Innovative art form heats up curriculum

Sophomore Justine Abelow works on a project in her glass blowing class. “I’m not an art major but I enjoy it,” she said.  Grace Beitler // Contributing Photographer 

Out of hundreds of interesting courses offered by the College of Arts and Sciences, one stood out as the hottest class on campus – so hot that the temperature reached 2,150 degrees.

Glass blowing, not offered as a class at many universities, is usually only available at colleges dedicated exclusively to art. But the UM art department offers several glass classes, which are taught by lecturer Alex Adams and artist-in-residence Seth Fairweather.

Fairweather said he believes that working with glass helps students on many levels.

“It’s a unique opportunity and a class that helps with any aspect in life,” he said. “It helps students learn to think quickly.”

Adams agreed, saying students must develop critical thinking skills.

“Students must do research with their hands and eyes,” he said. “I want students to develop another avenue for problem solving. I believe that hands make us human and we don’t use them enough to explore our world.”

The classes are held in the new art building near the Newman Alumni Center at the south end of campus. Students worked with state-of-the-art amenities, such as a furnace that heats up to temperatures exceeding 2,000 degrees. Students used the heat to melt glass into a liquid form to shape it.

The process went from hot to cold, as a cooling technique is applied to solidify the glass.

While art classes may seem like an easy elective to some students, this was not the case when dealing with melted glass.

“The first half of the semester there is a lot of broken glass and failures,” Adams said. “It takes half of a semester for the hands, eyes and brain to finally connect.”

Adams, who has been teaching the class for three years, said he enjoys the diversity of students every semester.

“There is a variety of interests and areas of study. The questions, ideas, and finished work are broad and interesting,” Adams said.

Samir Mathew, a computer science major, was a student in the glass blowing class last fall.

“Glass blowing was my first art class. I expected it to be an ‘easy A’,” Mathew said. “It wasn’t easy but it was really fun.”

Mathew appreciated the break from his science-intensive classes.

“It was nice to be creative for once,” he said.