hours slipped by.

Charles Shepard, the President of the Museum, has a strong interest in the developments taking place in the Studio Glass movement. He believes it’s the most exciting form of sculpture that exists right now. We agree!

The museum boasts an excellent collection of beautiful glass by some of the biggest names in the movement, but none using Marlene’s technique. This created even more interest and curiosity about her work. Sand casting is very unusual. It’s also hard work. It’s dangerous, sweaty and dirty, and fun.

As Marlene left Fort Wayne, she looked for the cookie lady at the airport, but she only works arrivals. There was, however, a gentleman with his dog, whose job it is to say goodbye very affectionately to each and every person leaving.

So, no cookies, but Marlene got some good quality dog-time in. Yet another reason to visit Fort Wayne.