Thursday, September 26, 2013

New international links for the Festival of Glass

Festival of Glass convenor Doug Carson attended New Zealand’s Wanganui Glass Festival in September.
David Traub

The Wanganui festival stretches over a week, with one or more events each day, including ‘open days’ at glass artists’ studios (including David Traub's, whose work is shown here). During the week, several shops in the main street feature window displays by festival participants, all of whom are members of the Wanganui Glass Group. The Wanganui Glass School is a major player in the festival. Its students help to run the festival, which offers them a major showcase for their work. Further, many past students of the Wanganui Glass School have stayed in the town after graduating, contributing to the town’s reputation as a centre of glass art in New Zealand.

 Artists and organisers at Wanganui were keen to maintain the link with the Drysdale festival. Wanganui organisers are considering making a festival video to act as a ‘virtual’ presence at the 2014 Festival of Glass and several Wanganui artists have said that they’d like to exhibit there.

Glass and economic development
The festival’s success hasn’t just happened by itself. Festival organisers and the local council have worked hard together to promote the festival as a major cultural event attended by dealers, collectors artists. The result is a major attraction for domestic and overseas tourists, even though glass souvenirs in the luggage can be a problem!

The festival’s success is good news for the local economy, attracting more artists to establish businesses in the area and attracting more money into the area from dealers, collectors and tourists. Wanganui businesses have responded by participating actively in the festival, giving over their shop fronts to displays, posters and banners.

Here are just a couple of examples of how the Wanganui festival is affecting the local economy:
  • A local real estate agent ‘donated’ an empty shop in the CBD, which festival organisers made into a ‘pop-up’ (temporary) gallery of glass art and sculpture.
  • Glass artists Jimi and Lisa Walsh’s annual ‘open studio’ in nearby Waverley has become a focus of community life, with local people signing up well in advance to be a ‘curator for a day’.
And just a reminder ….
Drysdale’s annual Festival of Glass is a DCSCA initiative. Its focus is a Glass Expo on the third Sunday in February, plus events before and afterwards. The 2013 Expo featured over 70 exhibitors; visitors to the 2014 Festival Expo will see all this plus a glass art competition and demonstrations and classes in various glass working techniques.

Doug Carson’s visit was made possible by a grant from the City of Greater Geelong’s Arts & Culture Department. Doug will talk about his visit at a city-wide grants meeting later this year.

Festival of Glass web sites: