By Lindsay Eckert
Tribune lifestyle editor
Kokomo — Art is crafted in different forms by people who see life through a window of creativity. For glassmakers, that window is made from the media they crave to work with: a molten, viscous mixture. This weekend’s Art On Fire puts glassmakers and their creations in the spotlight, as Howard County is celebrated as one of 17 counties on the Indiana Glass Trail.
The three-day event, today through Sunday, showcases Howard County’s rich history in glass making and illustrates its still-growing culture through demonstrations, art exhibits and more in stops scattered throughout Kokomo.
Glassmaking dates back to its origination in the Middle East about 2,000 years ago, but its history in Howard County isn’t by any means short.
One of the Art on Fire stops is the Seiberling Mansion, a master of a mansion built by Monroe Seiberling who came to Kokomo, like many others, during the gas boom of the 1800s that helped glassmaking get its start in Kokomo and Greentown.
Dave Broman, executive director of the Howard County Historical Society, said the gas boom brought both industrial glass and artistic glass to the county — both of which can be seen in the mansion regularly and the special exhibits that will be featured for the Art on Fire weekend.
Broman added popular collections such as Jenkins glass, Bournique glass and a few pieces from Indiana Tumbler and Goblet Company, which was founded in Greentown, will be on display at the Seiberling Mansion for people to appreciate all weekend.
“It’s a very natural fit for [us to be a location for Art on Fire] for a couple of reasons. Monroe Seiberling started a glass company for plate glass during the gas boom and that’s why the Seiberling Mansion is here,” Broman said before explaining the Seiberling Mansion’s beautiful ties to glassmaking. “The mansion itself has stained glass windows using Kokomo Opalescent Glass. Visitors can see gorgeous stained glass windows. Some are original, some are replacements, all from Kokomo Opalescent Glass and restored by Kokomo Opalescent Glass artists.”
Broman added while the beauty of glass is something to be appreciated, the industry that brought glassmaking to Howard County also changed its landscape.
“The gas boom has been a remarkable part of Howard County’s history because it brought industry to Howard County,” Broman said. “Before the gas boom, Howard County was agricultural country hacked out of wilderness and it may have always been an agricultural community if gas hadn’t been discovered. The gas boom brought the industry and the infrastructure with it.”
One of the industry leaders in glass, Kokomo Opalescent Glass, moved into town in the 1800s and continued to expand its venture into a business that exports products to countries all over the world.
The factory will be a featured destination for those interested in glassblowing and artistry.
John O’Donnell, CEO of Kokomo Opalescent Glass, explained visitors for Art on Fire will be able to see many sights of sparkling glass while at the Op Shop.
“We will have demonstrations on glass making with beads, sun catchers and people can see how a gas boom really created so many opportunities for glass to be produced in different ways,” O’Donnell said.
Glass produced in different ways will be highlighted all over town for Art On Fire, but glass in its most shocking form can be found at Indiana University Kokomo Art Gallery for the “GATHERING: Contemporary Glass from the Heartland,” according to Susan Skoczen, art gallery director and assistant professor of fine arts at Indiana University Kokomo.
The special exhibit, which features glassmaking artists from the Indiana Glass Artists Association, opens Saturday and runs through Dec. 7. Skoczen said glass artists will take people’s eyes for a surprising ride of what can be created with glass.
“[The exhibit] shows [visitors] how contemporary glass can be something most people won’t expect. Some pieces people won’t even think they are glass,” Scoszen said. “There are head shapes and more sculptural pieces, there’s a piece that looks like black lava flowing — it’s not even shiny, it’s a matte black with red pieces intertwined. People don’t think of glass like this. They see it being functional a lot, but this will be surprising for people.”
But, aside from glass in the form of art all over Kokomo, sometimes the proudest part of artistry is where it’s made.
“It’s really special people are [making art with glass] in our own backyard and making this work all over [the world],” Scoszen said.