Pittsburgh Glass Center encourages creativity in experts and novices alike


Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

Zach Layhew, a Pittsburgh Glass Center artist-in-residence, works on the shape of a glass bottle.

By Katelyn Kruszewski, Staff Writer

Morgan Gilbreath, a teaching artist at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, has been making glass art in the center for over a decade and still returns there frequently even after receiving a BFA in glass from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.

“PGC is a special place. Some of the people there have truly seen me grow up,” Gilbreath said. “Since my first time there in 2006, the positivity, support and artistic development I gained at PGC has been immeasurable. It has been instrumental to my career to this day.”

Pittsburgh Glass Center, located in the City’s Friendship neighborhood, is a nonprofit public-access education center that includes an art gallery, glass studio and creative community center. PGC is open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The center offers classes and workshops ranging from 15-minute opportunities to multiple-week advanced creation classes in glass studio spaces. The space also includes a contemporary glass gallery for visitors, which features a new glass art exhibition three times each year.

Though Gilbreath now lives in Richmond, Virginia, she travels to Pittsburgh from time to time to visit PGC as an exhibiting artist, student or teaching assistant. She said the glassmaking world thrives on community.

The glass world is surprisingly very small. It truly thrives on community and often depends upon shared studio spaces, collaborative endeavors and collective knowledge,” Gilbreath said. “The facilities at PGC are a beacon for glass artists, who travel around the world to make Pittsburgh glassmaking facilities their destination.”

Paige Ilkhanipour, PGC’s marketing director, said glass artists Kathleen Mulcahy and Ron Desmett started working toward creating the center in the early ‘90s. According to Ikhanipour, the local artists wanted to create a space that would cultivate community and creativity.

Ron and Kathleen envisioned a place that would attract top artists, but also welcome the novice artist and non-artists intrigued by glass,” Ilkhanipour said. “Ron and Kathleen worked for 12 years to bring the people together who would help make their dream a reality, including artists, foundations, community members and glass enthusiasts.”

David Kilbride, hot glass and youth instructor, facilitates and instructs youth programming at PGC. He said the center is a facility in which world-class artists can create together and individually.

“It caters to glass education from the casual consumer to being a facility where world-class artists can work,” Kilbride said.

Since its opening in 2001, Ikhanipour said the space has had more than 375,000 people view exhibits, participate in workshops or rent out studios and equipment.

Ilkhanipour said the space is open to everyone from experts to novices in the glassmaking craft.

Our studios are open to everyone who wants to learn and create,” Ilkhanipour said. “Anyone can take classes, explore the contemporary glass gallery and watch the live hot glass demonstrations. World-renowned glass artists come here to both create and teach. Local glass artists make their art in our studios.”

Classes vary in length and glassmaking level. PGC offers a variety of glassmaking courses including beadmaking, cane working, casting, coldworking, flameworking, glassblowing and more.

The center also has shorter classes, lasting one to two hours, which teach beginners about the glassmaking process. During shorter classes, participants can make a keepsake to take home. Other courses last for weeks, teaching more advanced glassmaking techniques and processes. The center allows visitors to take classes at their skill level and in their glassmaking area of interest.

The center also offers opportunities to student artists. Ilkhanipour said the center provides any Pittsburgh student with scholarship opportunities to make the space accessible.

We offer a variety of scholarships in an effort to make our classes accessible to as many people as possible. Full and half-tuition scholarships are available for all classes and workshops,” Ilkhanipour said. “Every student is eligible to apply for merit-based half-tuition scholarships. BIPOC individuals, LGBTQ+ individuals and veterans are qualified to apply for full scholarships.”

According to Ilkhanipour, there are more than 100 artists-in-residence, 50 glass artists who have relocated to Pittsburgh and 48 tech apprentices training to complete glass work courses at PGC.

Kilbride said his favorite aspect of PGC is how the community works to create an environment that is welcoming and encouraging to all.

“I have never worked somewhere that is so welcoming and encouraging,” Kilbride said. “They really are attempting to build a strong community of professional glass artists and hobbyists.”

Gilbreath said those interested in exploring the center should take a course or take advantage of another of its many opportunities.

“They have so many options for courses that you can explore whatever your interest may be,” Gilbreath said. “I’d suggest getting acquainted by visiting them during their open hours — you can tour the gallery, shop and facilities. They also have a monthly ‘Hot Jam’ evening open house in which you can watch demonstrations throughout the various glass studios.”