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ECU to study social, economic impact of glassblowing on Farmville

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Instructor Mike Tracy works at the furnace.


The Daily Reflector

Saturday, June 17, 2017

East Carolina University’s College of Fine Arts and Communication announced Thursday that it has received a $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to research the cultural and economic impact of a glassblowing studio in Farmville.

The studio, called the GlasStation, is a former service station in Farmville’s historic downtown repurposed as a glassblowing studio and education center. ECU began in January teaching academic classes and conducting community outreach programs in the facility. Pitt Community College also began a summer session for its students.

The two-year award, one of 19 given in North Carolina, will primarily fund research by ECU graduate students in anthropology and economics on the social and economic revitalization impact of the GlasStation on Farmville’s business district, said Kate Bukoski, director of ECU’s School of Art and Design and lead principal investigator of the study.

“The students are really excited about this brand new art design discipline,” Bukoski said. “They have really enjoyed learning about all the technical and creative aspects of glassblowing. I can tell that student interest in this discipline is going to grow.”

Residents will be asked about the GlasStation, how it affects their sense of identity and community cohesion and quality of life. Researchers also will look at how property is used, sold or rented in the historic business district. Surveys, interviews and observation will help provide data for the research, Bukoski said.

“The community of Farmville has been a fantastic partner in the GlasStation, so we’re also offering continuing studies there and anyone in the community can take a 2-3 hour class to make a specific object, like a garden globe or a candy dish,” she said. “Those classes have been well-received.”

In addition to the art production, community events occur that take advantage of the cultural elevation the GlasStation has produced for Farmville. Last Saturday, the Farmville Arts Council hosted bluegrass musicians at the Chrysler Building, adjacent to the GlasStation. Glass artist Mike Tracy produced a glass banjo for that event, Bukoski said.

“We clearly see these events and our academic and curricular relationship with Farmville growing,” the ECU arts director said. “We have been developing that type of programming and are continuing efforts to expand it since the program came on board. It continues to expand with more equipment and the addition of continuing studies classes for community members.”

Bukoski and her colleagues also understand the spectator value of glassblowing and have designed the GlasStation with a spectator platform that accommodates public school students and other community members who can watch the artists and students working with the furnace. ECU faculty understand the economic value of their interest to the town and its other numerous attractions, including dining, craft breweries, shopping and other entertainment, she said.

“We already have anecdotal evidence of significant economic impact for Farmville of having the GlasStation there,” Bukoski said. “Our Farmville partners tell us that the vacancy rate for downtown property has been cut in half since the beginning of the project. We attribute that to community members, business owners, investors and prospective industry owners’ excitement about the potential for Farmville to become an art-focused community. Just the prospect of ECU making a commitment to Farmville and the GlasStation generated significant excitement among potential investors.”

ECU partners in the GlasStation include the Tabitha M. DeVisconti Trust and the Farmville Group, a volunteer economic development association interested in growing the local economy through the arts.

Under Bukoski’s leadership, Christine Avenarius and David Griffiths of the Department of Anthropology and Chun Kuang of the Department of Economics are co-principal investigators. Michael Crane of the College of Fine Arts and Communication also is an investigator.

For more information, visit https://www.arts.gov/news/2017/nea-announces-grants-support-arts-every-us-state-and-jurisdiction.