Co-Founders: Kathleen Mulcahy & Ron Desmett
"When the arts thrive, the area and the region thrive. Art tells others who we really are, how we feel and what we think of ourselves. By allowing ourselves to be fully immersed in the joy of this experience our ideas awaken from sleep and define who we are again and what we want to communicate."
Co-Founding Artists of the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Kathleen Mulcahy and Ron Desmett, shared a vision in the early 1990s—to create an innovative glass art center that would transform our city. They'd seen how the power of art drove economic revitalization in decaying neighborhoods in New York City and northern New Jersey. They wanted that for Pittsburgh.
As passionate glass artists working in Pittsburgh, Ron and Kathleen envisioned a place that would attract top artists but also welcome the novice artist and non-artists who would be intrigued by the conveyance of thoughtful works through a new medium. With the help and support of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and William Block, a passionate art collector and businessman, their vision was realized in 2001 when the Pittsburgh Glass Center opened its doors to the public.
Today, it is one of the top glass art facilities in the United States helping the city connect to its creative future through the innovative use of glass as art. Kathleen, originally from Newark, NJ, studied art receiving an MFA from Alfred University. Kathleen came to Pittsburgh to direct and build the Glass Program at Carnegie Mellon University '76-'89. Ron, born in Clearfield, PA, came from Akron, Ohio to gain an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University where he studied with Ed Eberle, renowned Ceramic Artist and met Kathleen and their lifelong partnership began.
About Ron Desmett
You can’t talk about Ron without talking about Kathleen or vice versa. The two talents have been a team for almost 40 years; both are talented artists. They were co-founders of the Pittsburgh Glass Center, accomplishing what no one believed possible, an arts center that is still thriving. Appropriately they were honored together as Artists of the Year in 2013-14 by PA Governor Tom Corbett.
Yet as much as they worked and lived together, sharing a creative vision, they were individuals pursuing their own paths. Ron, with a BS in art education from the University of Akron and an MFA in sculpture from Carnegie Mellon, where he met Kathleen, was a multi-disciplinary artist: a painter, a ceramist, a glass maker. He was an artist who mastered new mediums to communicate his ideas. One thing that connected all his work is the layering of ideas and forms. In his paintings, he recycled art history, finding new meaning in historical works. In his recent glass, he reinvented the process of making glass, producing black lidded vessels that contrasted with the transparent and pristine qualities of most glass work. This work was inspired by and made in nature. His newest pieces travel to surrealism as he arranged old and new smaller pieces into quixotic and thought-provoking assemblages that reflect sculptural concerns. They seem particularly pertinent to our fractured present.
His career has been full of successes—shows, commissions, publications, honors, residencies—and his work is in major collections, including the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Corning Museum of Glass, as well as several private collections.
Most of all, Ron was a true mensch, a man who loved to cook, who built his house and studio, who surrounded himself with other creative talents, making a fantastic circle of friends, some of whom were with him when he died after a battle with cancer. He was the best kind of human being, a kind, compassionate guy who loved and supported his wife and his friends and who made a difference in our creative world.
Founding Board Chair: Karen Johnese
"It was thrilling to help bring Kathleen and Ron's vision of a world class facility to life. I am so proud of what PGC has become: A glass artists' Mecca, providing the finest creative experience for novice and professional."
Founding Board Chair of the Pittsburgh Glass Center Karen Block Johnese’s passion for glass started when her parents William and Maxine Block became avid glass collectors in the 1990s. She was instantly attracted to the idea for a public access glass art organization where everyone could share in her love of the art. She got involved with PGC while serving as community affairs director at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Western Pennsylvania's largest newspaper owned by Block Communications, her family's business. Karen was instrumental to the establishment of PGC in the early years. She secured the organization's non-profit status in 1998, recruited the first board of directors and helped raise over three million dollars to build a world-class facility and open its doors. Karen worked tirelessly in those early years to connect the artistic and administrative visions for Pittsburgh Glass Center. Karen was the hardworking board chair of PGC for five years from 1998 to 2003, a time that was critical to the development of the young organization. In the fall of 2003, Karen left the newspaper business to become the executive director at Pittsburgh Glass Center, a role she held for the next four years. During Karen’s tenure as executive director, the organization experienced growth and embarked on its first strategic plan. In 2007 under Karen's direction, PGC hosted the Glass Art Society Conference and was a principle player in the year-long city-wide event "Pittsburgh Celebrates Glass!"