Coronation by ‘King of Glass’

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World-renowned glass artist William Morris passed the torch to San Juan Islands Museum of Art at its official grand opening, Feb. 14.

Morris has been a fixture in the glass art world for over 25 years. Now retired from working with the medium, Morris lives a simple life in Hawaii where he creates pieces from wood and stone. His IMA exhibit, “Illuminated,” which attracted 500-plus people on opening night, showcases his glass work from 1998-2013.

The museum is still in its infancy, and having an artist of Morris’s caliber grace its galleries is a major success for IMA.

“The fact that Morris would show his pieces here validates our museum,” said IMA Exhibition Committee Member Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso. “He’s the king of glass.”

The idea to showcase Morris’s work for the grand opening exhibit has been two years in the making. When the blue prints for the modern, conversation starter of a museum building were first laid, the exhibition committee was already conjuring up a way to have an equally evocative opening show.

A glass artist herself, Buijs-Mancuso recommended Morris. When he agreed, she asked with persistence if he would come to the opening. His liaisons almost always said the same thing, “probably not.”

But one week before the opening, IMA got word that Morris would attend.

“When I heard he was coming I couldn’t believe it, what a coup for the museum” said Barbara Marrett, communications manager of the San Juan Islands Visitor’s Bureau. “A lot of people don’t realize how important he is, and he rarely goes to his openings.”

With a fine art museum that features international artists right here on San Juan, the Visitor’s Bureau can add IMA to its list of island attractions to promote.

IMA is not only bringing elite art to the island for visitors and locals to admire, workshops for locals are an important element of IMA’s platform. The next workshop, in June, will be led by acclaimed nature photographer Susan Middleton.

IMA also supports art education in the islands. All proceeds, after operational costs, go toward local art programs.

Rebecca Parks, IMA director of marketing, is optimistic that the presence of the museum will also boost the local art economy in Friday Harbor.

“Bringing Morris to San Juan Island for the opening show sets the stage for us to be taken seriously in the arts community,” Parks said. “It’s a way of drawing in another type of crowd. People will flock to galleries.”

ggfd“Illuminated,” will run through May 12, and is accompanied by the exhibit “Glass Three,” in IMA’s North Gallery.  “Glass Three” features three different glass artists, including Raven Skyriver of Lopez Island.

“Glass Three”  on display in IMA’s North Gallery

The accompanying artists each have distinctive styles, and as a whole represent some of the traditional associations with glass blowing, like transparency, fluidity and color. But Morris’s style is more opaque, earthy, and some pieces even resemble ceramic.

IMA is open 11-5 p.m., Friday-Monday. Admissions is free.