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Michigan Glass Project Looks to Support Detroit’s Public Art Education

Michigan Glass Festival
Photos Courtesy of the Michigan Glass Project

Culture

Michigan Glass Project Looks to Support Detroit’s Public Art Education

Five years ago today, Detroit filed for bankruptcy. As the city recovers, glass artists come together for an annual festival to raise money for Detroit’s public school art programs.

Some of the world’s best glass artists will converge on Detroit this weekend for the seventh year running to help The Michigan Glass Project’s continuing effort to save art education in the city’s public schools.

Local and national artists — and an army of community members donating their time — will support the Michigan Glass Project’s mission of bringing art classes back into Detroit public schools, as the event proceeds benefit Art Road, a nonprofit dedicated to immersing students from metro Detroit schools in the benefits of art instruction.

“Our event space is very special. There is such beauty in the ease of which individuals can contribute to the mission on a grassroots level, by donating art or buying art or by simply showing up to see music or watch glassblowing,” said the Michigan Glass Project’s Co-Founder and Executive Director Allison Key. “The huge donation checks we write to Art Road, each year, are a testament to what a united force of people can do when they pool their talents and resources for a common cause. It’s so amazing to see the part that each individual plays in art classes for children in Detroit public schools, and for those people who attend the event to know that they had a part in that outcome.”

Artists from as far away as New York and Los Angeles will spend the weekend blowing glass projects live, both individually and by collaborating on a wide spread of works with other artists. The big names in glass hitting the torches to help the kids this year include returning participant Salt, gorilla king Coyle, chain queen Cha Cha, duck demigod Ryno and, as previously featured for his high-end skull sculpting in Cannabis Now’s print edition, Annealed Innovations.

“Upon agreeing to attend and participate as a contributing artist for the Michigan Glass Project, I reviewed the cause we were set to support, Art Road, and I approved wholeheartedly at face value,” said the glass artist Salt. “However, once I arrived in Detroit and saw with my own eyes what the truth of the city was and began to contemplate the true meaning and context of art in my own life, I felt a profound deepening of my connection and determination in regard to the project.”

Salt says that, over the course of his life, art has played “a central role in providing income, sanity, therapy, social connection, catharsis, spirituality, and entertainment.” Even more importantly, Salt says that art “saved” him. This epiphany about art’s role in his life inspired Salt to create new glass pieces.

“I felt the lightning of creativity surge in me and my heart was full of the realization of what our collective effort could mean,” he said. “I poured these thoughts and feelings into my parts of this special piece as best I could with my entire being.”

Michigan Glass Festival

We spoke exclusively with Art Road’s founder, Carol Hofgartner, about what the Michigan Glass Project has meant to the nonprofit organization over the last seven years, and what it’s been like seeing the event grow to its current scale — where last year, the festival was able to grant a $100,000 dollar donation.

“Frankly, without the Michigan Glass Project, we wouldn’t be growing to other schools,” Hofgartner told Cannabis Now. “So, without these artists coming together, young artists wouldn’t have a chance to have their own creativity.”

Hofgartner said with the Michigan Glass Project’s support, the program is now impacting the lives of 1,600 students.

Their goal this year is to up that number to 2,200 by adding another school.

Detroit, of course, is in the midst of a wider art, culinary and social revitalization, following the 2008 recession and accompanying auto industry collapse. We asked Hofgartner what it was like giving kids the opportunity to tap into this creative energy wrapping itself around the city.

“It’s phenomenal,” she replied. “We have artists driving 2,000 miles to get here. We have people flying in today. Anywhere from Canada, Los Angeles, New York, down south — all descending on Detroit to donate their talents, dig deep and [work hard] because they know what art has done for them. Some of these artists come up to me, hugging me and crying, saying that art saved their lives and to please pass this on to your kids.”

Hofgartner said that watching the Michigan Glass Project grow is “like a blooming onion that keeps unfolding.”

This year’s festival will take place at Detroit’s historic Russell Industrial Center from Friday, July 20 through Sunday, July 22, when the main auction will take place.

If you can’t make it to Detroit, but want to score a sweet rig and help the kids, it’s no problem. The Michigan Glass Project will be accommodating bidders from across the country who have hopes of taking home one the weekend’s crown jewel collaborations.

TELL US, have you given back to your community recently?

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