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Hear from Heather

Heather and PGC staff in Detroit at the Glass Art Society Conference

It’s important for us at Pittsburgh Glass Center to get out from behind our desks, explore, meet new people, share experiences, and build relationships. We really covered some ground this spring and summer.

An engaged group of glass appreciators went to Murano, a small island across the lagoon from Venice, with a long-standing tradition of excellence in glassmaking and home to some of the world’s greatest glassmakers. We had behind-the-scenes tours of the historic glass studios including a visit with world-renowned Lino Tagliapietra that I will always cherish.

We went to Detroit for the Glass Art Society Conference. That was exciting to take a walk down memory lane to see how the city has changed since I was in college at the College for Creative Studies, to discover all of the local arts organizations that are rising up, and of course to reconnect with our friends in the studio glass community.

Our staff had two fun and enriching field trips. We visited Fallingwater, a house designed in 1935 by renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Fallingwater is one of his most widely acclaimed works and best exemplifies his philosophy of organic architecture: the harmonious union of art and nature. We relaxed in the serenity of the Laurel Highlands mountains. We were inspired by the well-thought-out, enlightening, and accessible tour program and gift shop at Fallingwater that we hope to emulate in our newly expanded facility.

We also traveled south to West Virginia to see The Paul Wissmach Glass Company, one of the few remaining glass factories. The Paul Wissmach Glass Company has been making glass for artists and designers for over a century. Wissmach Glass produces art glass and kiln glass that is ideal for stained glass, mosaic, and architectural glass applications. Everyone who visited came back with a new appreciation for how the glass that we work with is made and many creative ideas.

On a personal note, my husband Chris and I traveled to Egypt. I’ve always wanted to go there because it is believed that the Egyptians were among the first to use glass in their art and culture. Plus, ancient Egyptians believed cats were divine symbols and magical creatures, capable of bringing good luck to the people who housed them. I can confirm that this is definitely true!

Heather McElwee,
Randi & L. Van V. Dauler, Jr. Executive Director

P.S. This fall and winter we’ll be working hard and sticking around Pittsburgh Glass Center to complete the expansion of our facility. Stop by to see how it’s going.

PGC staff touring Fallingwater

Fall 2023

Art on Fire...Still Hot!

Art on Fire 2023 live auction

The 2023 Art on Fire Auction and Party went out in a blaze!

Event chairs Deb and Bryan Garlock, along with partnering sponsor Vitro Architectural Glass, were proud to present this year’s honorary artist, Mel Douglas. Douglas has worked as an independent studio artist since graduation from the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University in 2000. In 2020, Douglas was awarded a PhD for her practice-lead research investigating how studio glass can be understood through the aesthetics of drawing. In addition to winning the 2020 and 2014 Tom Malone Prize, a prestigious award through which a work is acquired each year into the collection of the National Gallery of Western Australia, Douglas has received several major awards including the Ranamok Glass Prize in 2002, and the International Young Glass Award in 2007 from Ebeltoft.

In 2019 her work was the inaugural acquisition for the NGA’s Robert and Eugenie Bell Decorative Arts and Design Fund. Douglas’ work is held in the private collections and public institutions internationally, including the Corning Museums of Glass, New York; the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; the Ebeltoft Museum of Glass, Denmark; and the National Gallery of Australia, Australia.

Douglas, along with over 100 other artists generously donated their works to the Art on Fire auction for Pittsburgh’s only glass art auction. This year, we are so pleased to announce that PGC raised over $140,000 in the silent and live auctions! These dollars go directly toward the glass center’s annual operating expenses and support PGC in offering free public programs and glass education for anyone curious in unlocking their creative potential.
In addition to the generosity of the auction bidders, a group of passionate individuals bid together to raise over $20,000 to secure vital equipment needed in the new Neon and Plasma Studio! PGC’s most dedicated supporters raised their “paddles” in between bids for artworks to ensure that neon and plasma artists have the tools they need in the new building.
Art on Fire was held at Rockwell Park in Point Breeze, a magical yet industrial space that matched the aesthetic of Douglas’s work as the PGC community celebrated the auction.

This live auction and event will proudly return home to the bigger and better Pittsburgh Glass Center as its original name: Meltdown! We cannot wait to see you in 2024 to celebrate Meltdown in style while hot glass, flame, and neon demonstrations take place throughout our brand-new building.

A special thank you to Deb and Bryan Garlock, Mel Douglas, and Vitro Architectural Glass for putting Art on Fire out in 2023!

Fall 2023

West Virginia Bound

PGC staff travel across state-lines to learn more about the beginnings of glass

Without manufacturers like Paul Wissmach Glass Company, Pittsburgh Glass Center would not have the most important material for all four of our studios: glass! Our gracious neighbors located in Paden City, WV, invited the PGC crew to tour the factory to see where it all begins.

Operating for over one hundred years, Paul Wissmach and Joseph Reininger partnered to operate the company in 1903. Today, Annabelle Javier (Pittsburgh Glass Center board member) and her husband Jason Wilburn, own and operate Wissmach to produce and sell art glass and kiln glass globally.

The PGC team was right at home amongst the colors, textures, and iridescent art glass on display after making its way from limestone, soda ash, and sand which is then heated to 2,200°F. This ancient recipe comes together to produce an impossible range of options for artists to select for their work.

PGC is grateful for the support and collaboration with our friends and neighbors at Paul Wissmach Glass Company!

Fall 2023

Layo Bright Receives 2023 Ron Desmett Memorial Award for Imagination with Glass

Layo Bright

Layo Bright has received the 2023 Ron Desmett Memorial Award for Imagination with Glass. This annual award, given by Pittsburgh Glass Center (PGC), recognizes artists who think outside of the box, practice curiosity, and take risks to create unique, imaginative works in glass. It is in honor of PGC’s late cofounder Ron Desmett who was an artist who eschewed conventions and promoted ideas over technique. Bright is interested in incorporating African design techniques and symbolism into her glass sculpture, which merge her background as a Nigerian woman with the techniques of glass sculpting.

Keep ReadingFall 2023

Who’s On Board? Party People!

Board Members host celebrations for Shattering Expectations

If you’ve been around the Garfield area lately, you’ll have noticed big things happening on Penn Avenue. PGC broke ground back in March of this year and it has only gone up from there. Today, mega steel support beams, a concrete elevator shaft, and flooring for all three of the new levels are put into place with the help of some serious cranes.

Despite the dust (and some buried treasure... visit the PGC TikTok page), it’s been all hands-on deck with our involved and passionate board members. Immediate past president, Alison Oehler, and current president, Cass Zielinski, have worked diligently to get the word out about Pittsburgh Glass Center’s Shattering Expectations capital campaign in the most fun way possible: parties!

Between PGC and the famous Emerald Glass House in Pittsburgh’s South Side, Alison and Cass have reached dozens of arts advocates and supporters to help raise the $12.25 million already secured. People like Alison and Cass make PGC the welcoming space it is today, and we are deeply grateful for their support.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Shattering Expectations capital campaign alongside Alison and Cass to ensure Pittsburgh Glass Center meets the $15 million goal, scan the code below, visit or get in touch with Rachel Niederberger at

PGC Capital Campaign qr code

Get InvolvedFall 2023

Sunset Through Tiffany’s

PGC members tour Tiffany windows at Calvary Methodist Church in Pittsburgh

In Pittsburgh’s North Side, Calvary United Methodist Church owns three of the largest windows Louis Comfort Tiffany executed in the late 19th century, making them the most expensive commission at the time and to this day are still in the top 10 largest Tiffany windows in the world.

For the first time, Pittsburgh Glass Center collaborated with Calvary to view their Tiffany windows in the height of their glory on the Summer Solstice. PGC members were invited to this very special evening of docent-led tours while Calvary’s historic “Farrand & Votey” pipe organ played in the background.

PGC members bore witness to the majesty of these three 30-feet tall windows in the sanctuary depicting the Ascension, the Resurrection, and the Apocalypse. Within these windows, Tiffany perfected his drapery technique of folding glass to achieve a layered effect as well as incorporated precious metals like silver in water scenes and gold in depictions of wings and crowns. These elements come to life in the summer evening light and amplify the divinity of Tiffany’s unprecedented talent.

The Allegheny Historic Preservation Society led a massive project to restore the windows roughly 10 years ago with the expertise of Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studio’s Kirk Weaver. Over months and months, the windows were completely removed, cleaned, and re-leaded to ensure that Calvary can proudly continue to display these Tiffany treasures for another hundred years.

Kirk shared with PGC members the nuances and complexities of the restoration project during a following program and discussion. As advocates of art glass preservation, Pittsburgh Glass Center is proud to collaborate with Calvary United Methodist Church to educate our community on all the incredible glass works we are lucky to have in Pittsburgh.

Special thanks to David R. Grinnell, Board Member of Allegheny Historical Preservation Society.

Fall 2023

PGC Glass Collectors Travel to Murano

PGC group at Maestro Lino Tagliapietra's studio

In May, a group of Pittsburgh Glass Center supporters and art appreciators, led by Randi & L. Van V. Dauler, Jr. Executive Director Heather McElwee and Operations Director Chris Clarke, traveled to Italy for a special glass art collectors’ tour of Venice and Murano. Here is former PGC board member Merriann Grant’s account of her experience.

Keep ReadingFall 2023