Parting is such sweet sorrow for Tobin-Hewett

I like goodbyes that give me closure. Goodbyes that let me look around one last time, express my appreciation and walk away with a smile. “Clear Impact: Kentucky’s Current Place in Studio Glass” is the Tobin-Hewett Gallery’s way of giving us such closure before the owners shut their doors on May 31.

Diane Tobin and Marta Hewett have decided to close their contemporary art glass gallery after five years in Louisville (Hewett had a self-named gallery in Cincinnati 10 years prior to moving it down here to be part of the newly opened Glassworks complex in 2001; Tobin became her business partner in 2003). The main reason is that Hewett’s life, for the most part, has stayed rooted in the Cincinnati area. Her home is near Cincinnati and her physician husband works in the city. “It’s not feasible anymore,” she says. “Gas is too high; I pay $500 on gas a month now.” Her companion on her treks to Louisville is her 8-year-old son, who goes to school here, but his after-school activities are increasingly harder to fit into their driving schedule.

For their swan song exhibition, Tobin and Hewett decided to focus on Kentucky’s influence on contemporary art glass. Say “Kentucky” and “glass” in the same sentence, and you have to mention Stephen Rolfe Powell. Between his own internationally acclaimed art and the students he has taught at Centre College since 1985, Powell has created a chain reaction that has sent Kentucky glass far and wide.

Thus the show only starts with Powell. Two of his former students, Che Rhodes and Patrick Martin, were so inspired by Powell’s success as artist-teacher that they have pursued the same. Rhodes now heads the University of Louisville’s year-old glass program, and Emporia (Kansas) State University has been Martin’s classroom/studio since 1999. Also included in the exhibit are works by recent Centre, U of L and Emporia State students.
The show will open on Tuesday, April 18, with a dessert reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by a 7 p.m. panel featuring Powell, Rhodes and Martin discussing Kentucky academic studio glass. There’s also a demonstration by U of L students in the Glassworks hot shop.

So what’s next for Diane Tobin and Marta Hewett? Tobin is already at Spalding University as executive director of the Adult Learning Initiatives program, as well as an associate professor in the school of Business and Communication. Hewett will continue in the art glass business, with an office and exhibition space in Cincinnati. She hopes to “connect Cincinnati and Louisville” via glass, she says. “(Louisville) is a community with fantastic energy and has been extremely supportive of the gallery’s efforts. I would like to see more communication among people in the glass field in the two cities in order to create a regional strength, and I have a great interest in being a part of that effort.”

That’s one way to relieve the void left by the gallery’s closing. Increasing the frequency of exhibiting and selling high quality art glass in local galleries and museums, such as the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Glassworks, the Speed Art Museum and Flame Run, is another.

To reduce inventory, Tobin-Hewett is offering a discount of 25 percent off sales of $1,000-$4,999 (30 percent for sales in excess of $5,000). Both the exhibit and sale offer an opportunity to say goodbye and walk away with a smile … and possibly a memento.

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