WheatonArts Celebrates 50 Years of Creativity

South Jersey's glassmaking tradition is still going strong.

Glassmakers demonstrate their craft at WheatonArts’s glass studio. Courtesy of WheatonArts/David Wolf

[Editor’s note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all events mentioned below have been cancelled. It is currently undetermined whether or not the events will be rescheduled.]

The history of glassmaking in South Jersey dates back nearly 300 years. WheatonArts and Cultural Center in Millville has a 50-year history. Both are being celebrated throughout this year.

WheatonArts is showcasing its past, present and future with a new exhibit, “People, Place, Process: 50 Years of Glassmaking at WheatonArts,” April 1–January 3 at the center’s Museum of American Glass. “The exhibit looks at 50 years of glassmaking at WheatonArts,” says Taral Thompson, special projects coordinator. “It honors the glassmakers who have been here during that time. It’s going to combine the artifacts they were using then and connecting that through time with what people are creating now.”

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Other 50th-anniversary events include Wheaton Springs 50 on April 4, which features live music, museum tours and free admission; “Immigration and Its Impact on Glass,” a symposium, on June 5–6; and Re(Vision): A Wheaton Gather, a fundraiser on June 20 featuring major glass artists.

WheatonArts comprises 18 buildings over 45 acres, including a glass studio with glass blowing demonstrations, a pottery and flamework studio, the Down Jersey Folklife Center, a nature trail and assorted shops. Founded as Wheaton Village, the nonprofit takes its name from Wheaton Industries and Frank H. Wheaton Jr., the driving force behind the glass museum. The initial buildings opened in 1970 and documented a history of glassmaking that dates to 1739 and Wistarburgh Glass in Alloway, the nation’s first successful glass company. The center became WheatonArts in 2006.

In addition to seeing artists at work, visitors over 16 also can indulge their own artistic side, creating paperweights, blown vessels and, in season, glass pumpkins and Christmas ornaments—under the supervision of an artist. “We offer make-your-own experiences,” says Thompson.

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