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Glass sculpture at ArtsQuest Center is 'museum quality'

Post Time:Apr 13,2012Classify:Industry NewsView:742

The design begins at the top with fire, symbolized by blown glass flames that lick toward the ceiling. There are 312 flames in vibrant reds, oranges and yellows.


The center section combines air and water with 56 large double panels of shimmering blue iridescent glass accented with 20 three-dimensional white blown glass clouds.


At the bottom is earth, with large green glass leaves, vines and glass rocks, all in muted grays and browns.

 China Glass Network

The ArtsQuest Center's new sculptural showpiece, "The Four Elements," rises 40 feet through the center of the three-story spiral staircase that leads to its main Musikfest Cafe performance venue.


"This is truly a museum-quality piece," says Jeffrey Parks, ArtsQuest president. "It is a living, breathing part of the center. It's so exciting to have it here and have it so accessible. Part of ArtsQuest's mission is to make art accessible to the community."


The sculpture was designed by John Choi and Dennis Gardner of GlassWorks, a hot glass studio in the Banana Factory arts and education center, a few blocks from the SteelStacks campus in Bethlehem, home of the ArtsQuest Center.


The spiral staircase was designed by the architects without a center sculpture in mind. But Parks says as soon as he saw the stairs he thought it would be "a really cool space to show off glass."


"There aren't many places that can have this done," Parks says. "This is the only hot blown glass shop in the region and now this is their calling card."


Choi, whose wife was pregnant when he designed the piece, says he was inspired to come up with a universal theme and contemplated how all of life needs the four elements to survive.


The sculpture progresses through the elements, providing a changing view to people walking up and down the staircase, which is lined with black and white photographs of artists playing Martin guitars. C.F. Martin & Co. is the sponsor of the Musikest Cafe lobby


"This is the most amazing space I've ever worked in," Choi says.


What makes the sculpture unique is that it's impossible to see the entire sculpture all at once, Gardner says.


"It's the ArtsQuest health plan," Parks jokes. "You have to walk the stairs to see the whole sculpture."


The original design was created on computer and was planned to be finished for the center's opening last April.


However Choi says as they worked on the design, the piece got "more involved and got bigger and bigger."


The sculpture features more than 900 pieces of individual glass weighing about a ton and a half that represent three different types of production — hand-blown, molded and flat panels.


Also complicating matters was the underlying structure. All the glass pieces are securely bolted to a tree-like steel framework. The 700-pound armature that runs from the ceiling to the floor was a challenge in itself.


"There was a lot of engineering involved," Parks says. "We were limited by weight since it goes all the way down."


Choi says it also was challenging to visualize what the finished piece would look like.


"It's never the same on computer as it is in real life," Gardner agrees.

Source: www.mcall.comAuthor: shangyi

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