Museum Welcomes Alexia Hudson-Ward and Preston Singletary to Board of Trustees (Part 2: Preston Singletary)

The Corning Museum of Glass is delighted to announce that its Board of Trustees voted unanimously in December 2021 to appoint Alexia Hudson-Ward and Preston Singletary as its newest members. 

Alexia Hudson-Ward is the Associate Director of Research and Learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries, and Preston Singletary is a Seattle-based, Native American glass artist of the Tlingit tribe.

The recruitment and selection of new trustees is an ongoing effort of the Board to identify and fill gaps in areas of expertise or background. In 2021, a committee identified perceived gaps in board composition including people of color, artists, experts in academics or research libraries, museum/cultural experts, and those with philanthropic backgrounds and interests. Trustees and members of the Museum’s Leadership Team discussed candidates that would help address these gaps. After a series of interviews and deliberations, Alexia and Preston were recommended and approved.

Alexia and Preston join Alan T. Eusden, Jeffrey W. Evenson, James B. Flaws, Randi L. Hewit, James D. Houghton, David L. Morse, Mark S. Rogus, Edward Schlesinger, Wendell P. Weeks, Karol Wight, and Marianne W. Young on the Board of Trustees. Additional individuals are currently being considered by the committee, and this process will continue until the Board feels it has achieved the desired number and composition of Trustees. 

Ahead of their first board meeting in March, we interviewed Alexia and Preston to learn a little more about them and discover what insights they hope to bring to the Museum’s Board of Trustees.

This week we learn about Preston Singletary. Check out last week’s blog post to hear from Alexia Hudson-Ward.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Preston Singletary was raised with the stories of his Tlingit ancestors, a Native tribe from the remote southeastern shores of Alaska. But, living in Seattle in the 70s and 80s meant that glass was also a major influence shaping his early life. In high school, he befriended Dante Marioni whose father Paul was a glassblower. After graduating in 1982, Dante helped Preston get a job as a night watchman at the Glass Eye studios, an art glass production studio located in the historic Pike Place Market.

Preston showed innate interest and soon progressed to assisting the production teams and working with glass. After just three years he started working with Benjamin Moore and would remain on his team for a further 20 years. Glass very quickly took over his life. In 1984 he signed up for his first workshop at Pilchuck Glass School where, he says, “I started to develop my own artistic approach to the material.”

Photo courtesy of Mac Holt.

That artistic approach would distinguish Preston from many of his contemporaries. His work is imbued with the sophisticated and vibrant artistic traditions of the Northwest Coast. Preston is recognized for integrating traditional European glassblowing techniques with Native art and symbolism unique to his Indigenous culture. He brings ancient icons, mystical themes, and Tlingit stories to life with modern glassmaking tools and materials, creating extraordinarily beautiful sculptures now seen the world over.

In the early 1990s, Preston moved to Sweden to learn from Scandinavian design company Kosta Boda. A happy consequence of that period in his life is that he met his future wife and is now a proud father of three children.

What you might not know about Preston Singletary is that he is also a musician. In fact, music was his first love. “Music is the only thing I was particularly good at before finding glass,” he says. A lifelong bass player and vocalist, in 2013, Preston and other Native artists from the Tlingit, Haida, and Blackfoot tribes, formed an Indigenous jazz and funk band called Khu.éex’.

Preston finds a lot of commonality between his musical experience and glass. He brings a lyrical expression to his glass work as he follows the path molten glass takes from the kiln to the annealer. As a multidisciplinary artist, this synergy is essential, allowing one medium to influence another, much as his Native culture supports and inspires his creative work. As a storyteller, Preston uses everything from his music and live performance to glass and his exhibitions to share the Indigenous perspective with new audiences around the world.

The 18th Rakow Commission, Never Twice the Same (Tlingit Storage Box), by Preston Singletary (2003.4.83).

Guests to The Corning Museum of Glass may already be familiar with his work which can be found in both the galleries and the gift shop. In 2003, he was awarded the Museum’s prestigious Rakow Commission for his piece Never Twice the Same (Tlingit Storage Box). Preston considers the designs used in this piece to be similar to jazz improvisation, echoing back to his musical roots.

Preston has visited the Museum several times in the past. “I think Corning has an amazing array of glass and it’s inspirational to see the vastness of the collection,” he says. “The library is also impressive. Every time I’ve visited, I’m impressed by their knowledge of the material and the resources available.”

Preston brings a wealth of experience working with various boards, including Pilchuck, Islandwood School (an environmental learning center for youth), Seattle Art Museum, and Sealaska Heritage Institute (a cultural arts center in SE Alaska). “Each time I’m on a different board,” he says, “I learn varied approaches to working with them, and sometimes they help provide insights that can be applicable to other institutions. Also, as a glass artist and as an Alaskan Native I hope that I will be able to help the leadership of The Corning Museum of Glass to open new doors with inclusivity and diversity.”

Photo courtesy of Julien Capmeil.

The Museum is thrilled to welcome Preston Singletary back. As his tenure on our Board of Trustees begins, Preston is looking forward to getting involved, meeting new people, and “discovering new opportunities to connect communities,” he says.

“Along with Board Chair Jeffrey Evenson, I am delighted to welcome Preston to our Board of Trustees,” said Karol Wight, President and Executive Director. “I look forward to hearing Preston’s thoughts about the future of glass art in North America and around the world, and to having his support in defining this Museum’s role in furthering our mission to inspire people to see glass in a new light.”

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