Being the first executive director of the two-year-old North Carolina Glass Center, Kari Rinn has found a labor of love. The facility in the River Arts District is part of a 50,000-square-foot multi-use space and supports about 40 working artists, as well as hosting a steady flow of classes and workshops. Glass art has been happening in the Southern mountains since the ’70s, mostly in the Penland region, but this year the movement peaks in the ambitious Summer of Glass, a six-month span of exhibits and events co-sponsored by the Glass Center.
With a background in running educational craft studios from her time as director of Creative Arts at Haywood Community College, and an education in glass and metal work, Rinn brings business-minded creativity to a traditional art form.
What has it been like to be the first and only executive director?
It’s amazing to come to a place where there is already good standing leadership from team members and artists. For me personally, it made for an easy transition from Haywood Community College because support was already there by people who were interested in the craft.
You have a big background in craft entrepreneurship. How has that played into the Glass Center?
It’s all about providing the artist with a supportive and creative environment but also to enable the artist to learn a sense of professionalism to go out and sell their work. We offer six scholarships for our visiting-artist workshops. I think it’s important to teach any artist the skill sets they need to benefit them in a professional world so their art can get out beyond the studio.
Why does the Center need big goals?
Glass artistry isn’t something you can just do in your living room — there are a lot of resources involved that many people don’t have access too. We want the Center to be able to provide the education, space, and tools needed to keep the art form thriving.
Glasswork has often been a male-dominated art. Have you seen a rise in diversity since the center opened?
I have — since glass is a traditional art, it’s been refreshing to see a bigger interest from the younger population coming through our doors and keep the craft alive. We have seen a rise in diversity of all types. Although most well-recognized glass artists are men, we are seeing that equalize, at least in our community. We have 13 women glass artists who work out of our studio on a weekly basis. Two of the three leadership positions and all four of our gallery staff are women artists.
North Carolina Glass Center, 140-C Roberts St, Asheville Together with Biltmore, Biltmore Farms, Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Art Connections Tours, and the Gray Line Trolley Tours, the North Carolina Glass Center presents “The Summer of Glass” — featuring exhibitions, special events, and workshops — through October. For more information, call 828-505-3552 or visit summerofglass.com and ncglasscenter.org.