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This article by Sally Friedman was prepared for the July 9, 2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Wheaton Village: Visit, But Don’t Throw Stones

Down a rural road, past a truck tire company, Wheaton

Village suddenly comes into view. It’s a startling sight in Millville,

a remote region of South Jersey where the Village’s 60 sprawling acres

and 20 buildings unexpectedly stretch out across the landscape.

For first-timers, Wheaton Village is one astonishment after another

— especially those who may still hold the belief that "South

Jersey arts" is an oxymoron.

For starters, Wheaton Village is home to the spectacular Museum of

American Glass. This elegant building showcases a collection of American

glass so remarkable that docents report that the single most uttered

word from visitors is "Wow!"

Then there’s the T.C. Wheaton Glass Factory where visitors can watch

daily demonstrations of molten glass transformed into stunning works

of art, and the gallery of American Craft where fine, one-of-a-kind

works in a variety of media are on exhibit.

What’s going on here in rural Millville? And why are thousands of

visitors expected to converge on Wheaton Village this Friday, July

11, through Sunday, July 13, for GlassWeekend ’03?

It was back in the early 1880s when Dr. Theodore Corson Wheaton, a

Millville pharmacist, began making his own pharmaceutical bottles.

His cottage industry would grow into Wheaton USA, today’s giant glass

manufacturing company (formerly known as Wheaton Industries, Inc.).

Fast forward to the early 1960s, when Dr. Wheaton’s

grandson, Frank H. Wheaton Jr., visited the famous Corning Glass Museum

in Corning, New York, only to discover that many of its beautiful

holdings had been created in Southern New Jersey. It was a "Eureka!"

moment for Frank Wheaton, who realized that South Jersey glass deserved

a home in South Jersey, where the glass industry had flourished for

centuries thanks to the ready availability of natural resources like

wood, sand, soda, ash, and silica.

By 1970, the first buildings of what was to become an entire complex

highlighting glass and glass-making techniques as they were practiced

at the turn of the 20th century, had opened to the public. Wheaton

now had the true home he was looking for in order to transfer the

artifacts from a makeshift "museum" in his own house.

A striking building housing the Museum of American Glass and an actual

working glass factory opened in 1973, along with several other buildings

in the complex, including a paperweight shop and a crafts gallery.

In 1983, under the stewardship of celebrated glass artists Paul Stankard

and Tom Patti, the Creative Glass Center of America was established.

Here, contemporary glass artists — emerging and those in mid-career

— are nurtured and supported through fellowships that allow them

to advance their skills.

From its humble beginnings as a modest home collection, Wheaton Village

has grown and flourished — and is now celebrating the Creative

Glass Center’s 20th anniversary. Today, the complex includes 20 buildings

and the Museum of American Glass, exhibiting some 6,500 objects spanning

several centuries. Visitors can enjoy a visual feast of everything

from formal glass sculptures to whimsical fiber optics. Daily glass-blowing

demonstrations draw rapt audiences of all ages. Despite the site’s

impressive size, a circular design plan lined with shady paths makes

getting lost here virtually impossible.

"We’re always a work in progress," says Janet Peterson, public

relations director. One of the current highlights of the museum is

the "20/20 Vision" exhibition, a sprawling showcase of the

work of glass artists from around the world who have had fellowships

at Wheaton.

"We wanted to see what these artists are doing now," says

Peterson, noting that there are 105 exhibitors represented. The first

months of the show spotlight work by 2001 and 2002 fellows who have

come to study at the center from as close as West Orange and as far

away as Hiroshima, Japan, and Adelaide, Australia. Artists include

Hank Adams, Lisa Cerny, Sophia Emmett, Megumi Esaki, Beth Lipman,

Brent Marshall, and Walter Zimmerman. From August through December

the show will focus on current works by other past fellowship recipients.

"The sheer scope of the exhibit is quite remarkable," says

Peterson. It is indeed.

Everything from super life-sized replicas of frilly dresses executed

in glass to bold geometric figures and a striking screen composed

of glass lantern slides by artist Steve Tobin punctuates this exhibit,

which remains on view through January 4, 2004.

In a striking counterpoint to these contemporary creations are replicas

of a Victorian dining room and kitchen complete with glassware from

the period, as well as several permanent installations of historic

glass bottles, Tiffany-type glass, decorative art glass, and a major

collection of antique and contemporary paperweights.

Wheaton Village’s GlassWeekend, a biennial event since 1985, attracts

about 2,000 people for workshops, demonstrations, and presentations.

Co-sponsored by Wheaton Village’s Creative Glass Center of America

and the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass, the event will feature

demonstrations by some of the glass world’s most revered artists,

including Janusz Pozniak, Dante Marioni, and Richard Jolley.

It might be worth the trip just to get a peek at some unusual high-end

shopping by serious glass collectors who come to see the wares of

galleries from across the country and abroad. Many of these glass

objects sell in the five-figure range.

With millions of dollars worth of glass by world-renowned glass artists

on display and for sale at GlassWeekend 2003, go ahead and strike

arts in South Jersey from your oxymoron list.

— Sally Friedman

Creative Glass Center of America, Wheaton Village, 1501

Glasstown Road, Millville, 856-825-6800.

"The Fellows," an exhibition celebrating CGCA’s 20th anniversary.

The rotating anniversary exhibit showcases contemporary glass works

by past and current CGCA fellowship recipients. To December 31. Free.

Museum Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission

is $8, $7 for senior citizens, $5 for students, free for children

under 5. Many events are open to the public, though classes and seminars

are not. For information about GlassWeekend, call or visit

Directions to Wheaton Village: Take I-295 South. Follow

signs to Route 42 South/Atlantic City. From Route 42 take Route 55

South to Exit 26. Follow Wheaton Village signs from the exit to the

main entrance.

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