Hilltop Artists 20th Anniversary

September 13, 2014 - February 1, 2015

Hilltop Artists WebMuseum of Glass and Hilltop Artists presented Hilltop Artists 20th Anniversary, an exhibition highlighting the impact of glass art on the lives of youth, the Hilltop neighborhood, and beyond. The exhibition consisted of glass objects, images and videos, telling a story that spans the past 20 years of Hilltop Artists and the community it serves.

Founded with the support of artist Dale Chihuly and the leadership of the Tacoma School District, gallery owner Kathy Kaperick envisioned Hilltop Artists as a place where young people from the Hilltop neighborhood could learn from established artists as a creative and constructive outlet. Gang-related crime and violence had made the Hilltop neighborhood notorious across the nation in the 1990s, but Kaperick believed art had the power to change the lives of at-risk youth and help keep them in school.

Hilltop Artists started as a small summer program in a former woodshop at Jason Lee Middle School in 1994. With only limited equipment available, the students explored a variety of media and their first experience with glass involved heating up Snapple™ bottles and manipulating them into new shapes.

“Some of the students work was more heroic and daring than my own,” said Therman Statom, one of the early artists in residence and an internationally exhibited artist. “It convinced me that art is a tool of well-being and reinforced my own interest in art as a tool for healing.”

Twenty years later, Hilltop Artists annually serves over 500 students, ages 12 to 20, who engage in multiple forms of hot glass instruction, creating everything from large-scale public installations composed of blown glass to intricate flame-worked sculptures and beads.

“Our students make incredible work,” says Hilltop Artists Executive Director Kit Evans. “Alternative arts education creates a way for them to be empowered and to actively participate in the community.”

Hilltop Artists 20th Anniversary was outlined by thematic pairs - Community and Creativity; Optimism and Resilience; Transformation and Collaboration - themes that not only demonstrated the growth that has made the organization what it is today, but also reflected the skills that Hilltop Artists instills in its students. These qualities are essential for social and academic success, helping Hilltop Artists to fulfill its mission of “using glass arts to connect youth from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds to better futures.”

Hilltop Artists has emerged as a leader in its field, inspiring organizations as far away as Germany to model their programs after Hilltop Artists’ award–winning work.


Image credit: Courtesy of Hilltop Artists.

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