GlassFest FusionMay 01, 2021 01:48PM ● By Karey Solomon
The challenge of difficult times can bring out the creative best in those open to possibility. Blending safety and creativity means the city that glass made internationally famous will host a (socially-distanced) festival. GlassFest Fusion, in non-pandemic years a weekend event at the end of May, will this year be spread out over a week, May 24 through May 30, to give visitors and residents a chance to safely explore downtown Corning in depth while enjoying a variety of local arts.
Coleen Fabrizi, executive director of Corning’s Gaffer District, says, “Since the very first GlassFest in 2010, the focus of the event has been to celebrate the extraordinary history of glassmaking and resilience in the city of Corning. This year may be a little different from what we can do when we’re not in a pandemic, but we are beyond excited to welcome everyone!”
Taking your time to explore means, among other things, the ability to take one of the Gaffer District’s self-guided tours—perhaps the Buildings Alive survey of historic buildings. This one begins at the base of the famous clock tower, and gives walkers an opportunity to canvass many notable structures and their oh-so-cool anecdotal histories. One location on Market Street (we’re not saying where—you have to find it!) still boasts the drinking trough used where customers who arrived via horsepower could tie their animals and offer them water while their owners shopped.
There’s also a self-guided chocolate tour and a self-guided antiques and collectible tour, and a guided Arts Crawl tour...or you could combine them and look at everything. Could be a good strategy—many businesses will be hosting art shows in their windows as well as special promotions for GlassFest Fusion customers.
Sidewalk dining is still a thing in Corning, but, on a pretty day (there are some on order), Coleen suggests you might also get a meal to go from the plentiful variety of downtown restaurants or from Wegman’s, then eat it picnic-style on one of downtown Corning’s many green spaces. Among these are Riverfront Centennial Park (walk toward the Corning Museum of Glass from the clock tower at Centerway Square and find part of the park actually on the bridge spanning the Chemung River) and Tom Buechner Park near the Rockwell Museum. The bridge at Riverfront Park is celebrating its centennial this year.
And while you eat—or explore, shop, and admire—regional musicians and musical groups will be performing at Centerway Square and on other stages in open areas.
But those who come to the GlassFest Fusion week don’t need to lose sight of the glass.
As always, Vitrix Glass at 77 West Market Street will provide in-store glassmaking demonstrations, so it’s possible to watch glass being made and take home a similar previously-crafted ornament, snowman, pumpkin, or something else special. Plans are underway to provide a live video feed on a flatscreen facing the street for those who want to see the process from a little further away.
Want to try it yourself or watch more glass being made? The Corning Museum of Glass offers hot glass demonstrations at the museum and make-your-own-glass activities by reservation in their adjacent studio. Look for a particular, just-introduced innovation to watch, and perhaps experience, there. “It’s an interesting story, something we developed during closure,” says CMOG’s Kimberly Thompson. “We were asking ourselves, how do we reopen and have demos? How can you wear a mask and blow glass?”
The creative staff invented an “Alternate Inflation Device.” It’s a foot-powered air compressor delivering five to ten pounds of pressure through a blow-pipe. It’s definitely a change, setting 2,000 years of glass-making tradition on its head, and CMOG has been sharing this new invention with other glass-blowers around the world. Locally, it allows masked demonstrators and masked studio participants to continue to produce beautiful glass. See this new technique online at youtube.com/watch?v=BlDAZ9Qv-HQ.
“The Corning Museum of Glass is a proud sponsor of GlassFest Fusion because it’s an important event for the promotion of our beautiful downtown and its businesses,” says Beth Duane of CMOG. “We are excited to welcome the community during GlassFest weekend to explore our new exhibition, In Sparking Company: Glass and the Costs of Social Life in Britain During the 1700s. We also have many new works on view.”
At the Rockwell Museum, a new exhibition of photographs taken in 1975 by National Geographic photographer Nathan Benn, “Finger Lakes Kodachrome”, opens on May 28. There won’t be an opening party, but the exhibit promises to be “lovely and relatable,” says Willa Vogel of the Rockwell Museum. The Rockwell Kids Art Lab on Market Street will also be open by reservation.
At the West End Gallery at 12 West Market Street, “we are going to have a special glass showcase featuring glass artists in the community,” says owner Jesse Gardner. She’s planning to title the exhibit “Unbreakable” in reference to the resilient spirits of local glass artists and her fellow merchants.
“Owning your own business is certainly not for the faint of heart,” she notes. “We’ll get through this. These [artists and merchants] are the most resilient people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.”
As the Memorial Day Weekend kicks off the summer season in the Finger Lakes, it’s a good time to remember local Hometown Heroes. A tribute video will air on TV screens in various windows throughout downtown, and a memorial is planned for Centerway Square on May 30.
The diversity of Market Street shops, many featuring unique and hard-to-find items, means shopping will be rewarding and relaxed. To make it even “more better,” many will be offering cross-promotions during the week. And even though you’ll be wearing a mask, smile at other mask-wearers who greet you. Now and then some of those smiling at you will be handing out gift cards!
The event schedule has yet to be finalized, and Coleen points out that, as always, everything planned has to comply with New York State COVID-19 restrictions. That’s for everyone’s safety. So bring your mask, your curiosity, and your appetite, as Corning promises a wonderful time. Find up to date information at gafferdistrict.com or call (607) 937-6292.