Uptown Jackson’s February Annual event will feature live glass-blowing demonstrations from Southern Illinois University School of Art and Design Glass Program students and faculty on Saturday, Feb. 22.
This year’s theme, “Glass Alive,” continues the annual event’s growth over the five years of its existence, according to UJRO Design Committee Chair Craig Milde. The event was created to promote and educate about art, as well as bring people uptown in the slower month of February.
Last year’s February Annual brought home Jackson native Roy Thomas. Thomas made a career as a writer and editor for Marvel and DC Comics, and met with almost 1,000 fans and friends at the event.
“It was really last year with Roy Thomas that kind of exploded our thoughts and made us think outside the box,” Milde said. “This year is a little different approach that is interactive and outdoors.”
Milde added that with the addition of live demonstrations, a street food experience and the glass artwork exhibit, there’s something for everyone in 2020. He said they are anticipating equally large crowds as last year for the all-day event.
The SIU students and faculty are bringing the “Aunt Gladys II” portable glass blowing studio. The studio features all the equipment found in standard glass hotshops – including a furnace, glory hole, gaffer’s bench and an annealing (cooling) oven). The studio will be located on Court Street, near the courthouse lawn, underneath a large tent.
“Aunt Gladys II, the mobile glass studio, will allow the master glass blower Nadine Saylor and the SIU crew of graduate art students to exhibit how the art of glass blowing is executed,” Milde said.
They will conduct live glass blowing and sculpting with molten glass from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. With continuous demonstrations throughout the day, uptown visitors can stay to see one piece blown, or see several custom-designed glass pieces go through each step of the process.
Milde added that visitors will be able to draw sketches at the design station under the tent, and the glass crew may consider making the piece during the event. “They’ll take requests,” he said.
The original Aunt Gladys was built in the 1960s at SIU, which had one of the first university-based blown glass programs in the country. Milde said the mobile studio received its name from students who thought it “reminded them of when an aunt in the family would appear with a travel trailer in tow.” He added that the name Gladys is the closest they could get to “glass.”
Aunt Gladys II was built in the early 2000s and has continued to travel across the United State to show glass blowing demonstrations.
Milde said the mobile studio offers the rare opportunity for visitors to see the glass-making process up close for the first time in our region. “Otherwise, a visit to an out-of-state glass blowing studio might be the only way to experience live glass blowing,” he said.
SIU students and Saylor will have glass artwork on display at the history center. In addition, Saylor’s exhibit, “10,000 Breaths,” will be displayed in the window at 116 S. High St. (the former Ross Furniture building). The piece includes 2,000 blown-glass bubbles that resemble soap bubbles.
In addition, several food and beverage trucks will be at the event, including The German Cook. Milde said The German Cook, who they are calling their regional chef, has prepared a special menu for the event.
Milde said the event is family friendly and attendance is free.