The Phantom Limb

By  Lani
2018-04-03 14:05:56
Low work tables on rollers, adjustable height stools, and mobile sheet pan racks that once anchored the Glass Lab, now in storage. After blogging last week about a factory tour and my inability to prioritize the value of its various human parts by comparing them to organs of the body, a friend pointed out a profoundly simple truth. The organism needs all its appendages and organs, not until one is gone do you truly miss it. I hadn’t written about the end of the tour. I wasn’t ready to open that wound. Not sure whether I am yet. But here goes. After visiting the factory we’d gone across the river to Bullseye Projects, the space that until 2015 was called the Bullseye Gallery. In 2014 we decided that our outpost in Portland’s Pearl District needed more transparency. We wanted to engage more openly with the community, and especially with children. Where better to start with transparency than at a door? With the help of Bullseye Studio, the old off-putting front doors were reborn as a lens, a portal to the wonders of glass and art. Simultaneous with the doors, we designed scaled-down work tables and tested various styles of child-sized stools. Table-top 120v kilns on rolling carts followed. As did kid-sized Gummi-bear colored safety glasses, a library of children’s books, Hello Kitty bandaids, and research on age-appropriate projects. JANUARY 2015. The heart and soul of the reimagined space was the Glass Lab where children as young as three and their parents could explore the world through making with glass. Over the course of that year, the children’s programs gained in popularity, our family sessions picked up speed, and my programs manager made some exciting connections with local schools. Then the bomb dropped. Data leaked from Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality to a sensationalist blogger set in motion a sequence of events that rocked the entire world of colored art glass. I’ll spare you the details here. Some of them are contained in our subsequent lawsuit against the state of Oregon, but I’ll (maybe) get to that in a later blog post. For now, in short, the children’s programs began to unravel beginning with the cancellation by a local elementary school that didn’t want to be associated with a company that was “poisoning children.” This from a science teacher who had just read a blog post by a local muckraker. In the following year we lost staff, key connections, and – OK, I’ll admit it – energy. My remaining team have kept a couple of projects alive, but for the most part the Glass Lab is a ghost living in the closest thing we have to an attic. APRIL 2018. The Glass Lab space has returned to its former use as a gallery. Yes, still housing beauty, but absent the hands-on learning and the laughter. After touring the current exhibition, I led last week’s visitors to a largely vacant space away from the main galleries, a somewhat isolated room that’s used for storage, special events, crates of inbound and outbound art. Seeing the small work benches, stools, books, and boxes of stored studio equipment hit me in a way I hadn’t expected. The Glass Lab came alive again, but not in a good way. It was like being in the presence of something dead but still breathing. PHANTOM LIMB: the sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still attached. Approximately 60 to 80% of individuals with an amputation experience phantom sensations in their amputated limb, and the majority of the sensations are painful. After 40 years working towards the life-changing mission behind the Glass Lab, to encounter it last week, stuffed into boxes and stacked in a corner was a tough one. Glass can frighten adults. Kids in its presence are fearless. Minor cuts are clean, quickly bandaged and soon forgotten. The lessons learned through a material that bridges art, science, history, and so many other fields of exploration are remembered for a lifetime. So. No. This isn’t the end. If I can help it, the story will have a happy ending. Three days later, I went searching for it in the woods on the outskirts of Portland. If the next dream materializes, you can bet I’ll post about it.