1999: Tampa

29th Annual Glass Art Society Conference

Tampa, US
April 29- 2, 1999

President’s Letter
Reflections & Predictions

Boy, have my sands been sizzled! Tampa gave GAS a warm Southern reception that will live in the memories of 1,000 conference attendees! I can’t speak for all of them, but I will share some of my experiences.

At my first GAS Conference in 1981, I remember feeling like we (studio artists) were becoming more professional in our approach to glass, but even the "architectural" types were working mostly on a residential scale. Most of the people I spoke with were small studio owners, most of the artist presenters were small studio artists. Most of the work we saw was small in scale and made by one or two artists.

Much of this was still true in Tampa, but the scope and scale of some of what I saw was an eye opener. Several artists mentioned their crews had grown to a dozen or more. Marian Karel, Marsha Pels, Ludwig Schaffrath, Jamie Carpenter, Warren Carther and others spoke of recently completed massive installations, glass walls, even entire glass buildings, with many future projects in the works. One of the best parts of any conference is when I begin to realize (and I always do) how little I have accomplished, how much more is possible, and that we are only limited by the scope of our ambition and the scale of our imagination.

"Hey Kids, Lets Put on an EXPO!"

Another highlight of my Tampa experience was the International EXPO 2. The Board of Directors had hired Michael McGahan, a glass artist and cabinet maker from San Francisco, to act as construction foreman. When Mike and I got to Tampa, it was clear that Judy Jourdan had done a great job organizing teams of volunteers, and Lynn Logsdon, our EXPO Coordinator, with help from Lenn Neff, had provided tools and materials for the job. In the huge loading dock area of the Tampa Convention Center, a dozen or more complete strangers met at 8 a.m. and painted 130 sheets (more than 9,000 pounds) of sheet rock in about eight hours! This was only the beginning.

On Monday, many of the same (sore and tired) volunteers, fortified by new arrivals, built twenty exhibition spaces which filled a 10,000 square foot space in the Tampa Convention Center. The next day, huge metal structures were built to support over 600 feet of lighting track which allowed more than 400 spotlights to be installed. This involved a tremendous effort from two artists and part time electricians, Dave Klein and Jim Antonious.

On Wednesday, Emery Air Freight delivered hundreds of crates filled with glass from 18 countries, and the artists began to arrive. Imagine the excitement as these artists (from Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America) began to unpack and install their work.

If you have ever seen one of those old MGM musicals where some teenage actors say "Hey kids, let’s put on a show!" then you know how we felt, putting on a world class international exhibition without professional promoters, producers, or installers. My heart was filled with pride and gratitude to be a part of this group. GAS has become an international organization that can, indeed, bring artists together from around the world.

Of course, much of the rest of the conference was wonderful. I loved the chance to honor my mentor, Ludwig Schaffrath and my friend, Josh Simpson. The student exhibition was another opportunity to compare the work of students from around the world.

Thank you all for another profound experience. Tampa changed my life; I hope it changed some of yours.

John Leighton

The Glass Art Society reserves the right to deny applications for Technical Display, advertising participation, GAS membership or the conference from anyone for any reason.