"He was a man well-loved." Danville celebrates renowned glass artist and educator
An internationally acclaimed glassblower who made his home in Central Kentucky is featured in a retrospective exhibit that opens Friday. "The Power of Color" sheds light on the work of Stephen Rolfe Powell.
“He’s known all around the world. In fact, the Smithsonian just acquired a piece of his."Niki Kinkade, Executive Director, Art Center of the Bluegrass
Niki Kinkade is Executive Director of Art Center of the Bluegrass in Danville, an organization that Stephen Rolfe Powell helped found—but first he was a student at Centre College. He played basketball and tennis and studied painting and ceramics. Powell went on to be a teacher of hot glass blowing there for 34 years.
“During that time, he gained lots of accolades in the glass world . . . He became friends with one of the top glass artists in the world.”Niki Kinkade, Executive Director, Art Center of the Bluegrass
That was Venetian glassblower Lino Tagliapietra, with whom Powell worked while building up the glass program at Centre.
“He had wonderful protégés who have gone off into the glass world and are [at] professional studios or running programs at universities . . . he was a man well-loved.”Niki Kinkade, Executive Director, Art Center of the Bluegrass
Powell died in 2019 at the age of 67. Kinkade says it was a shock for the community.
“It’s taken a minute for people to kinda gather around their emotions and what happened . . . and we thought this was a good time to then bring the retrospective; allow people to come and either feel connected to Stephen, or pay a little homage to Stephen, or just come and see an international glassblower and this incredible glass here in Danville, KY.”Niki Kinkade, Executive Director, Art Center of the Bluegrass
The exhibit is titled “The Power of Color.” It runs through October 29th. Kinkade’s favorite?
“Yesterday [Wednesday] we lit every piece and every piece just popped. It’s amazing. So, what I thought was my favorite has now changed since yesterday, because of the lighting and what it does. I know Stephen was always looking at lighting pieces and that was so important to him."Niki Kinkade, Executive Director, Art Center of the Bluegrass
Now it’s gotta be “Echoes,” a collection of bowls…
“When you shine a light on the bowl, the patterns go all over the table. It is just stunning . . . the Echoes have given me the most pause and taken my breath away.”Niki Kinkade, Executive Director, Art Center of the Bluegrass
There’s programming around the exhibit, including a glass blowing demonstration at Centre College.
“We have Brooke White, from the Flame Run Glass Studio in Louisville. He was a protégé of Steve, a good friend, and he helped to curate the pieces for this exhibit . . . He is also creating a memorial sculpture on Centre’s campus.”Niki Kinkade, Executive Director, Art Center of the Bluegrass
The memorial sculpture will be unveiled in October, as part of the dedication of the “Stephen R. Powell Memorial Garden and Outdoor Classroom.”
Kinkade says curators from around the world are expected in September, but Powell also left a profound impact on the Danville community by sharing his world-class artistry with the public.
The retrospective is at Art Center of the Bluegrass, open Tuesday to Friday, 11am – 7pm and Saturday, 10am – 5pm. More info at artcenterky.org/powerofcolor.