Carol Yorke was less than thrilled with the move she and her husband, Gerard Conn, were making to Michigan, so Gerry surprised her with a welcome gift while they were unpacking. “It was a bribe,” he said about the cobalt blue vase and iridized feather-patterned bowl he’d purchased from a small gallery near their SoHo home back in New York. Following those gifts, Gerry gave Carol a Steuben apple for Christmas, and they both started paying more attention to glass. Years later, they are now profound lovers and appreciators of glass art, particularly flameworked and kiln-worked pieces.
“Its technical brilliance and ability to transform light fascinates me,” said Carol, “so much so that I began working in glass myself. When UrbanGlass moved into our neighborhood (in Brooklyn), our knowledge and appreciation of glass expanded dramatically.”
Both Gerry and Carol grew up with a strong appreciation for the arts. Gerry watched his grandfather, the ragtime composer Joseph Lamb, play piano in theaters, and Carol watched her mother work as a professional seamstress. After receiving his Ph.D. in mathematics from New York University and a postdoctoral degree from Michigan State University, Gerry worked at Bell Labs and AT&T Labs in telecommunications engineering. Carol, who grew up in New Jersey, always had an interest in sewing, drawing, and painting. She, too, studied mathematics at NYU where she received a master’s degree, and she went on to work for a small consulting company, state government, and Chase National Bank.
When Carol and Gerry started to go to UrbanGlass more than 20 years ago, masters of the time came to work there, Gerry explained. “Many of these sessions were open to the public, and we watched Lino Tagliapetra, Dale Chihuly, Dante Marioni, Pino Signoretto, Dick Marquis, and others,” he said. “Over time, we got to know many artists and teachers from around the world. We’ve hosted them at our home in Brooklyn and visited them in Australia, Europe, and around the U.S.”
Carol and Gerry volunteered to be on the benefit committee for the first “Glassblowers Ball” and, soon after, Carol was invited to join the Board of UrbanGlass. Since then, she has served as treasurer, vice chair, acting chair, and co-chair of five galas. It inspired her to take classes and resume making art, this time in kiln working.
“I’ve studied with Klaus Moje, Kirstie Rea, Scott Chaseling, Dorothy Hafner, and Rudi Gritsch, and met many other established and emerging artists at UrbanGlass,” she said. “It’s been and still is a wonderful involvement in the arts and art-making community.”
“We’ve seen the Museum undergo transformation and expansion, and attended many special exhibitions and GAS conferences there,” said Carol. “We’ve known Bill Gudenrath and Amy Schwartz since they were at UrbanGlass, and have followed the development of The Studio in Corning, where I’ve taken classes.
“We believe that art is a vital part of people’s lives, so we support not-for-profit institutions that bring art to a wide range of people,” Carol said. “Glass is an amazing medium for its history, technological capabilities, and artistic possibilities. People should have the opportunity to appreciate this unique combination of science and art through education and access.”