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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.” -Kathleen Mulcahy

Co-Founding Artists of the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Kathleen Mulcahy and Ron Desmett (1948–2016), 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.

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.” -Karen Johnese

Ron and Kathleen worked for 12 years to bring the people together who would help make their dream a reality, including artists, foundations, community members, and glass enthusiasts like the Block family. William and Maxine Block were avid glass collectors who supported Kathleen and Ron’s vision. Their daughter Karen Block Johnese was very involved. She secured the organization’s nonprofit status in 1998, recruited the first board of directors, and helped raise over three million dollars to build the world-class facility. Randi Dauler and her late husband, L. Van V. Dauler, Jr., began supporting PGC in early 2001.

They frequently supported capital projects at PGC both personally and through the family’s foundation, the Emma Clyde Hodge Memorial Fund. Projects included the Emma Clyde Hodge Gallery, completion of the kiln shop, replacement furnaces and large reheating chamber, the mobile hot shop and most recently established the first endowed directorship, the Randi & L. Van V. Dauler, Jr. Executive Director chair at PGC.

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!”