One of the Bloomington Creative Glass Center’s biggest fundraisers is the Great Glass Pumpkin Patch, a collection of glass pumpkins created by the center’s volunteers.
The center is open to all members of the IU and Bloomington communities interested in learning about and participating in the practice of glass blowing. This year’s seventh annual patch will start 10 a.m. Saturday on the southwest corner of the Monroe County Courthouse lawn.
Abby Gitlitz, executive director and founder of the center, said she encourages people to come out and browse the variety of pumpkins volunteers and students create.
“It is a glorious sight, and they’re so hard to resist, but mainly it is visually stunning to see 900 of them all spread out on the lawn,” Gitlitz said. “People can come get involved, see what we’re all about and come learn about the glass arts in Bloomington.”
Prices for pumpkins range from $25 to $200, Gitlitz said.
The fundraiser is one of many geared toward the establishment of a glass-blowing studio in Bloomington, Gitlitz said. It is currently making its way toward the $70,000 goal after a successful Kickstarter this summer. As it stands, artists must commute to Indianapolis to practice glass arts.
If a facility were established here, Gitlitz said the center could work on trying to get accreditation so IU students could not only take classes in glass blowing, glass casting and torch work, among others, but they could also receive course credit.
“We encourage folks to get there early because we do sell out. Last year we had 906 pumpkins, and at the end we only had one,” Gitlitz said. “Plus it’s great fun.”
Gitlitz said the idea sprang from her knowledge of the patches put on by the Bay Area Glass Institute since 1999 as well as later experience with the patches during her undergraduate years at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her graduate career at Southern Illinois University.
“When I moved back to Bloomington in 2009, it was kind of a no-brainer to start doing them here,” Gitlitz said.
Gitlitz said the process of crafting began immediately after last year’s Nov. 1 sale, and the last 12 months have been filled with the artists creating pumpkins for this show.
“We’ve had about 45 people involved in making the pumpkins this year,” Gitlitz said. “Those are everything from grad students, undergrads, faculties to retired folks, you name it. I think our youngest was 16 and oldest was 75, and then we make them year round.”
Pumpkins require a team, compromising one advanced glass blower, one who is intermediate and one who is a beginner, to craft, Gitlitz said.
Gitlitz said as a result of the blending of perspectives, every team’s pumpkin is a little different.
“It’s a great way to get hands-on experience,” Gitlitz said. “Because they are pumpkins, they are organic. Some have curly stems, some have straight stems. They have personality, and each personality reflects the person who made it.”
Erin Cerwinske, one of the participants in the pumpkin-crafting this year, said every pumpkin comes with a story to tell and the patch acts as a family reunion for the artists as they appreciate one another’s work.
“As a team we celebrate each other’s successes, jump in to help when situations arise, support each other when things go awry, dance while jamming to old school tunes with pipes in hand and laugh together often,” Cerwinske said.
Gail Bridges-Rea, who has been involved with the glass center for a little less than a year, said the awe from people attending the event make the experience stand out.
“As an attendee, I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of pumpkins in every imaginable color, shape and size,” Bridges-Rea said. “Come join me in picking out the pumpkin or pumpkins that entice you to give them a new home.”
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