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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
"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
Glasstown Road, Millville, 856-825-6800. www.wheatonvillage.org
"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 www.glassweekend.com.
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
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