Alumni couple donates glass collection to Lowe

A 3,500-square foot pavilion is being added to the Lowe Art Museum to house a glass collection of approximately 130-pieces donated by an alumni couple.

Construction of this new addition will begin in March 2007, said Brian Dursum, the museum director.

“The preparations [for the exhibit] are the most time consuming,” Dursum said. “They require rearranging of the art pieces, labeling them, putting them into storage, building the new collection’s cabinetry and installing the art.”

The glass collection, donated by Sheldon and Myrna Palley, include contemporary glass the United States and around the world. Among the pieces in the collection are works by artists specializing in glass.

Some sculptures by artists Judi Elliott, Richard Jolley and William Carlson are already out on display in the museum.

Dursum said there has been a growing interest in glass since the 1970s and this reveals a turning point from bronzes, sculptures, and paintings to this new material being used as an art medium.

“[The glass art] is definitely more interesting than a painting,” Damien Dasilva, sophomore, said. “It’s something new and different.”

According to Dursum, glass is defined as a craft and as a functional piece, but not as fine art. He added that part of the mission of the new space is to rethink the definition of glass as an art form.

“A lot of what is recognized as fine art can be considered functional, for example, a painting functions as a wall decoration,” Dursum said. “Just as a painting is considered more than a craft, so should glass.”

Dursum said that museums are slowly broadening the definition of art, and that it will become more fluid in the future.

“When I think about art, glass is not what pops into my head,” said Lindsay Templer, a sophomore who frequently visits the museum. “Exposure to this new pavilion will force me to rethink my definition of fine art.”

In addition to the glass works, the new wing of the museum also house ceramic art, in part to incorporate the new pavilion with the art department’s own ceramics program. Dursum said these student-produced pieces would serve to further supplement the academic mission of the university.

Since the Palleys are well-known for their glass collection, the pavilion will at first be largely filled with glass.

“It is ultimately a good thing for the university and a great thing for the community,” Dursum said. “There aren’t any museums in the state that really have collections of our depth.”

The Palley collection is currently valued at about $2 million. In addition, the couple has donated $1 million towards the construction of the new wing and another $1 million in an endowment to the museum.

Dursum said that new wing will be challenging to the museum because it is understaffed and now needs more people to cover more areas of the building. He also said that exhibits need to be scheduled and art pieces need to be rearranged and put into storage, a process that should take approximately three to four months.

“The museum has been very cautious about what it accepts,” Dursum said. “Since storage is a problem, unless the staff knows it will be exhibited or fits into a collection, it tries not to accept new art pieces.”

The Lowe Art Museum collection holds about 15,000 objects and grows at about a rate of 300 objects per year.

For now, no other additions are planned but the staff hopes future add-ons will address the issues of storage and gallery space, new offices and the growing needs of the university community.

Nicole Alibayof may be contacted at