Hilltop Artists is launching a crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising $62,000 to cover the cost of a new furnace for the Jason Lee glass art program. One of the furnaces is wearing out in the Jason Lee hot shop and must be replaced this summer.
Hot shop furnaces must be kept on constantly to keep the glass molten. They are a critical piece of glassblowing equipment, holding molten, clear glass and they are kept hot for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The new furnace will serve thousands of Hilltop Artists students.
There’s an inherent danger and intrigue associated with glass that hooks students in. A student beginning at age 12 in a Daytime class will use the furnace until their final year in Team Production at age 20. Glass art teaches youth how to respond and react to problems – be it a bubble that’s blown too thin or a bead that’s just not turning out as planned – and then to overcome these obstacles. In addition to the Jason Lee studio, there is also a hot shop at Wilson High School and a flameworking studio at Ford Middle School, in the Franklin-Pierce School District.
Hilltop Artists traces its roots to a collaboration between community members and artist Dale Chihuly in 1994 that resulted in a summer glass arts program for the young people living in Hilltop. Students created glass art with Snapple bottles because they didn’t have the necessary equipment for more complicated objects. This first-in-the-nation youth glass arts program that started with 20 students eventually morphed into Hilltop Artists, now a non-profit with nine programs serving over 500 Tacoma students throughout the entire year. The focus is on helping youth who find themselves struggling socially, academically, or behaviorally, with an aim to increase all students’ social, academic, and job readiness skills. You can find more information about the fundraising campaign at their website.