As the world’s foremost glass museum, we often entertain some interesting ideas—but perhaps the wildest one yet was a call we received two years ago from Red Bull. “We’d like to have a stunt motorcyclist drive around The Corning Museum of Glass—kind of like a ‘bull in a china shop.’” Sure, it would have been easy to see the impossibilities in that simple concept. We’re a glass museum! Motorcycles and glass absolutely do not mix. But… could they? Often, it’s the out-of-the-box ideas that yield the biggest rewards. And so, we embarked on an exciting collaboration that culminated in a video released today on Red Bull’s channels.
Red Bull athlete and stunt motorcyclist Aaron Colton was engaged to create a custom-built, all-electric bike for this unique exploration of our galleries and hot shop. Colton’s Bike Builds series is a staple of Red Bull’s offerings, and this episode would follow his journey of not only building a type of bike he hadn’t built before—during a global pandemic, no less!—but would show the effort it takes to turn “no”s into “yes”s. Too many times, an exciting idea comes about, and it stops in its tracks because a location can’t accommodate a traditional, combustion motorcycle complete with fuel and noise. Colton and Red Bull would literally be creating a way to turn ideas into realities.
“This was one of my most in-depth projects ever because if we were going to get permission to ride through the glass museum, we needed to build from the ground up,” said Aaron Colton. “We had the idea, but not the vehicle to do it. This was a bike I didn’t already have, so it was quite gratifying to see it all come together and open doors for transporting my sport to exclusive locations that weren’t fathomable before.”
In preparation for the episode, Colton visited the Museum and planned the bike around the needs of the project. He also took precise measurements, so that once he completed the bike, he could practice within the parameters of the spaces he’d encounter at the Museum and ensure he could execute the stunts around glass—both hot and cold.
“Luck only favors the prepared, and I needed a lot of it if I was going to make it through the complexities of all those riding areas without any big issues,” Colton said. “I underestimated the difficulty of riding an electric motorcycle because it’s quite different than a combustion motorcycle. I was trying to take the exact skill set I’d learned from my sport and do the same thing on this new motorcycle. I had to turn a new leaf and think about riding it differently.”
And when he got to the Museum, thoroughly practiced and ready to execute his gravity-defying stunts, it was some of the simple riding he enjoyed the most. One of the first things filmed was a sequence without stunts in the promenade of the Contemporary Art + Design Galleries.
“Just being able to ride through that contemporary gallery space was so cool,” said Colton. “I know I’m the first one to do that, and I think I’m also going to be the last, so from that perspective, it was something really special.”
During filming, Colton performed stunts in The Shops, the Innovation Center, Contemporary Galleries, and finally the Amphitheater Hot Shop, where he worked with the glassmakers to interact with molten glass. The juxtaposition of Colton as an artist building a custom bike with our glass artists in the hot shop comes together beautifully—an unlikely but somehow perfect pairing.
“There’s a mutual respect,” Colton said. “I respect what they’re doing, and they respect what I put together, absolutely. No matter what field it is, if you’re at the top level, it took an incredible amount of work to get there. There’s a certain admiration and respect we had for each other. It was super cool to be able to mix both worlds together—I can’t think of any other reason they would ever connect.”
And the Hot Glass Demo Team thoroughly enjoyed the experience, as they worked to hand sculpt a glass red bull while Colton performed wheelies around them.
“Our glassmaking team tends to be up for any challenge, and this was certainly a unique one,” said Eric Meek, senior manager of Hot Glass Programs. “Thinking about working with molten glass while a stunt motorcyclist performs tricks around you is a tall order, but Jeff Mack and several other members of our team worked skillfully to create a glass red bull for the final sequence of the video. The Amphitheater Hot Shop is the heart of the action at the Museum, and this project shows how the space comes alive with energy and creativity.”
While Colton doesn’t fancy himself a museum-goer typically, he’s grateful he got to spend so much time in Corning through multiple site visits, leading up to a fiery night at the museum.
“Corning is a great mix of art, history, and science, and then the craft itself is being completed right in front of you. It was amazing. I’ve been to plenty of different museums over the years, but this was a very unique experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When people think of glass, it’s the windows in your house or car, maybe a vase. But Corning shows so much more—there’s the contemporary art side, which is incredible. There’s technology and history that have adapted and evolved society as a whole. It was definitely interesting to realize that glass pretty much touches every technological facet that we know currently.”
And that’s exactly what the Museum does every day: We help people see glass in a new light. Colton now hopes that the Bike Builds episode and the riding sequence through the Museum will introduce people to new technology for motorcycles, and a new way of thinking about glass.
“I hope people enjoy it from a technical riding aspect, but we were able to mix worlds,” he said. “It takes an equal amount of effort and training to make glass as it does to learn my sport. I hope there’s an appreciation for the skill and admiration for all the crafters involved within this project.”
*All photographs courtesy of Red Bull/Brian Nevins.
And to learn more about Red Bull Athlete Aaron Colton, visit: http://www.aaroncolton.com/
To watch the full Bike Builds episode, visit YouTube.