BY PAMELA KEECH
Abby Gitlitz, 43, is a glass artist with a past. And a future. She grew up in Bloomington, studied glass blowing with the best, she says, founded the Bloomington Creative Glass Center, moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, and lost her home in Hurricane Katrina. “It was interesting being part of a national catastrophe,” she says.
Gitlitz is decidedly back in Bloomington these days. This fall she is masterminding the Great Glass Pumpkin Patch on October 10 on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn, exhibiting at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, and getting married.
Gitlitz founded the Bloomington Creative Glass Center in 2011 to teach glass arts to children and adults. She’s trying hard to set up a fully equipped teaching studio, which means finding an industrial space that can accommodate a glass furnace kept at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Great Glass Pumpkin Patch is her big fundraiser. This year there will be 700 blown-glass pumpkins.
In 2004, Gitlitz moved to New Orleans to run a glass studio. She was in Maine teaching at a glass camp when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. When she returned to New Orleans, she wasn’t allowed into the city. “I didn’t know I would have to evacuate,” she says. “If I had known, I would have taken more stuff with me!”
At the time, she had little more than the T-shirt on her back. “I was in limbo for about two months and ended up staying with 17 people in eight different states, some for a night, some for two or three weeks.”
Her upcoming exhibition, “Water Lines,” is drawn directly from “what it was like to be a refugee,” she says. “Each piece is a glass teapot and a teacup that shows the relationship between giving and taking. As a refugee, I was a taker whether I wanted to be or not.”
The show opens at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center on October 2 and runs through October 24.