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Glass master molds students

May 30th, 2005


Glass artist Che Rhodes heads up the new glass program at U of L.

When looking at the intricate glass works Che Rhodes creates with breathe and fire, it’s hard to fathom that the master glass blower had no clue about his career goals when he entered college.

“I had no idea what I was going to do; just going through the motions of going to school,” Rhodes said. “But after my first semester in arts at Centre College, learning from Stephen Powell, seeing his glass and taking his courses, I became addicted.”

By the time he received his bachelor’s degree in glass at Centre in Danville, Ky., Rhodes was sure he’d found his calling.

Rhodes, who has taught in Philadelphia, Carbondale, Ill., and Murano, Italy, is now heading up the new glass program as part of U of L’s bachelor of fine arts in 3-D studios degree.

During his previous post as head of the glass department at Southern Illinois University, Rhodes learned from a friend about the new U of L post.

“At first, I really wasn’t interested,” he said. “I liked where I was, but then I began a dialogue with the chair of fine arts, Jim Grubola, and found I liked his style of management. I also was excited by the community’s strong support for the arts and the active community of glassmakers, collectors and enthusiasts in Louisville.”

Rhodes assumed his U of L post in January and teaches both introductory and advanced glass courses. He’s also working on converting an old building in the Portland area into a studio and living quarters.

The artist’s works have been exhibited at Gallery HQ and Millenic Glass in Kansas City, Kansas, at Centre College and other venues.

His rounded and cylindrical glass sculptures bring to mind snails, crustaceans, brains and more, but Rhodes said he’s not attempting to re-create any specific objects. He added that he prefers to exhibit his pieces in installations, where they can be compared and contrasted in relation to one another.

“I’m interested in the ’approach and avoidance’ conflict, contrasting the attractive with the repulsive,” he said. “There’s a push and pull in the work that creates a certain tension. People can make up their own minds about how they see and feel it.”

It takes many years of training to master the art of glass making. Even as he continues to perfect his style and skill Rhodes said he still enjoys seeing students making their first attempts at the art.

“It’s great to have a venue to do my work, but the real reward is seeing students getting excited about their own efforts, making progress and turning out solid work. That is always exciting to see.”

Related Links: Che Rhodes Web site

By Kevin Rayburn and reprinted from Sankofa, the official newsletter of the African American Alumni Council of the University of Louisville Alumni Association, Vol. 2, No. 2, Spring 2005

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