Glass works atop white pedestals, showered with exhibition lights, immediately immerse gallery wanderers as they enter the Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery, which is currently celebrating its 30-year anniversary.
Each unique piece of the quaint gallery glows with color and life. Through a wide glass window, one sees three furnaces blaze while two artisans pensively create glass works of art.
Hidden between a small house and an auto parts store lies a modest building with a small, unassuming sign that reads “Philabaum Glass Studio & Gallery.” For 40 years, Tom Philabaum, local glass artist and namesake of the gallery, has constructed glass art for the public to purchase and enjoy in Tucson.
Philabaum first started his own glassblowing studio in Tucson in 1975. By 1982, Philabaum created his own gallery to sell his own artwork. In 1985, Philabaum chose to move to its present location in the downtown area. For the next 30 years, Philabaum would work with other glass artists to create amazing works at the gallery and studio workshop. Allison Harvey, gallery manager, shares a little history of both the gallery and Philabaum himself.
“This building actually used to be a Tastee-Freez,” she said. “When he was looking to start a new glassblowing studio here in town, he needed a building that supported a lot of power, and a restaurant could do so.”
Harvey said Philabaum’s works are not only local gems; the gallery ships countrywide to other glass galleries, museums and stores. On top of that, it features around 40 different artists, both local and foreign. This work demands some extra helping hands which Philabaum alone can’t supply himself.
“[He] has five glassblowing assistants who work full time in assisting him in making his pieces. Those five artists also make their work here out of our studio,” Harvey said.
While the gallery celebrates over 40 years of glass art, the studio remains open to many glass artists to work their craft. Working in the studio that is connected to the gallery, the glassblowers tediously work with molten glass, heated to around 2100 F. Jason Marstall, a local glass artist, said the space allows him to explore his various artistic visions.
“I’ve been working here about a year and a half, so I’ve had my art in here for as long as I’ve been here,” he said. “Myself, I haven’t found my niche as an artist, so I’m all over the place. … Everybody kind of likes to push one another’s art and encourage each other, so [the studio] is a good environment.”
The Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery is a mecca of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, where artists can grow and thrive in their personal, innovative art styles. The gallery is not only a place for these artists to make a profit, but also a unique community where the artists can explore themselves with the help of others.
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