Water Street Glassworks gets Fired up!

Published 3:17 pm Friday, December 13, 2013

Students in the Fired Up! program at Water Street Glassworks. Photo by Jill McCaughan

Students in the Fired Up! program at Water Street Glassworks. Photo by Jill McCaughan

No matter how cold it is in Benton Harbor, Mich., on Dec. 13, the galleries in the Arts District  plan to provide warmth and cheer for the Holly Hop, happening from 6 to 9 p.m. that evening. Among the hottest spots that night will be Water Street Glassworks.

“This is a great place to hang out in winter,” said Kathy Catania, who co-founded Water Street Glassworks 10 years ago with her husband, Jerry.

From the studio’s catwalk, event goers can watch the creation of art in action in the glass-blowing area below. And, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 14, Fired Up! students will be demonstrating the techniques they’ve learned in the glass-blowing studio, or “hot shop,” at the Fired Up! Winter Exhibition.

“Visitors are welcome to come here and observe the process going on in the hot shop from a safe distance, “ Catania said, noting that the temperature of the glass-melting furnace is 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fired Up! is Water Street Glassworks’ after-school teen glass program. For the past semester, 28 students from seven area schools, as well as some home-schooled students, have been attending the program one or two days per week. Ranging in age from 12 to 18 years old, the students must make a two-year commitment to the program in order to participate.

“For the students in the first year of the program, this will be their first exhibition. It’s like a final exam for the semester,” Catania said. “It’s also an opportunity to show a new body of work for those students who have been in the program for a year. They title their work, and they write artists’ statements. So, it’s everything you would get in a college experience.”

Their pieces are on display in Water Street GelatoWorks, which is the job-skills training arm of Fired Up!

When visitors purchase the pieces that Fired Up! students have created, they are supporting the students as well as the program. The students receive 50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of their artwork, and the other 50 percent helps to pay for costs associated with the Fired Up! program.

The benefits of participating in the non-profit program, which is tuition-free for students, go far beyond simply learning the techniques for creating beautiful art using glass.

“The program helps kids raise their grades, work on their focus and develop teamwork skills,” Catania said. “We try to empower the teens to discover their own potential through glass.”

The artistic techniques learned at Fired Up! can also help students to further their careers in art. For example, one student, Oalliyah Hornes, has just been accepted to Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Art created by professionals and students in other Water Street classes are also available for purchase at the Annual Holiday Sale, which will continue through Dec. 21. The Dorris Akers Gallery is filled with examples of fused (or kiln-fired) glass, spun-cast work, blown glass pieces, stained glass pieces, enamel jewelry and pieces created using open-faced ladle casting.

“Blown glass ornaments are done as a promotion item each year, and 100 percent of their cost goes back to funding the school,” Catania said. “They change a little bit each year, so many people collect them over the years.”

More information about Water Street Glassworks’ events and programs can be obtained by calling (269) 925-5555 or by visiting www.waterstreetglassworks.org. They offer a wide variety of classes for people of varying skill levels, and there are still some classes available in December at their studios, located at 140 Water St., Benton Harbor, Mich.

“If you have some time over the holidays, check out our schedule. There might be something that works within your parameters,” Catania said.