I recently got to walk through the site which will become home to the Museum’s new 500-seat Hot Glass Show theater.
Hot Glass Demonstration programs began at the Museum in 1996. The glassmakers worked out of a single furnace with no glory hole and no annealer. Since that time, the Museum has continually refined and expanded the Hot Glass Show, developed mobile Roadshow and GlassLab studios, and even installed glass shops on three Celebrity cruise ships. Museum glassmakers have visited studios and worked with glassmakers from around the world.
The new theater will expand both seating and glassblowing capacity, while keeping flexibility in mind. Retractable seating will accommodate 275 guests when fully extended, and there is room for an additional 225 in a mezzanine which runs around the entire perimeter of the space.
In the past, the Hot Glass Show’s hotshop space and furnace capacity limited the size and complexity of the pieces which could be made. The intent of the new glassmaking space is to create the ultimate venue for glassmaking demonstrations.
Spiral Arts whiz Fred Metz is collaborating with the Museum to develop and construct all of the equipment for the new Hot Glass Theater. During the busy summer months, demonstrating glassmakers will use the main 1000 lb. furnace and a 21” glory hole. Given the need, however, there will also be an assistant’s bench with an 18” glory hole, or a 31” glory hole for special demonstrations and projects. Two smaller portable furnaces will be used for melting color, or other glass formulas.
Along with the added capacity for glassmaking, the new studio will have abundant, annealing space and a complete cold working studio for grinding and polishing glass. With seating retracted, there will be an additional 2800 square feet available to expand the shop with all necessary utilities recessed in floor outlets. In this configuration, visitors will still be able to observe from the mezzanine level.
There will be an additional studio behind the main equipment hood for experimentation and limited production. This hot shop will have a 350 lbs. electric pot furnace and an 18” gloryhole. Work may be done in this shop while a show is going on in front. Throughout the hot shop, access to natural gas and oxygen will allow for positioning of torches for flameworking. Compressed air and propane will also be available.
Creating a world-class shop means keeping the glassmakers and visitors comfortable. Careful benchmarking and studies of existing glass studios has helped to develop a ventilation and cooling scheme that will keep the new Hot Glass Theater comfortable year-round. When the project is completed in 2014, the Museum will have the most comprehensive and capable hot glass demonstration stage in the world.