It was 1977 when three art-school graduates, Erik Erikson, Joe Upham, and Richard Yelle, transported a glassblowing furnace in the back of a car to a downtown New York warehouse, thereby launching the first artist-access glass center in the U.S. The resulting New York Experimental Glass Workshop became an office for such artists as Dale Chihuly and Toots Zynsky. Over the decades, the organization moved to Brooklyn into a boarded-up former theater, was renamed UrbanGlass, and became the country’s largest glass workshop for independent artists.
Four years ago, UrbanGlass opened a 3,000-square-foot ground-level exhibition and retail space designed pro-bono by Jeffrey Beers International, the firm’s namesake founder himself introduced to glassblowing by Chihuly. Simultaneously, Leeser Architecture renovated the nonprofit’s 17,000-square-foot third-floor space, where thousands of students take classes and hundreds of artists and designers work.