Touchstone Center for Crafts is Pennsylvania’s only residential arts and craft center where individuals can take classes and stay on campus recently dedicated Susan Brimo Cox Glass Studio to honor a local artist. Created in 1972, Touchstone Center for Crafts was originally known as Pioneer Crafts Council which was founded by two Pittsburgh women Francis Balter and Agnes Kinard.
This unique craft school has expanded to include contemporary and experimental techniques, in addition to the traditional and historic methods in disciplines such as blacksmithing, ceramics, metals, textiles, glass, oil and watercolor painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture. As Pennsylvania’s only residential craft school, Touchstone offers both beginners and seasoned artists more than one hundred week-long and weekend courses taught by some of North America’s finest artists and artisans.
Mary Len Hajduk, President of the Board of Directors, described the destruction of the Old Red Barn’s structure in 2010 where a snow storm severely damaged the building’s roof. Since that time, the damaged structure prohibited the organization from offering any significant glass classes. Only during the past year has funding become available that will cover the cost of the construction of a new glass studio. The facility will feature state-of-the-art equipment and kilns, offering an excellent place to conduct classes. The Old Red Barn was demolished last year and the wood from the barn will be repurposed into other construction projects.
The contemporary studio glass movement has caught the imagination of the public more than any craft form in the last decade, and remains an essential component to the resurgent interest in craft processes. Shauna Soom, Executive Director for the center stated the following, “Until our facility (the Red Barn) was severely damaged in 2010, Touchstone offered a wide array of glass workshops and was poised to benefit from the increasing public interest in glassmaking. With the new energy-efficient and well-equipped glass education studio, Touchstone will again be able to provide a diverse and extensive offering of glass workshops in an inviting, environmentally healthy, and responsible setting. Ultimately, this new facility will serve as a regional model for the synthesis of environmental stewardship and visual arts education.
The objective of the project was to construct and equip an environmentally responsible glass education studio on Touchstone’s campus. This studio will efficiently provide educational programming in a variety of glass-making techniques to more than 150 participants every season. Based on technical counsel from a wide range of glass artists in the region, we have identified the equipment necessary to make our new glass studio an energy-efficient educational destination for glass artists. With high-quality equipment for lampworking, cold working, slumping, fusing, and stained glass, Touchstone will re-emerge as a regional focal point for exploration and creativity in this most dynamic medium.”
Soom further commented that throughout the bidding process, CAVCON, the contractor chosen for the project, worked closely with Touchstone regarding the project. They were responsive, and the comprehensive team they involved in the estimation process (HVAC, architects, surveyors, estimators, etc.) was exceptional.
Mike Phillips, President of CAVCON, indicated the design/build services CAVCON offers facilitated conversations and modifications for particular pieces of glass equipment and energy efficiencies allowing for adjustments to building plans prior to the onset of construction, saving the organization time and money.
The project received approval from the local commissioners and construction begin in the spring of 2015. Susan Brimo Cox, a recognized glass artist loved Touchtone Center for Crafts. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and passed away in 2012. In Susan’s memory, her family made a generous donation to the center. The project was completed in late summer and the new facility was dedicated in the fall of 2015 as The Susan Brimo Cox Glass Studio in her honor.
About Touchstone: Touchstone is located in Farmington, Pennsylvania, amid the natural splendor of the Laurel Highlands. Founded in 1972 as the Pioneer Crafts Council, Touchstone’s original mission was to foster interest in the preservation of the traditional craft forms and culture of the Appalachian region. Touchstone provides underserved audiences in the region, from senior citizens to public school students, with craft-centered educational programming. Touchstone’s artistic, educational, and residential facilities sit on 150 acres of lush woodlands and pristine wilderness. Not only is Touchstone Center for Crafts the only residential craft school in Pennsylvania, it’s the natural setting for your creative nature.
About CAVCON: CAVCON brings together three generations of Building Owners/Managers and General Contractors with Design/Build expertise focusing on Medical, Commercial, Retail, Manufacturing and Light Industrial projects. As a full-service merit shop general construction company CAVCON provides design-build services incorporating value engineering, collaborative modeling and turn-key general construction services to deliver the best outcomes for our clients.