Indiana Glass Trail

Trail to include Jefferson County,
highlight stained glass in area

Madison’s Deeg helping
to preserve church windows

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

“You’re changing the light with the type of glass you use,” restoration artisan Rhonda Deeg explains of the power of the stained glass windows in 1839 St. Michael the Archangel Church in Madison, Ind. “It changes with the sun and the clouds and the rain.”
Her words capture the magic of glass that has inspired Indiana artists and art connoisseurs for well over a century, and her work is helping to preserve one of the sites that is helping put Madison on the Indiana Glass Trail.
Restorations to the windows of St. Michael began in 2009 during a field class being taught by Deeg, who serves as Director of Programs for Historic Madison Inc. She also teaches traditional historical restoration trades. The students assisted in a survey of the windows of the church, recording information such as condition and placement.
During that class, the ventilator window was taken apart for restoration. Last fall the window was returned to its proper home, ready to last another 200 years. Deeg explains that it took 150 hours to clean and restore the window, made up of 186 individual pieces of glass. The repair work was necessary to address not only the normal damage brought about by weather, pollution and sheer time, but also to fix issues brought about by improper repairs done back in the 1970s.
To Deeg, the restorations are a way of connecting the present with the past and the future. In readying the window to stand for another hundred years she is also “holding homage to the person who built it.”
Today, tourists can explore the past present and future of Indiana glass through the the Indiana Glass Trail, which serves as a way to link and promote communities noted for glass arts. From Kokomo Opalescent Glass, the oldest art glass company in America, to the works of Dale Chihuly on display in Columbus, to the glass classes being developed at Ball State University, Indiana is home to an ever growing tradition of glass.
Established in 2009 with a $10,000 grant from the Indiana Artisan program, the Glass Trail has its roots in the Kokomo-Howard County Convention and Visitors Bureau and currently highlights five areas of the state with glass-related tourism sites. The Trail helps tourists locate festivals, artists, and displays of interest to glass lovers through promotional brochures and website information.
Next year, Madison will join Harrison County, home of Zimmeran Art Glass in Corydon, as new southern additions to the Trail. Director of the Indiana Artisans Program Eric Freeman said he hopes that the Trail will continue its expansion saying that “a goal is to identify glass-related reasons to include additional counties from Brown and Bartholomew south to Jefferson and Harrison.”
Linda Lytle, executive director of VisitMadison Inc., notes that, “Anything we can do to get people here for the first time” is a positive thing as once guests make that initial visit they almost always want to come back.
Freeman agrees, saying, “The Trail will encourage people interested in glass to visit, but Madison will keep them there because of everything else the city offers.”
While Freeman has plenty of anecdotal evidence that the Glass Trail has had a positive impact on the tourism of featured sites, he points to two concrete examples of the program’s influence. Before the establishment of the Glass Trail, Kokomo Opalescent Glass Co. gave only occasional tours. But after the Trail began, it added a “daily, week-day tour schedule because of the demand.” Freeman also points out that the Indiana Office of Tourism Development “says the Glass Trail brochure is its most requested response piece.”
Madison was initially identified as a site that would make a good addition to the Trail because of the historic stained glass windows in churches throughout downtown. But Lytle is now busy collecting information on artists working with glass throughout Jefferson County today.
Freeman believes that it is important to feature a mix of historic sites and contemporary artists on the Trail because “some want to see historic stained glass; others enjoy it more in a museum setting. Collectors want to visit galleries and exhibits, others like glass-oriented festivals, and, of course, there are those who want to roll up their sleeves and make something.
“Indiana offers all this, and one goal of the Trail is to identify everything Indiana offers that is glass-related, present that on the Glass Trail website but also create new content from it in the form of weekend trips people inside and from outside Indiana can take that will be completely immersive in Indiana glass.”
“Being a teacher, my first thought would be to educate the people about what we have here in Madison,” reflects Deeg.
She points out that while it may not be an official part of the Glass Trail, many downtown houses and businesses feature period beveled glass windows and doors. She hopes that the addition of Madison to the Glass Trail will provide a way of “engaging the public and celebrating what we have here.”

• For more information, visit: www.IndianaGlassTrail.com.

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