Arts and Culture

Glass House: A Shoreview museum exhibits top local and national glass artists

art exhibition
The exhibition “From Origins to Horizons: The American Glass Studio Movement” at the Cafesjian Art Trust museum in Shoreview.
Courtesy of Cafesjian Art Trust

The Cafesjian Art Trust museum in Shoreview sparkles with dozens of glass creations, from rabbit men (think “Donnie Darko”) and baskets made of intricate glass daisies to abstract optical illusions and an impossible fern-filled glass pillow.

The art space currently has two exhibitions on view, From Origins to Horizons: The American Glass Studio Movement and Midwest Voices in Contemporary Glass.

“The main gallery show is about the history of the American studio glass movement told through our collection,” said director Andy Schlauch. “I thought it would be interesting to show our guests not just what’s happening around the country, or the globe, but also what’s happening here in the Midwest, which has such a rich history from having the first glassblowing programs at any universities — the first one was in Madison, Wis., the second one was Kent State in Ohio.”

The Cafesjian Art Trust, which specializes in modern and contemporary art, has become a Midwest hub for studio glass art, announced to visitors with one of Dale Chihuly’s massive red and orange glass explosions hanging in the lobby.

The museums’ namesake, the late Minnesota publishing executive and art collector Gerard Cafesjian, was in fact a friend of Chihuly, perhaps the only household name from the glass art world.

Cafesjian’s family opened the Shoreview museum in 2022 to showcase Gerard’s 3,000-piece collection of contemporary art, including pieces by Toots Zynsky, Victor Vasarely and Arshile Gorky.

The primary exhibition, “From Origins to Horizons: The American Glass Studio Movement,” features 43 works including those of Harvey Littleton, who is often deemed the “father of the studio glass movement,” as well as contemporary glass artists Debora Moore and Therman Statom.

floral frame
“Willy the Mouse with Tractor and Train” by Amber Cowan is one of dozens of glass art pieces on view at the Cafesjian Art Trust museum in Shoreview.
Alex V. Cipolle | MPR News

One of Schlauch’s favorites is a recent acquisition, a bubblegum pink maximalist wall altar titled “Willy the Mouse with Tractor and Train” by Amber Cowan. At the center is an antique glass mouse and tractor toy. 

“All of that is surrounded by petals and leaves and in floral motifs that she torch-worked or flameworked out of waste glass from factories,” Schlauch said. Glass factories organize waste glass — pieces that break off — by color, Schlauch explained. “She goes to those factories, even closed ones, and collects it and upcycles it to create the tableau to surround the vintage found objects that she gets excited about.”

The museum’s first juried show, “Midwest Voices in Contemporary Glass,” is in the smaller gallery. Along with Schlauch, jurors — Alejandra Peña, director of the University of Minnesota Weisman Art Museum, and Anna Lehner, director of the Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts in Minneapolis — chose pieces by 10 artists. These include Minnesota-based artists Emma Wood, Emily McBride, Lila Westreich and Abegael Uffelman.

Uffelman’s interactive piece “Everyday” won the show’s honorable mention. Uffelman’s artist statement describes the piece: 

“Growing up as a transracial Asian adoptee in a white family has impacted my life in a profound way. My work is a comment on situations my family and I have faced in American society from personal reflection into adoption records to racial microaggressions.”

black and white art work
The piece “Everyday“ by Minneapolis artist Abegael Uffelman is about microaggressions she’s experienced as a “transracial, Asian adoptee in a white family.“
Courtesy of Cafesjian Art Trust

Schlauch demonstrated this by sliding the artwork’s bubbly glass disc across a pedestal. 

“There are glass spheres that are adhered together in a large circle that act as lenses, and there’s very, very, very fine print on the paper underneath it,” Schlauch said. “You are allowed and encouraged to move the glass piece around. You’ll see it will magnify microaggressions she’s received throughout her life, like ‘Isn’t it weird that you don't know your parents?’”

Schlauch added, “I hope that people come away with hopefully a fascination about the sheer variety of voices that exist in the studio glass movement.”

Both exhibitions run through Oct. 5. The museum is free but reservations are required.

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.