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West Virginia University celebrates the state’s birthday with the latest gift from the Blenko family

on Mon, 06/20/2011 - 08:00

In a state that is rich in culture and tradition, you have people, families and businesses that help to make it that way, like that of Blenko Glass Company. The Blenko Glass Company continued their tradition of providing West Virginia University with the latest piece of limited edition glass that is part of the West Virginia Birthday Blenko Glass Collection. The gift to the University’s art collection has become an annual occurrence that takes place on the birthday of West Virginia.

The West Virginia Birthday Blenko Glass Collection which began in 1980, celebrates the state’s birthday by creating and selling the exact number of pieces as the state’s age. This year, Blenko Glass has produced 148 original pieces to celebrate West Virginia’s 148th birthday. According to the Blenko Project website, WVU houses just one of five known complete collections. Much of WVU’s rare collection is on display at the Blaney House, home of the WVU president.

This year’s addition to the collection represents a theme of Appalachian music. Designed by glass artist Arlon Bayliss, the new collectable is a vase in the shape of a guitar, with the traditional gold and blue colors.

WVU was gifted a majority of this collection through the generosity of Hillary Homburg, a former WVU dental student.

“My parents started to collect the glass before me, but from 1986, on, I stood in line each year to get the latest glass in the collection,” said Hillary Homburg in speaking of the West Virginia Birthday Collection. “After having a free education provided to me by the University as a WVU Foundation Scholar, I wanted give them something in return.”

In 2007 the alumna decided to donate her family’s personal collection to WVU. Homburg felt the collection would be best represented by the University, because of its own unique and rich history within the state. Since then, the Blenko family has donated the latest collectable in the series to the University’s Art Collection, each year.

“Blenko Glass is such a special company because of their history,” said Homburg. “West Virginia used to have more than 50 glass companies. The glass industry has since dwindled to only a few companies that still create hand-made, antique glass.”

The latest Blenko Glass collectible was given to WVU’s art collection through the WVU Foundation, a private nonprofit corporation that generates, receives and administers private gifts for the benefit of WVU.