BAM’s Harvey Theater now has a shiny new neighbor. Founded in 1977 by Richard Yelle and Joe Upham, the New York Experimental Glass Workshop—the country’s first open-access glass studio—has bounced around from its original Great Jones Street location in Manhattan to several other locales before settling down in downtown Brooklyn in 1991. Along with the move came a new name that was a little easier to say: UrbanGlass.
A new $41 million city-funded renovation project expanded and modernized the building that UrbanGlass and BRIC share, which reopened to the public yesterday. Formerly hidden away on the building’s third floor, UrbanGlass has increased its presence to the ground floor for the first time. The street-level Agnes Varis Arts Center, which houses a store and gallery, aids the organization in becoming more transparent and accessible, raising community awareness of its mission and offerings.
American Design Club co-founder Kiel Mead and his mentor Carlos Salgado were tapped to curate artist works for UrbanGlass’ first-ever retail store. CH visited the organization’s freshly forged facilities and spoke with Mead about the unusual pieces up for sale.
Glass is quite a versatile medium, and serves more functions than drinking vessels and ornamentation. “These neon pieces are by Lite Brite Neon,” says Mead. “Neon is one of the biggest and one of the main things that they’re going to be doing upstairs, bending neon.” Lite Brite Neon founder Matt Dilling is an UrbanGlass fixture, having taught weekly experimental neon-making workshops in the old space.
Other noteworthy goods selected by Mead and Salgado include crocheted vases by Lara Knutson which utilize glass beads as a fiber, printed image mirrors from Jason Miller that capture your reflections inside an imaginary landscape, building block jewelry made of frozen kiln cast glass by Dena Pengas and a hand sculpted glass skull from Portland-based duo Esque Studio, who first met at UrbanGlass.
Lead image courtesy of UrbanGlass; all other photos by Kiel Mead