When the Missouri Arts Awards ceremony takes place in the Rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol the first Wednesday of every February, the honorees receive more than applause. As a tangible symbol of recognition for their contributions to the cultural and artistic climate of the state, an original work by a Missouri artist is given to the awardees for Arts Education, Arts Organization, Individual Artist, Leadership in the Arts, Philanthropy and, in the years that this special award is bestowed, Lifetime Achievement. (The Creative Community awardee receives permanent street signs denoting the honor.)
The Missouri Arts Council and the State of Missouri have been honoring our state’s arts heroes since 1983. During that time the “awards objects” have included artworks in wood, sculptural paper, clay, and glass. A different artist is featured every year. Over the past decade, glass has become the customary medium.
The Missouri artists who make the glass artworks for the honorees join a line of artists that stretches back thousands of years. Archaeologists have found glass beads in what was ancient Mesopotamia. In the Nile Delta, evidence was unearthed in 2005 of a commercial glassworks dating to 1250 B.C. The ancient recipe still holds: sand, soda, lime, and heat. The soda, chemically an alkali, lowers the temperature at which the fine-textured silica sand will melt; the lime prevents water from passing through. The honey-thick liquid can be poured into a mold, fused into a flat shape and then slumped into or draped over a mold, or gathered at the end of a hollow tube through which air is blown while the tube is turned. In the technique called lampworking or flameworking, solid glass is re-melted with a torch and reshaped. Over the centuries many tweaks have been made, such as using different alkalis and adding chemicals and minerals to get colors or change the properties of the finished glass. The growing knowledge of the science involved has expanded artists’ options.
As the 2014 Missouri Arts Awards ceremony approaches this February 5, we’ve talked with the 10 Missourians who have crafted the translucent vessels, plates, and sculptures that have marked our state’s
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Written by Barbara MacRobie with the Missouri Arts Council.