From head, to hands, to glass

Givens Fellowship inspires design

From head, to hands, to glass

By Matt Markey

Adam Goldberg ’11 welcomes guests at the Toledo art gallery he owns with a couple of friends. Some are here for classes in glass blowing, while others inquire about purchasing the affordable contemporary glass pieces created by Goldberg and his colleagues.

This is not where Goldberg could have imagined himself being just a short time ago. He did not take any art classes at his high school, and hardly seemed on track for a career as an accomplished artist. But, a glass blowing workshop at the Toledo Museum of Art caught Goldberg’s interest and changed his life.

“I didn’t really have many things I did after school, and I wasn’t the best student around so I knew I was never going to be in academia, and I didn’t do many sports,” Goldberg said. “But once I found this activity, it just kind of worked for me.”

Goldberg enrolled at BGSU and worked toward a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, focusing on glass blowing.

“I learned that my hands understood the glass, so I was able to come up with a concept in my head, and then translate it to the glass,” he said.

In 2010, he received a Stuart R. Givens Memorial Fellowship that allowed him to spend close to two months in Japan, traveling the country to work with glass artists all across that nation’s main island.

Goldberg had heard accounts of living and working in Japan from his BGSU glass blowing instructor Scott Darlington. Japan’s thousands of years of history and culture, and the significant influence of that history and culture on art, intrigued Goldberg to the extent that he had longed to experience this vastly different side of the art world.

“My proposal for the Fellowship was all about an appreciation for history and how local ancient history had played a role in their art in Japan,” he said. “We don’t have that in the States, because comparatively speaking our country is so young. The European influence was the major factor in our art here, but Japan had that much deeper ancient culture that influenced so much of the life there. I wanted to see it, and experience it.”

Goldberg spoke not a word of Japanese when he arrived, but art bridged any language divide, and the long reach of faculty and students from Bowling Green helped facilitate his experiences. He connected with BG students involved in the study abroad program, and sound direction from faculty member Akiko Jones was only a quick email exchange away.

Goldberg visited a number of sites around the country, worked as a teaching assistant at a glass blowing school, and found that the artistic community in Japan was very gracious and accommodating throughout his stay. He also got to work with a variety of artists while visiting schools and studios in Japan.

“The experience changed my perspective in a lot of ways. It was inspiring,” said Goldberg, who has since worked as a teaching assistant at art schools throughout the U.S. “Being surrounded and immersed in that culture inspired me to think about my design differently. And watching the people there work hard all of the time – I came back with a new-found work ethic.”

Goldberg’s fellowship to Japan led to many new contacts and friendships in the international art community, and to a show featuring his creations at BGSU’s Hiroko Nakamoto Gallery in the Fine Arts Center. The opportunity to open his own gallery, “Gathered Glass Blowing Studio,” came about a couple of years after Goldberg had received his degree in 2011.

“The Givens Fellowship had a role in all of this, since it was not only an amazing and rewarding experience, but it also created a lot of opportunities for me and my work,” he said.

“There’s no question it was a very valuable and a very important part of my development as an artist, and it certainly was the best part of my college experience. It is just an awesome program.”

His skills with glass are on display at the recently completed renovation of the Toledo Zoo aquarium in the form of “Earth’s Oceans, a huge 38-by-8 cast glass mural creation, and “Jellyfish Smack, a blown glass piece.

Goldberg’s studio gallery in Toledo's Historic Warehouse District has a functioning glass blowing operation and offers classes in glass blowing. He and his artist partners spent more than a year renovating the 1890s era structure before opening several years ago.

Inspired by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Burch Fellows Program, the Stuart R. Givens Memorial Fellowship was initiated by friends of Givens to honor his passion for student learning. The Fellowship recognizes resourcefulness, imagination, and significant ability among Bowling Green State University undergraduate students by supporting self-designed off-campus experiences that will enable them to pursue a passionate interest in a manner not otherwise possible through an academic program, regular summer job, enrichment program, or organized study abroad program.

To remain true to the spirit of the Givens Fellowship, students are encouraged to think broadly in shaping their projects; that is, to look beyond activities that relate to their field of academic study. It is expected that the experience will make a demonstrable difference in their lives and help them grow both personally and intellectually. To make a gift to support this, or other BGSU student programs, please visit bgsu.edu/give.