A Davenport gallery and studio now has more room to teach kids and veterans the art of glassblowing.
Hot Glass Inc., founded by former teacher and artist Joel Ryser in 2014, will celebrate the expansion of its nonprofit organization this weekend in the Davenport Printing Company building, at 104 Western Ave. From 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Hot Glass will host a celebration featuring renowned glass artists John Miller and Alex Stisser.
After teaching and coaching for nearly 30 years in the Quad-Cities, Ryser said he wanted to continue helping children and teens during his retirement. A seasoned artist who recently took up glassblowing, Ryser said he learned about a non-profit gallery in Tacoma, Wash., that combined both of his interests.
Tacoma's Hilltop Artists offers glassblowing classes and mentorships for at-risk and underserved youths.
"I shared that with local kids, and said, 'someday, we're going to start something like this,'" Ryser said. "Then, when I retired my dream came true."
With his son, Ryser launched Hot Glass Inc., a nonprofit aimed at introducing at-risk youths to glassblowing. Then a couple of years ago, the owners decided to expand services to offer classes to veterans.
"It's really a team-building activity. We show them how to work with glass as a team and how to help each other," Ryser said. "They kind of lose themselves in the moment and don't have to worry about their worries in everyday life. It's a medium where you really have to pay attention, so it's been very successful to work with these people."
The success of the program has led to the need for more space, he said. And last fall, more room became available inside the Davenport Printing Company building.
"It was a no-brainer to open up here," he said. "We always wanted to have a really big reheating furnace, which we have now. So the idea is to bring visiting artists from around the country to do demonstrations and teach classes. They usually require bigger facilities."
The new space will add around 4,000 square feet to the existing 1,200, according to a news release. Ryser thanked Local Union 25 for transforming the center.
Along with adding new equipment and studio space, Ryser said Hot Glass also is expanding its gallery. He said the nonprofit received grants from the Regional Development Authority, Quad-City Arts, the Iowa Arts Council and private donors.
"I'm overwhelmed and grateful that so many people have helped. I get teared up just talking about it because we're able to help out a lot of people," he said. "It's not like there's glassblowing shops all over the place. We're very fortunate and grateful so many people support us in helping the kids, veterans and general public."
The reopening celebration is open to the public. For more information on Hot Glass, visit its website.