By Betty Wilson, Director of Marketing Communication
Celebrated glass artist Paul Stankard is universally regarded as a master of his art. His paperweights and glass sculptures have appeared in galleries and museums throughout the world, including the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.
And now his work is on long term view in Akron. The Akron Art Museum recently opened the world’s largest public collection of Stankard glass. The collection is a gift of Northeast Ohio concert promoter Mike Belkin and his wife Annie, who over a 30 year period amassed the largest holding of Stankard’s work in the world. Their Akron gift of 64 objects is their largest to a public institution. At any one time, about half of the collection will be on view. Objects will be rotated periodically from storage to give visitors a new experience when they return to the museum.
Stankard’s molten glass renditions of plants and insects are stunning simulations, miniaturized and preserved inside crystal-clear glass globes and cubes. Strongly influenced by the poetry of Walt Whitman, Stankard references the continuum of nature by portraying and exploring the mysteries of seeds, fertility and decay.
Through the generosity of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the museum is collaborating with Western Reserve Public Media in Northeast Ohio on a documentary about the artist, the donors and the collection. The documentary will soon air multiple times on the three channels of this PBS company and will be available on their website (http://westernreservepublicmedia.org).
In early September a television production crew visited Stankard in his south New Jersey home and studio. More filming followed when the artist visited Akron September 26-28 for the collection unveiling. The numerously Emmy-nominated production team now has the daunting task of editing days of taping into a 27-minute documentary. It is especially challenging because, as Stankard tells it, he “has the gift of gab.” Quite the story-teller, the artist shares colorful tales of his early years, influences and lampwork/flamework technique.
After the initial PBS airing, museum visitors will also be able to view the documentary. The glass collection is on display in new exhibition space designed especially for the gift and includes a video monitor.