An artist finds a message in the fire that transforms sand into transparent glass.

Westerville glass artist Terri Albanese has been creating art as long as she can remember. A graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design’s advertising program, Albanese rediscovered the passion to create her own work years later. Two years ago, former Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich chose her work for display in the Governor’s Mansion.

This spring, Albanese was named one of 16 Clark Hullings Fund Fellows, out of 113 applicants, who are spending the year studying the business and entrepreneurship of successful artists. Represented by the Brandt-Roberts Gallery in the Short North, Albanese’s recent work will be shown during September and October.

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You’ve talked about being emotional when you first saw glass mosaics in Italy. Can you tell us when and where you were at the time?
I was blown away by the magnificent mosaics I saw in churches throughout Tuscany—these mosaics touched me deeply. How could a rigid, unforgiving material like glass be used to create such emotionally impactful and refined pieces of art—art that stirred and awakened such beautiful emotions within me?

The defining moment was when we were walking the streets of Montepulciano on a beautiful October afternoon. I looked up at a sign above the entrance of a boutique hotel—it was a small mosaic. The sun perfectly reflected off the gold smalti that was placed throughout the piece. The light caught my eye and it captivated me. I was truly moved beyond words and I knew then that I needed to explore this art form. I wasn’t sure where it was going to take me, but I couldn’t ignore this inspirational gift. It was the defining moment.

Can you put into words how you were affected that day?
When life happens and we find ourselves in the midst of the fire, I believe the burning desires within us can be silenced. Just as sand is beautifully transformed into glass under fire, I believe we too can be transformed.

Did you do any artwork prior to this experience?
Yes, I painted with oils and acrylics—it was a creative outlet for me and a way for me to step away from my daily business as a visual communicator.

Eventually, you decided to visit the Miami Mosaic Academy in Florida. What did you study there?
I selected MMA because my instructor studied under the master mosaicists at the Vatican for seven years. I was sure this would be a good fit. But something unexpected happened. A few days into my class I was instructed to go back to my hotel, do an illustration and then we would begin creating my own mosaic.

Once my instructor saw my illustration she quickly changed the plan. Here was the problem: I illustrate on a diagonal and she explained that the classical setting of mosaics would not represent my work well. [They are not diagonal.] I needed to spend some time thinking about who I am as an artist and creating my own technique.

Quite honestly, I was a bit miffed. After spending a few days thinking this through, digging deep to understand why I was doing what I was doing and working through the process, it all came together. I am so grateful for her push, and it was not a gentle nudge, it was a push. It was painful, but I kept fighting through it.

What advice would you give to others who are searching for their passion?
Step away from the noise in this world, seek silence and search your heart—experience the power of silence. It is here answers can be found, and the burning desires within you can be awakened.

Your dreams are within you. I would encourage you to let it happen, trust that it will happen, don’t force it—and keep your eyes and your mind and your heart open.