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WVU Dental Student Donates Blenko Glass Collection

on Thu, 08/09/2007 - 08:00

In hopes of spreading interest in hand-made West Virginia glass, one dental student is donating her 27-piece West Virginia Birthday Blenko Glass collection to West Virginia University. The Blenko Family will also make a gift each year of the collection's new collectible piece.
 
Hillary Homburg, a third-year dental student and Charleston native, said her collection is one of only four known complete collections in West Virginia. It will be housed in the University's new art museum, currently the Erickson Alumni Center. WVU plans to convert the center to the museum once the Alumni Association moves into its new $14 million facility currently under construction.

“There are four things in my life that I hold very dear. Blenko glass and West Virginia University are two of the four things.” Homburg said about her decision to donate her glass collection to WVU. “My grandfather was a WVU graduate. Homburgs have a long and very happy history with WVU. Blenko Glass is very near my home in Charleston, and I have been a visitor to the factory since before I could put together whole sentences,” she said.

“Hillary Homburg's donation of her Blenko WV Anniversary glass is a major donation to a very worthy Academic institution,” said Richard Blenko, 4th Generation President of Blenko Glass, founded 1893. “Hillary is an avid Blenko collector and as well as profound advocate for the State of West Virginia. She routinely has promoted Blenko, and the state in a professional manner and her enthusiasm for our state makes her a national ambassador for all West Virginians.”
 
“The College of Creative Arts is so very pleased to receive this wonderful gift of Blenko Glass which celebrates the heritage of our State. These beautifully crafted pieces of glass will hold a place of honor in West Virginia University's Permanent Art Collection,” added Dean J. Bernard Schultz.

Although Homburg said it was a difficult decision to donate her collection, she hopes people from all over the country who visit WVU will be able to see Blenko Glass and its importance to West Virginia.
 
“The idea to give the glass came to me while I was a student assistant helping with New Student Orientation. I realized that thousands of people visit campus each summer and each year. If Blenko Glass were displayed, perhaps those people would develop an interest and want to visit the factory or buy some glass and take it home as a souvenir of their trip to West Virginia.”
 
“This particular collection, The West Virginia Birthday Collection, is especially appropriate as it was designed and produced solely to honor West Virginia,” she said.

Blenko added, “These art glass pieces represent a variety of Blenko designers who were major figures in the American Glass scene. Don Shepherd was a designer of organic shapes and textures; Hank Adams was influenced by industrial shapes and with a rough texture. These items represent decades of design and color.”
 
The Blenko Glass Birthday pieces began in 1980, and since her birth, Homburg and her father have been in line waiting for their Blenko glass every year on West Virginia's Birthday.

“My dad bought the Birthday Collection for me before I was born - in 1985 I was in person in line – and every year there after,” she said.

As part of her WVU Foundation scholarship, Homburg used her stipend to create the Blenko Project, an advocacy devoted to making people aware that Blenko is in West Virginia making glass the old fashion way. She hopes that her project and web site will make people aware that they can buy quality West Virginia glass instead of just quantity, she said.
 
She also writes a weblog for The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, called “Heart of Glass.” Homburg posts three or four times a week about West Virginia glass issues. Her website, The Blenko Project, can be found at www.blenkoproject.org, and her online blog at .
 
Blenko Glass Company is the only company other than Tiffany that makes stained glass for churches and blown glass for consumers, according to Richard Blenko. “William J. Blenko worked for Tiffany in 1920 for $50.00 a week. Blenko has supplied gifts to past clients like: Carole Lombard, Irving Berlin, Rudi Vallee, Cary Grant, Ellenor Roosevelt, Maime Eisenhower, and George Bush Sr. Our stained glass can be seen in The Canton Football Hall of Fame; Harkness Library at Yale; The United States Air Force Academy Cathedral; Washington Cathedral and The Mormon Temple, Washington.”
 
Blenko Glass Company has been featured in four PBS Television documentaries and Richard Blenko has appeared in over 262 US cities and has over 2500 broadcasts and helped raise over $27,000,000 for PBS.
 
The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, a private non-profit corporation that generates and provides support for West Virginia University and its non-profit affiliates.

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