As I mentioned in an earlier post, Jennifer Halvorson was one of my students when I was a graduate student at U of I. She was in my Intro to Metals and for Intermediate Metals courses and I can honestly say that I knew that she was a unique individual from the first time I looked at her designs for her first metals project. She was a glass major but also majored in metals and was in the last group of students to graduate from glass after William "Bill" Carlson left the glass program and it was shut down. As she went through other courses it was evident that she was very talented, had hand skills, and was extremely driven. I am fortunate to say that several of my friends and several of my students that I had at the U of I fell into this category and I am amazed at all of the various accomplishments that each have attained. Jennifer was always very close with her family and I was impressed with her parents and their parenting skills as Jennifer was such a polite and studious student. Her parents never failed to miss an opening and their pride was visible whenever they talked about her. I have kept track of Jennifer from year to year by an occasional email or show announcement and I am proud of her many accomplishments such as being a Fullbright Scholar after her BFA degree and completing her MFA at RIT. During my visit to Ball State I had the opportunity to re-connect with Jennifer and I was so glad that we had an opportunity to spend some time together. She gave me a tour of the three year old glass facility that was built with money from a generous donor, Marilyn K. Glick, from Indianapolis. Jennifer is now a tenure track professor in this newly developed program (Ball State didn't have a glass program before the donation) and she teaches with Brent Cole (another U of I alum). Jennifer introduced me to Brent and he seemed like he would be a great colleague.
Jennifer took me to the new facility that she teaches in and I was simply blown away by how amazing it is. As soon as you step foot into the lobby you can't help but notice the crushed glass that is embedded into the entranceway/ gallery floor. The next room is an open foyer that allows visitors to view all of the activity in the hot shop. The monitors in this space can be used to view work that is happening at the hot shop bench via cameras that are overhead. The entire hot shop is setup with large fans that suck hot air from the furnaces out of the building so workers can stay cool year round. Each bench has drop downs with quick release air and gas connections. There is also a furnace for keeping pieces hot on the pipe for adding hot worked bits at a later time (without the piece on the pipe drooping). They are also currently developing a neon shop and the necessary tools to offer course work in this. They have a wonderful conference room, teaching seminar room with comfy seats, visiting artist work in glass cases, and big monitor that is connected to the imac for presentations. The facility also has a gallery space, workspace, fully functional cold shop, and kiln room for casting and slumping processes. Each faculty member also has a great office space with room for their own work space. Jennifer showed me some of the things she has been working on. She had some very cool press molded spoons that were very intriguing. If you can't tell from the number of pictures above, I was simply blown away at her teaching accommodations and the swanky studio. I am so happy for her; this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Did I mention the new facility uses geo thermal heating and cooling? Check out the specs here.
I am so deeply proud of Jennifer and the things that she has accomplished. It brought tears to my eyes to see her in her element and in her new job setting. I have have the utmost respect for her and her abilities as an artist and teacher. I have had a rough year at my school and have been questioning my place, but this visit to Ball Sate University rejuvenated me, gave me hope that people can be accomplished yet still have humility and perspective, and helped me reconnect with one of the people that made me fall in love with teaching in the first place. Thank you, Jennifer for reminding me.