Pilchuck Glass School, world's first residential education center focused exclusively on glass art, celebrates its first 25 years on July 21, 1995.

  • By Rita Cipalla
  • Posted 4/05/2019
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 20756

On July 21, 1995, some 400 artists, students, faculty, staff, friends, and family converge at the Pilchuck Glass School outside Stanwood in Snohomish County to celebrate a school milestone: 25 years of creating and teaching glass art. The school began in June 1971 when Tacoma native Dale Chihuly (b. 1941) worked with art patrons Anne Gould Hauberg (1918-2016) and John H. Hauberg (1916-2002) to create a residential summer glassblowing workshop. Three instructors and 18 students spent the first summer making glass on a portion of a 15,000-acre tree farm about 50 miles north of Seattle that the Haubergs owned. Over the following 25 years, Pilchuck expanded to become a world-renowned glass-art center with classes, workshops, and artist-in-residence programs. The July 21 celebration includes glassblowing demonstrations, a smoked-salmon feast served picnic-style, the launch of a major capital campaign, and burial of a time capsule.

Putting on a Glass Show

Pilchuck's 25th-year celebration drew many former faculty, students, and artists, including some of the world's best-known glass sculptors: William Morris (b. 1957), Dante Marioni (b. 1964), and Lino Tagliapietra (b. 1934), in addition to Chihuly. The artists proceeded to thrill the crowd by blowing, spinning, and creating colorful and beautiful pieces of glass.

"Cameras click and video cameras hum as ... stars of the glass art scene trot through their repertoire of crowd-pleasing skills. They plunge molten glass globes into fiery furnaces. They spin the globes on rods like circus performers whirling plates on sticks. They wedge slab-sized wooden spatulas against the twirling, glowing glass. Flaming sparks fly through the air ... It's a mesmerizing show" (Updike).

School co-founder Anne Gould Hauberg arrived on the back of a pickup truck, outfitted with a glass crown specially forged just for her. She and her former husband John H. Hauberg donated the acreage on which the school is situated and were enthusiastic and early supporters of Pilchuck's innovative vision, collegial atmosphere, and concentration of artistic talent.

Story of the Bronze Peanut

During the celebration Anne Gould Hauberg buried a time capsule, intended to be dug up in 2021 when the school reaches its 50th anniversary. Included in the capsule was a bronze peanut that carried a certain significance for the inaugural group of students. During Pilchuck's first summer, Gould Hauberg thought that artists who came to Pilchuck should be given some kind of certificate or passport to show they had attended the school. As she discussed the idea with environmental artist Buster Simpson (b. 1942) and others, they began to focus on the peanuts they were shelling and eating. Suddenly, the peanut seemed the ideal memento.

"Simpson ended up casting the peanuts in bronze, and because he used actual shells, each cast peanut was unique ... Buster Simpson gave the bronze peanuts to Anne Hauberg ... [She] carried her bronze peanut on her key ring from that night [in 1971] until July 1995, when she finally parted with it, placing it inside a time capsule -- which will not be opened for another quarter-century -- planted in a grove of birch trees during the school's twenty-fifth reunion celebration" (Oldknow, 69).

After the peanuts were cast in bronze that first summer, some of the early students started calling Pilchuck the Peanut Farm, although it was said that Chihuly never liked the nickname. It stuck for several years and then was dropped.

Major Capital Campaign

The celebration also served as the launch for a $3.4 million capital campaign. Reaching that campaign goal was one of the highlights of the tenure of Marge Levy, who served as Pilchuck's executive director from 1991 through 2000.

"With the funds, we built or rebuilt much of the campus. We added real housing for staff. Previously, they were living in tents or on stilted platforms that were made by the artists in the 1970s and were falling apart. We added a second hotshop, doubled the size of the cold shop, and doubled the size of the kitchen" (Levy interview).

Pilchuck advisory-council member Jon Shirley (b. 1938), a former president of Microsoft, made the campaign appeal. Referencing Shirley and board president Mark Haley, once a sculptor and then serving as president of the Brown & Haley candy company, The Seattle Times account of the festivities noted that "Pilchuck has long attracted board members who are not only wealthy, successful and relatively youthful but, to a certain degree, hip" (Updike).

Trickle-Down Effect

To celebrate Pilchuck's first 25 years, many artists and art organizations in the Northwest mounted their own glass-art exhibitions in 1995:

"There have been glass shows virtually every month at several galleries. Pilchuck anniversary banners hang everywhere. The Seattle Art Museum organized a special glass exhibit ... and hosted a day-long seminar on glass art last month. The next day many of the 300 or so glass artists in Western Washington opened their studios to the public. One of the art exhibits at Bumbershoot ... will be a 25-year retrospective of the work of Pilchuck-affiliated artists. When the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner re-opens in October, a gallery donated by the Benaroyas will be devoted solely to glass" (Updike).

Decades after the 25th-year celebration, the school website noted that it continued to combine "Old World craftsmanship, New World individual artistic expression, and highly effective teamwork" ("History"). Usually closed to the public except for a few special events each year, Pilchuck remained apart from the hustle and bustle of the modern world, allowing artists to focus solely on their art. When the school reached 40, The Seattle Times wrote:

"It offers a simplified lifestyle within a secluded, beautiful, natural environment, but it also serves as a complex filter for centuries of tradition and current fine-arts practices. One of its challenges over the years has been maintaining its special, intimate quality ... while growing and serving an increasing number of interested artists and students" (Clemans).

Earlier, asked what Pilchuck meant to him as the school got ready to celebrate 25 years, Chihuly spoke eloquently about its impact.

"Without Pilchuck, I might not have grown as much as an artist. I learned a lot of things about technique from the people who pass through Pilchuck, especially the foreigners. Almost all my best friends are people that I met at Pilchuck ... Whatever role I've played in Pilchuck, the dream has become a wildly successful reality. Pilchuck helped to establish a material and a region as its capital. It has given a lot of people a way to do what they wanted to do. It allowed hundreds of people from the U.S. -- and foreigners as well -- to make their livelihood from working with glass" (Oldknow, 25).


Sources:

Gayle Clemans, "Pilchuck at 40: World-class Glass," The Seattle Times, August 27, 2011, (www.seattletimes.com); Robin Updike, "Capital of Glass -- Pilchuck Puts Seattle on the Map," The Seattle Times, August 27, 1995, p. M-1; Tina Oldknow, Pilchuck: A Glass School (Seattle: Pilchuck Glass School and University of Washington Press, 1996); "History," Pilchuck Glass School website accessed February 22, 2019 (http://www.pilchuck.com/history); Rita Cipalla interview with Marge Levy, March 4, 2019, Seattle, transcript in possession of Rita Cipalla, Seattle; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Pilchuck Glass School (Stanwood)" (by Rita Cipalla), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed April 5, 2019).


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