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The Art of Glass: Endless Combinations at the Duncan McClellan Gallery

By Kelly Church

The Duncan McClellan Gallery is more than just an art gallery: it's a tool for exploring and learning the art of glass. The St. Petersburg, FL gallery is owned by Duncan McClellan, whose fascination with glass art inspired him to open a gallery dedicated to showcasing artists' work in this unique medium.

"Why I find glass as a medium so fascinating is that artists explore it in so many different ways using a multitude of techniques," McClellan says. "The uses and combinations are endless."

McClellan's gallery showcases not only his own art, but local and international artists as well. The 3,000 square foot gallery represents nearly 60 different artists' glass projects. The gallery features a variety of artists through its rotating monthly exhibits. Among those featured in past exhibits as well as on an ongoing basis include Nancy Callan, Kerrick Johnson, Stephen Rolfe Powell, and many more.

"I think it is very important to educate the public with our monthly shows of internationally known artists' work and foster emerging artists through our free demonstrations and lectures," McClellan says. "That is one of the reasons I started DMG School Project: to demonstrate, mentor and guide."

The DMG School Project "involves the public in all aspects of glass through master classes, demonstrations, lectures, and public service endeavors," according to the gallery. Since the foundation of this venture, DMG School Project has taught the art of glassblowing to more than 10,000 people. McClellan works side-by-side with St. Petersburg's Eckerd College to provide college-level classes and offer a series of glass classes for the general public.

"Everyone who takes these classes is amazed with the results, and it is a great confidence builder," McClellan says. "Many people who express 'no artistic talent' walk away knowing that they have creative ability. That is very satisfying to us."

Additionally, the Duncan McClellan Gallery partners with the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg to provide the Gallery Lecture Series. These talks give the public the chance to hear directly from the artists about their creative processes. The Duncan McClellan Gallery also has a special exhibit in the Museum of Fine Arts dedicated to showcasing the Pinellas County children's art. The kids who participate in this program are nominated for a scholarship prize, given out by the DMG School Project.

In effort to continue promoting the art of glass in the community, McClellan established the DMG Mobile Glass Lab as part of the DMG School Project. The Mobile Glass Lab "provides outreach to area public and private schools through on-site demonstrations and hands-on experiences at all grade levels," according to the gallery. Demonstrations last more than two hours and give local children the opportunity to learn and experience glass art by seeing examples from other artists and ultimately creating their own.

In order to support the large program that is the DMG School Project, McClellan says that proceeds from renting the facility for events, weddings and private parties benefit the DMG School Project.

"This is a significant way we raise funds for all the activities for our [nonprofit organization], to allow us to fund all our community outreach efforts," McClellan says. "I am very pleased that 80% of our rentals return for additional events and have been enthusiastically recommending us."

Renting The Duncan McClellan Gallery for the evening comes with arrangements for beverage service, caterers, live music, glass demonstrations, or whatever the renters would like. McClellan even says they have looked into having an elephant as a guest- although it ended up not happening, much to McClellan's relief.

All of McClellan's work is an attempt to spread his love for the art of glass while supporting his local community and encouraging education. The DMG School Project offers residency opportunities for higher-level glass artists, fostering their careers.

"Glass is a difficult medium, requiring a great deal of science and artistic skill to master," McClellan says. "It takes practice and concentration, but it takes artistic skill to best use the material to express an idea or thought."

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