what is pgc?
Established in 2001, Pittsburgh Glass Center (PGC) is a nonprofit, public-access education center; an art gallery; a state-of-the-art glass studio; a community builder; and a hub for innovation and creativity. Anyone can take classes, explore the contemporary glass gallery, and watch the live hot glass demonstrations. World-renowned glass artists come here to both create and teach.
PGC is the largest arts organization on Penn Avenue and has been vital to the redevelopment of the city’s rapidly growing East End. PGC fuels a thriving glass art ecosystem of people, facilities, and innovative programming that together shape our region’s creative economy. We seek to amaze, educate, and inspire, as well as demonstrate the power of the arts to positively transform a city.
We share our passion locally, nationally, and internationally to make the glass art community more diverse, vibrant, and accessible. Our guiding principles of creativity, collaboration, sustainability, diversity and excellence enable us to extend our region’s extraordinary glass legacy far into the future.
Mission + Vision
MISSION: Glass Art: We teach it. We create it. We promote it. We support those who make it.
VISION: PGC fuels a thriving glass art ecosystem of people, facilities and innovative programming that together shape our region’s creative economy. From the casually curious to the master artist, PGC welcomes and nurtures everyone so they are amazed, inspired and transformed.
SCOPE & AUDIENCE: We share our passion locally, nationally and internationally to make the glass art community more diverse, vibrant and accessible.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES: Our guiding principles of creativity, collaboration, sustainability, diversity, and excellence, enable us to extend our region’s proud glass legacy far into the future.
A Few fun facts
- Established in 2001, Pittsburgh Glass Center (PGC) is a nonprofit, public-access education center; an art gallery; a state-of-the-art glass studio; a community builder; and a hub for innovation and creativity.
- PGC is unique to the region. Even among other arts organizations we have been called “a pineapple among apples and oranges.” Our contribution to a healthy arts environment is bringing diversity to the ecology – we are like nothing else that exists in southwestern Pennsylvania. We are a unique blend of visual and performance art. We are a vital partner in the region's educational, cultural, and economic development.
- We educate nearly 25,000 people annually through free events, exhibitions, demonstrations, classes, and residencies. That’s over a quarter of a million individuals since opening!
- We have hosted hundreds of artists from around the world including Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Sweden, UK and many more countries.
- 45 glass artists have relocated and moved to Pittsburgh to live and make their art.
- PGC melts 30,000 lbs. of glass annually. The composition of our glass is silica, soda ash, and lime. All of the glass in the furnace is clear so that each artist can start with a clean palette and add colors as desired.
- Colored glass is made by adding metals and metal oxides to clear glass. For example, manganese makes purple glass, copper produces either a red or turquoise blue glass, and gold will make a gorgeous (and expensive) cranberry red glass.
- The main tools used to create glass are heat, gravity, air, centrifugal force, and time. The basic designs of the stainless steel tools have remained unchanged since Egyptian times. Glassblowing is a team effort. It is possible to blow glass alone, but it is limiting in the complexities that can be accomplished.
- Glassblowing is very much like dancing with a live medium. An artist must be very smooth and learn to move at the pace of the glass. You may think that glassblowers must have strong lungs to blow glass. Actually, it only requires as much breath as blowing bubble gum, AS LONG AS THE GLASS IS HOT! The colder (less hot) the glass becomes, the more difficult it is to blow. (When glassblowers say “cold” they really mean 1,100˚ F.) The temperature of the furnace is 2,100˚ F. The glass is similar to the consistency of honey at this temperature.
- PGC has two 1,000 lb. furnaces that are powered by natural gas. The furnaces are on 24/7. The Glory Hole is a “reheating chamber” for the glass. The glass needs to be reheated frequently (about every 30 seconds) to remain malleable at upwards of 1,200˚ F. It is powered by natural gas and maintains a 3,000˚ F working temperature. The Glory Holes are only turned on as needed.
- The Annealers are kilns/ovens where finished pieces of glass are placed. The temperature is 925˚ F. When the workday is finished, a computer program will bring the temperature slowly down to room temperature. This process takes about 8-10 hours and allows the glass to cool slowly so it will not break. If this process does not occur slowly, stress will build up between the moving glass molecules, causing cracks and instability.
Pittsburgh was famous for glass before steel. It was known as “America’s Glass City.” The city’s strategic location on an inland river system made it an ideal location for the manufacturing of this fragile product.
In 1902, there were over 150 glass factories in Western PA, Eastern Ohio, and West Virginia. By 1920, this area produced 80% of the glass in the United States. Pittsburgh-produced glass has been used as fine tableware for U.S. presidents, as tiles for the walls of New York City’s great tunnels, as searchlights at the Panama Canal, and in street lights and lamps around the world. Learn more
Pittsburgh Glass Center is a green building with state-of-the-art ventilation in all shops and heat recovery from the furnaces. Building elements such as garage doors, glass paneling, and exposed brick are not only recycled, but also give PGC its unique urban-industrial style.
The building has been redesigned in accordance with federal Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards and, in 2006, received LEED Gold certification, which recognizes excellence in energy efficiency, water use, and air quality. Portions of our energy come from wind power. Waste heat from the glass furnaces is used to heat the building during the winter months. The building also utilizes a lot of natural light, as well as fresh air intakes.
The building was originally a Studebaker dealership. Over the years, it has also served as a mattress distributor, the offices of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, and the East End Food Co-op.