• Visitors to a glass pumpkin patch staged by BAGI (the Bay Area Glass Institute) in California admire the work and choose their pumpkins carefully (above). The photo at right shows a selection of glass pumpkins from an earlier BAGI show. The Great Glass Pumpkin Patch will appear on Kresge Oval next Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Glass pumpkin patch will dazzle the eye, benefit MIT Glass Lab

More than 1,000 hand-blown glass pumpkins, squashes and gourds in all sizes, shapes, colors and designs will transform MIT's Kresge Oval into a colorful "Great Glass Pumpkin Patch" on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15-16.

Visitors of all ages are invited to stroll through the "pumpkin patch" on Kresge Oval and choose their favorite autumnal orb between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day. Prices range from $20 to $200, depending on the piece's size and complexity. Many of the works feature not only vivid colors, but swirls, stripes, spots, curlicues and unusual stems.

Prior to the sale, there will be an opening reception for the installation on Friday, Sept. 14, from 5-7 p.m. on the Oval.

The glass pumpkins were created by students in MIT's Glass Lab--an art program connected with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering--and members of the Bay Area Glass Institute (BAGI), a nonprofit community-access studio in San Jose, Calif., founded in 1996 by MIT alumnus Mike Binnard (S.B. 1992). Proceeds will benefit both organizations.

Last spring, under the auspices of the Page Hazlegrove Residency program at the Glass Lab, 18 glass blowers from BAGI came to work intensively with MIT students. The Pumpkin Patch was conceived to teach students about team glassblowing and to raise funds for the operations of both programs. "The team was able to get lots of beginner students involved in a simple, but exciting project," said another MIT alumnus, Helen Lee (S.B. 2000), now a technical instructor with the lab. MIT's pumpkin-making was overseen by glass artist Peter Houk, currently in residence at the Glass Lab.

When asked, "Why pumpkins?" Houk said they make a wonderful jumping-off point for exploring various forms and color combinations. "Many of the pieces in Kresge Oval will not be identifiable as pumpkins, but will look like squashes or some kind of gourd, or a mutant zucchini," he said. "We get pretty playful with them sometimes."

Houk also noted that the project requires teams of at least three people, which met his goal of having his students learn to work together.

MIT's cosponsor, BAGI, will hold its own sixth annual Great Glass Pumpkin Patch on October 12-21 at the Palo Alto Art Center in California. The annual event draws fans from all over California and abroad, said BAGI executive director Jonathan Tepperman, and many shoppers arrive early in the morning and wait for hours until the opening. Tepperman described the installation as "a colorful ocean of glass" that is "dazzling" on a sunny day. Because visitors may touch and pick up the individual works, the project also provides accessibility to a fragile medium, he added.

For more information, call x3-5309.


A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 12, 2001.

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