Fremont High School students on Thursday watched as Caleb Holt and Michael Beahm heated molten glass in a 2,000 degree furnace, shaping it into ornate bowls and vases.
Normally, cutting through molten glass should feel like cutting through an orange peel or a sponge with scissors, Beahm tells the students, but if the glass cools off too quickly, it could snap or crack. At one point, that happens to a vase that Holt is making. But the glassblowers don’t panic. They simply put the glass back into the furnace to reshape it into something new.
“It’s not about what you can make,” Beahm tells the students. “It’s about what you can fix.”
The furnace was operating from a trailer, hitched to the back of a truck, which had carried the glass-blowing operation to Fremont High School all the way from Hastings.
The Hastings College Mobile Glass Studio is a new initiative from the school’s Department of Visual Arts and Jackson Dinsdale Art Center. It made its debut at Logan View on Wednesday before landing in Fremont on Thursday.
As classes took turns throughout the day coming out to watch the glass activity in action, Holt and Beahm explain the glass-blowing process, which involves shaping molten glass in part by blowing air into it in order to inflate it.
The Mobile Glass Studio is a free outreach program aimed at teaching high schoolers about the opportunities for arts education at Hastings College, highlighted around the school’s new Jackson Dinsdale Arts Center, Beahm said. That includes a renowned glass-blowing program, and what Beahm called “the most well-equipped glass blowing studio in the United States.”
“There are a lot of schools that can’t spend the time in Hastings to really get a great feel for some of the things we do and some of the capabilities that we have,” Beahm said.
But it’s also educational in nature. Beahm’s explanations of glass-blowing touch on art, science, history and more.
“There’s a lot of thermodynamics, there’s a lot of chemistry and physics, as well as the art—it encompasses a lot of different facets that can be applied to different classes,” Beahm said. “We’ve had art classes all day, science teachers have been bringing classes. Talking about art, science, history, technology.”
Fremont High School art teacher Jennifer Gay said that Fremont first learned of the new outreach program after she took a class to Hastings on a trip to see a presentation.
“At that time they were talking about doing [the mobile glass studio], and I told them to put me on the list,” she said. “I knew that glass blowing had some science properties to it, it had definitely artistic properties, and so to have that opportunity for everybody to see it versus driving two and a half hours to do it.”
Beahm said the event had been received well.
“it’s been really great,” he said. “They’ve been awesome. Great reception, we’ve had good questions and it’s really great to be just that main event—to be the cool thing that everything is really making an effort to go see.”