Worcester Center for Crafts opens the New Street Glass Works Facility

By Leon Nigrosh

February 2005 - The New Street GlassWorks is one of Worcester’s newest hot spots — literally. Located at 35B New Street, just a short ride behind the Sprinkler Factory on Harlow Street, this brand new 8,000 square-foot facility is cookin’ 24/7.

GlassWorks is equipped with a glass furnace that keeps 400 pounds of clear glass melted and ready for instant red-hot use. Three “glory holes” are cranked up as needed for glassblowers making use of the hot shop. There’s also a cold shop, a mold shop, a flat shop, six rental studios and a flame working studio. Run by the Worcester Center for Crafts [WCC], the nation’s oldest craft school, GlassWorks came about after a few fits and starts. The organization had talked about opening a glass shop for years, optimistically offering a small bead working class However, the needed space for a full facility just wasn’t available.

Then, everything fell into place and this major glass facility, the only one in Central Massachusetts, burst on the scene. The WCC even managed to lure internationally known glass artist Alex Gabriel Bernstein from his comfortable position at the Cleveland Institute of Art to spearhead the development of this rapidly expanding facility.

While Bernstein’s own work consists primarily of polished and shaped cast abstract glass sculpture, he is adept at all facets of glasswork and lends his expertise to the nearly 100 students already enrolled at GlassWorks. Ably assisted by studio manager Jay Riviello, an accomplished glassblower in his own right, Bernstein keeps the studios humming — installing new equipment as it arrives, tinkering with previously-owned machinery to get the best performance from itand developing new projects for himself and for the studio.

With nearly 50 students taking classes in the large, airy flameworking studio, teacher/artist Liliana Glenn has her hands full overseeing their progress as the students melt and fuse colorful glass rods to form imaginative beads. There are also classes in hollow working, in which tubes of glass are heated and manipulated to form goblets and other small vessels. Anything bigger or more complex is developed at any of the three glassblowing stations. Stained glass classes are carried on in the separate cold and flat shops.

Still in its infancy, the out-ofthe- way GlassWorks has become a center of activity. Professional glass artists are already signing up for hot shop rental time, classes are growing and a steady stream of the curious has already begun to step through the doors. There are plans for visiting artist workshops, artist residencies and a changing exhibition space.

Bernstein envisions GlassWorks becoming the center of the New England glass scene and a supportive community asset. He’d like it to become “a cool artist place,” attracting artists working in all mediums, as well as art enthusiasts. He sees this new venture, with no pun intended, “as a diamond in the rough” — and with his abilities to carve, grind and polish, we should soon see another gem in Worcester’s arts community.

For more information, check
out www.worcestercraftcenter.org or call (508) 757-1424 or (508) 753-8183.