Press Releases

Akron Art Museum Announces Major Gift of Paul Stankard Glass

For Release: September 16, 2011

Akron Art Museum Announces Major Gift
Mike and Anne Belkin Collection of Paul Stankard Glass
Opens September 28, 2011

Akron, Ohio, September 16, 2011 — The Akron Art Museum will open the world’s largest public collection of glass by the celebrated artist Paul Stankard, who is known internationally for his innovative rethinking of the traditional glass paperweight. The collection is a gift of Mike and Annie Belkin of Northeast Ohio.

Stankard is simultaneously a master glass artist and an astonishing realist sculptor. His renditions of plants and insects seem like nature, miniaturized and preserved inside crystal-clear glass globes and cubes. Closer inspection will often reveal mythical and metaphorical motifs nestled amid the natural elements. Turning over one of the glass spheres, and intermingled with the roots of the plants, one can find masks, tiny words or “root people” that to Stankard represent the earth spirit.

With attention to the specifics of each blossom, leaf, insect or berry, his flameworked glass objects possess strong illusionist appeal. "I want to give the glass organic credibility. I use detail to emphasize the delicate," Stankard said. "I want people to go beyond the wizardry of whether it is real or glass. It is about respect for living things."

Over a 50-year career in glass, Stankard’s work has been widely exhibited and collected. His glass sculptures are in numerous public collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Director and CEO of the Akron Art Museum Mitchell Kahan exulted, “this gift is an amazing fulfillment of the museum’s long interest in the studio glass movement through many temporary exhibitions. We now have a permanent commemoration of this key development in American art.” He added, “This breathtaking collection is also a testament to the close relationship of artist and patron, who have worked hand in hand for years.”

About the Artist

Since his early childhood in North Attleboro, Mass., Stankard (b. 1943) has always enjoyed strolling through the woods. He graduated from Salem Vocational Technical Institute (now Salem Community College) where he received a diploma in scientific glassblowing, which includes making beakers and test tubes. While fabricating glass equipment for use in the chemical industry, he became fascinated by the tradition of South Jersey glassmaking and its "crown jewel," the paperweight.

In 1969 he began making his first paperweights, which were seen by Reese Palley, a gallery owner in Atlantic City. Recognizing Stankard's extraordinary craftsmanship, Palley gave the artist his first show, a sellout, and urged him to devote himself full time to his art. In 1972, with the encouragement of his wife, Patricia, Stankard decided to leave the field of industry to pursue artistic glass working full-time.
Since then he has enjoyed continued artistic success, resulting from a deep commitment to technical excellence, a dynamic aesthetic sense of composition, a strong conceptual focus and an entrepreneurial spirit.

A solo exhibition of Stankard’s work at the Akron Art Museum opened in 2002. He has had 35 public exhibitions since 1996, including Glass! Glorious Glass!, Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC, 1999 and Paul Stankard: A Floating World, 40 Years of an American Master in Glass, a major Museum of Arts and Design in New York City retrospective that eventually toured the country in 2004. Publications about Stankard include “Paul J. Stankard: Homage to Nature” by Ulysses Grant Dietz and “No Green Berries or Leaves: The Creative Journey of an Artist in Glass” by Paul J. Stankard.

He is currently represented by several galleries including Hawk Galleries, Jane Sauer Gallery, Ken Saunders Galleries and Schantz Galleries.

About the Donors

Over the past 30 years, Mike and Annie Belkin have amassed the largest holding of Stankard’s work in the world, over 300 works since their first purchase in May 1981. Mike Belkin first met the artist in June 1981 and has been instrumental in the artist’s career as friend, patron and advisor. Over the years, the Belkins have lent their collection to various institutions and have given works by Stankard to over 20 national and international institutions that have shown interest in the artist’s work.

The Belkins’ largest gift of Stankard glass was made to the Akron Art Museum at the end of 2010. It comprises 64 glass sculptures and paperweights.

Giving away a portion of their collection has not been easy, but the sense of loss has been balanced by “knowing that we are able to share with the thousands of museum guests the beauty and the artist’s ‘magic’ that we have enjoyed every day for years,” said Mike Belkin. “We hope that everyone will experience the same pleasure and share in the same joy and fascination that we have during our time as curators of these significant works of art.”

Viewing the Belkin Collection of Paul Stankard Glass

The sculpture and paperweights will be on long term view in a new display on the museum’s Myers Industries, Inc. Balcony, which was renovated especially for Stankard’s work. The installation was designed by Joseph Walton, Akron Art Museum chief preparator, with casework fabricated by Proto Productions, Inc. of Addison, Illinois. Objects will be rotated periodically from storage to give visitors a new experience when they return to the museum. At any one time, about half of the collection will be on view.

Those attending the Akron Art Museum’s Members Annual Meeting on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 will be the first to view this remarkable addition to the museum’s holdings. Museum doors open at 5 pm. Evening events include the unveiling of the new collection, a talk by the artist followed by a reception for the donors and the artist and book signing by Stankard.

Guests must join the museum to attend the unveiling and reception. To join and learn more regarding other benefits of an Akron Art Museum membership, see
The collection opens to the public Wednesday, September 28. Visitors interested in the art of glass are encouraged to combine a visit to Akron to view the Belkin Collection of Paul Stankard Glass with a visit to Toledo to see the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art, with its collection spanning the entire history of glass.

About the Akron Art Museum

The Akron Art Museum, dedicated to enriching lives through modern art, showcases regional, national and international art created since 1850. The museum’s permanent collection houses nearly 5,000 objects. Particular areas of strength include American painting and sculpture since 1960; 20th-century American and international photography and American impressionist and tonalist paintings. Almost a dozen special exhibitions each year present celebrated artists in various media including painting, sculpture, glass, photography and video.

After a three-year renovation project, the Akron Art Museum re-opened to the public in July 2007 in an internationally acclaimed expansion designed by Austrian architectural firm COOP HIMMEL(B)LAU. The new John S. and James L. Knight building features a soaring glass and steel structure described by critics as a work of art itself.

In addition to its collection and special exhibitions, the Museum offers many opportunities to discover new perspectives through dynamic programs that include films and videos, lectures, workshops, tours and concerts.

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