Museum of Art to host glass fashion show

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Glass artist Laura Donefer’s fashion shows are smash hits. Literally.

Take, for example, the artist’s first wearable glass art fashion show she organized in Toronto in 1989 for the Glass Art Society’s first international conference in Canada.

“There was glass all over the stage, I had no idea. And blood. I didn’t think about everyone wearing shoes,” Donefer said from her Ontario home.

There is still glass on the stage at her shows these days, but people with gloves come out and clean it up. And exhibitors wear shoes now, of course.

“I’ve tweaked them since then,” she said.

All broken glass aside, Donefer’s unconventional runway shows have become a requested commodity, not just for the Glass Art Society’s conferences but for such places as a New Year’s Party for the city of Seattle and a Burlesque Glass Fashion Show in New Orleans.

The Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion is next on the list to host one of her wild shows on Saturday night. Gala: Glass Alive! is one of many events being held over a 10-day period as part of Art in Food, a fund-raising event intended to both showcase food as a staple of the creative genius behind art and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Glass Pavilion.

“The [fashion show] events are fun. People love them because there is no narration. It’s not like a typical fashion show. We use a soundtrack … and we dance it. It’s like an improvised catwalk phenomenon; you never know what’s going to happen,” Donefer said. “There are some fabulous, fabulous costumes.”

Art in Food was organized by the Ambassadors, the volunteer artery for the museum that puts together a large-scale fund-raiser every two to five years, said Colleen McGoldrick, one of the Art in Food co-chairs.

When the Ambassadors brainstormed ideas, the correlation among food, glass, and art was a resounding theme. The event also includes a community food drive, art-inspired tablescape creations by local designers and artists, a birthday party for the Glass Pavilion, and a five-course dinner prepared by Toledo native and former White House pastry chef Bill Yosses.

“We definitely wanted to tie into the 10th anniversary of the pavilion and we thought of the famed Libbey punch bowl [showcased in the pavilion] and that ties into entertaining, so it all just kind of fit together,” McGoldrick said.

“Everyone loves food and we are a foodie town. And food is artistic,” said Cindy Rimmelin, another co-chair.

The fashion show will feature 35 glass costumes modeled by either the glass artists who created them, other local artists, or museum officials. Toledo glass artist Sten Neuber will grace the catwalk with her own glass attire creation. Another local glass artist, Ryan Thompson, has agreed to show off a glass dress created by Donefer and paired with a large, red wig. Artist Chris DeMuro will wear the first glass costume Donefer made, fashioned out of test tubes. Artists Brien Strancar and Colleen O’Connor will model, and artists Diane Phillips and Elizabeth Shawaker have costumes in the show, Donefer said.

TMA director Brian Kennedy is expected to make an appearance as a “glass gladiator” in a costume by Nancy De Dubois, who will bring 17 costumes for the show. And Adam Levine, associate director of the museum and associate curator of ancient art, will model a piece called “A Glass Wing” by South Korean glass artist Jin Won Han.

Donefer’s 84-year-old mother, Vera, will also be on the catwalk, adorned in glass.

Donefer does not consider herself a fashion diva. Nor does she consider the shows — Toledo’s will be her 13th — a snapshot of her life as a studio glass artist. Born in Ithaca, N.Y., but raised in Quebec and now residing in Ontario, Donefer is primarily known for her colorful blown glass and flame worked Amulet Baskets and for “pushing the envelope” when using glass.

She is a glass art instructor at Sheridan College, a part-time faculty member at Espace Verre in Montreal, and a mixed media artist who routinely uses bones, grass, hair, garbage, and other found objects in her work.

But when she was asked more than 25 years ago, as president of the Glass Art Association of Canada, to help with the conference planning, she wanted to make it memorable. The show, with 60 glass costumes made by fellow glass artists, took off. This past June, she put on a glass fashion show of more than 110 pieces at the Glass Art Society conference at the Corning Museum of Glass.

She also has ties to Toledo: She put on a glass fashion show for the GAS conference when it was in Toledo in 2012, and while visiting as part of the Guest Artist Pavilion Project in the pavilion’s glass studio, she became friends with former studio manager Jeff Mack, who is now with the Corning Museum of Glass. The pair have collaborated since on a vessels she says combines his classical work with her more modern look.

The glass fashion show will be 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $125 for members and $150 for non-members.

The event will include a live auction of 10 glass pieces created by local artists in the Hot Shop.

Another event during Art in Food that will showcase the influence of food on art — and art on food — is the Tablescape Tours, Oct. 27 to 30. Sixteen local artists or designers are creating tablescapes inspired by a chosen work from the museum collection. Guests will be able to see tables inspired by such works as Fragment of a Relief of a Winged Diety, dated to 880 B.C.; the early-20th Century oil painting The Flying Horses; or David Hockney’s contemporary A Bigger Card Players.

For more information on Art in Food, go to

Contact Roberta Gedert at: or 419-724-6075 or on Twitter @RoGedert.


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