Teaching is risky business. Standing too long at the head of the class can stunt one’s growth. Hence the long-established practice within universities of sabbaticals. Getting out of the trenches to investigate the new and unknown is essential for all of us, but for teachers, even more so.

Two of the participants in Pilchuck’s 2009 Professional Artists-in-Residence program and also in the current Act 2 show at MoNA are not only teachers within our field , but also kiln-glass resource center owners. And if you think that running a teaching studio is a walk in the Art Park you might want to meet Judith Conway and Paul Tarlow.

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Act 2: The Next Track continues its run at the Museum of Northwest Art until June 12, 2011.

Els VandenEnde’s bowls and single cairn at MoNA, March 12, 2011. Photo: S. Immerman

In Dutch the word for cairn is “Steenman” or “stone man”.  I suspect that Els VandenEnde, born in the Netherlands, would have known this.  Finding one of these jaunty little Michelin-like Men along a trail or at the summit of a hill is a signal, a marker of someone who has gone before.

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Last summer at North Lands Creative Glass I had the good fortune to be in the Scottish Highlands while artists Steve Klein (left) and Richard Parrish (right) were leading a group residency there.

I blogged about the experience – only barely skimming the surface – here, here, here, and here.

I wasn’t able to visit their Pilchuck residencies that are the focus of the upcoming Museum of Northwest Art show and about which I’ve been blogging over the last eight weeks, but I came away from the Scottish experience with some pretty strong convictions as to what makes for a potentially life-changing residency.

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In my last six posts I’ve tried to communicate something of my enthusiasm for the upcoming show at the Museum of Northwest Art by looking at a few of the artists-in-residence who took part in the project.

Here, thanks to our Communications Designer Nicole, is so much more than I could ever say.

Thanks is owed to all the residents whose generously shared photos captured the individual moments and spirit of the time and place.

Finally, “thanks” is likely too small a word to offer to the residency leaders Steve Klein and Richard Parrish whose abilities in the Fine Art of Community-Building has made the project truly worthy of a museum show.

But more on Klein and Parrish when I resume my blather in the next post…

Professionals whose “next track” takes them to fine art through the medium of kiln-glass often bring with them a cache of life experience that resonates within the material.

The journey itself can be – and often is – a rich one. Rarely have I had the chance to glimpse an itinerary so movingly sketched as the journal entries that comprise Albuquerque artist Sarah Nelson’s background statement to her time in the PAiR residency at Pilchuck last summer.

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This is the fifth in a series of short profiles on a remarkable group of professionals who came together at the Pilchuck Glass School in the summers of 2009 and 2010 under the Professional-Artist-in-Residence program and whose works in kilnformed glass will soon be featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Northwest Art. Prior posts are here, here, here, and here.

Dr Immerman stalking the elusive PAiR (photo: Lisa Allen)

Whether diplomat, novelist, actor or farm wife, talented people detour regularly and often passionately from the primary course of their lives. A few who come to mind include Churchill the painter, Nabokov the lepidopterist (I was reminded of this today), Jeff Goldblum the jazz pianist, and Anna Mary Robertson the artist (aka Grandma Moses).

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Drawer #3, 2010. Kilnformed glass. 5.5" x 8.5" x 1.25" (assembled)

“The human act of collecting is a way to relate on a personal scale to the vast, mysterious and ultimately unknowable place that we inhabit.” – Ursula Marcum.

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After my first blog post about the Residency On Its Way to the Museum a commenter suggested that smart people are attracted to kiln-glass because of the technical challenges – because the method feeds the artistic soul and a hunger for problem solving at the same time.

Gloria demonstrating photos of the nuclear reactor she built in her basement.

Gloria Badiner easily fits my profile of “smart”.  And from what I glimpsed – thanks to the very telling photos posted to the group’s Facebook page – those smarts sparked both awe and good humor from her fellow residents during her time in the Pilchuck-Professional-Artist-in-Residence session last Fall. (That photo caption above is not by me).

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They ramble on about em dashes and ligatures and kerning. Their anatomically twisted ideas of arms, legs, spines and shoulders could tempt you to throw your own body off a glyph. They are typography freaks (aka graphic designers) and I’ve had the great pleasure – and equal frustration – of knowing a few in my working years.

Kim Brill "When We Could Touch the Words", 2010, detail.

But until I saw Kim Brill’s recent works in cast glass from her Pilchuck residency last summer, I know I never adequately appreciated the passion at the core of a designer’s relationship to type.

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And the surgeon, and the research scientist, and the claims adjuster, and the architect, and the graphic designer, and the physical therapist…to name just a few of the many current and former professions of a remarkable band of artists who this spring will be featured in a group museum exhibition titled Act 2: The Next Track at the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner, Washington.

Robert Leatherbarrow "Mount Harris", 2010 Kilnformed glass 13.5" x 12" x 7"

The exhibition is the brainchild of group leaders Steve Klein and Richard Parrish who assembled and shepherded a pair of unique artist residencies held in the Fall of 2009 and 2010 at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington and then went on to convince the nearby museum to show works created by the artists in the wake of their Pilchuck time.

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