Through Sunday, visitors to Canalside Buffalo have an opportunity to visit the GlassBarge, a traveling exhibit by the Corning Museum of Glass which is on tour to mark 150 years of glassblowing and glass production in that town. The visit also coincides with an ongoing celebration of the Erie Canal's bicentennial.
Guests attending the ceremonial kickoff to the GlassBarge's visit witnessed a unique ribbon-cutting ceremony. This ribbon was made of heated and stretched glass which was then cut by Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation chairman Robert Gioia.
Following that ceremony, which was preceded by remarks by Gioia and several other speakers, guests were given a demonstration in glassblowing by Corning Museum staff, like the ones provided at the museum's home facility.
"We have refreshed our gallery devoted to the history of the Crystal City for this year," said Karol Wight, president and executive director of the Corning Museum of Glass. "We have a special exhibition on Austrian glass, called Glass of the Architects, from 190o-1930. We have special exhibits at our research library. You can drop in the studio and see artists teaching students how to make glass."
But glass production goes far beyond artistic applications in Corning and remains a critical mainstay in its economy. Wight says the many practical applications for which glass is produced in Corning include high-tech components such as fiber optic lines, cell phone screens, televisions, biomedical glass and environmental products.
"I'm sure the public doesn't know that Corning makes diesel filters for trucks or gasoline filters for cars as well," she said. "They are constantly innovating."
Corning Museum officials and leaders of the ECHDC and New York State Canal Corporation are all celebrating the 150th anniversary of the beginning of glass production in Corning. Canal officials say it began when a company based in Brooklyn decided to take advantage of the state's canal system and move production west, closer to the ports from where their products could be shipped elsewhere in the United States.
"The (Erie) Canal opened in 1825 and by 1868 it had been enlarged to really multiply its capacity," said Brian Stratton, director of the New York State Canal Corporation. "It had been proven and was a tremendous transformational waterway, transforming New York."
Although there are other means of transportation that have since come along, the waters of the Great Lakes are still used to move goods. Gioia was asked if, once again, companies from the busy east coast might see something in what Western New York has to offer.
"I think certainly there are tremendous opportunities," Gioia replied. "It's really about our transportation syste, whether it be the waterway, or whether it be other types of transportation that people can move goods or services, not only around New York State but the entire northeast."
In addition to Corning's milestone anniversary, officials pointed to the bicentennial celebrations of the Erie Canal. They began last year, 200 years after New York State began construction of the canal, which was completed and opened in 1825.
Future planned celebrations of the Erie Canal bicentennial include a recreation of the "wedding of the waters," when then-governor Dewitt Clinton traveled the canal from Buffalo to New York City, carrying with him water from Lake Erie that was later dumped into the Atlantic in New York City.