New museum adds sparkle to Danville’s arts landscape

A national museum showcasing the internationally known and celebrated work of a local artist is opening soon in Danville.

Following a ribbon cutting at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3, the GLASS National Art Museum officially opens to the public on Saturday, Nov. 4. The world-class venue is anchored by the permanent collection of long-time Danville resident, hot glass master of color Stephen Rolfe Powell, and is a showcase for contemporary art glass.

The museum is the culmination of a dream to preserve the legacy of Powell in tandem with an expansion project at the Art Center of the Bluegrass in celebration of its 20th anniversary and a mission to elevate the profile of Danville’s glass culture.

“Through GLASS National Art Museum, our vision is to expand the Art Center’s dynamic and inclusive arts community while preserving the extensive artistic legacy of Stephen Rolfe Powell,” said Niki Kinkade, executive director. “We hope to attract visitors from around the state and glass enthusiasts from around the world.”

(A piece from Stephen Rolfe Powell’s Echo series)

Already some 30,000 people find their way each year to the Art Center, considered the hub of central Kentucky’s art scene. With the opening of GLASS, the museum and the city anticipate that glass artists, glass art enthusiasts and scholars and art lovers in general will put Danville on their bucket list.

GLASS will fill the 12,600-square-foot building where the Art Center has been located for the past 20 years, with three galleries devoted to showcasing the creativity of preeminent contemporary glass artists, including Powell, trailblazing glass artist Dale Chihuly, Venice-born glass artist, “Maestro” Lino Tagliapietra, and others.

Works from the museum’s permanent glass works collection will be displayed in the gallery space on the main floor.

“The upstairs hallway gallery will be an education space, including a timeline of the American Studio Glass Movement and how Stephen Powell fits into it,” said Kinkade.

The third gallery will highlight works from the Art Center’s permanent glass collection as well as rotating exhibitions from both regional and national glass artists.

“It is a large, sunlit space that juxtaposes nicely with the darkly painted gallery space upstairs, which offers a contrasting lighting environment for a more intimate experience with the glasswork,” said Kinkade, noting the space will act as a rotating gallery featuring glass artists from across the country. “The first exhibit in this gallery will be blown glass works from Powell’s ‘Echo’ series.”

(One of Stephen Rolfe Powell’s glass art pieces)

Powell graduated from Centre College in 1974 and began teaching at his alma mater in 1983. Two years later, he founded and built the glassblowing program. Eventually Powell designed and completed a state-of-the-art glass studio, which Centre opened in 1998 as part of its new Jones Visual Arts Center.

The artist and instructor became one of the most prominent and influential figures in glass art, an internationally acclaimed artist who worked in Russia, Ukraine, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and demonstrated at multiple Glass Art Society Conferences, as well as the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. His glassworks are in the collections at New York’s Corning Museum of Glass; Norfolk, VA’s Chrysler Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in Massachusetts and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., among others. Powell died in 2019.

In addition to its gallery spaces, the GLASS National Art Museum plans for the Murrini Café to open this fall/winter, named for the Italian term for colored patterns or images made in glass and offering a menu of small plates, salads, charcuterie and sweets, wine and specialty beverages and, on Tuesdays, Afternoon Tea. In 2024, the museum plans to establish a Glassblowing Studio that will include educational programming. Already open is Fern Curated Gifts, a treasure trove for artisan-made works from jewelry to woven textiles, plus books, house plants and other items.

GLASS National Art Museum hours will be 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information about the museum’s official opening and exhibitions, visit

(Blog post written by Kathy Witt.)

(The former Federal Building in downtown Danville is where the GLASS National Art Museum will be located)