Sunday, June 18, 2006

I’ve done a little, very little, event planning in my life. Nothing I’ve done comes anywhere close to what Jes (and many others) pulled off this weekend. I am in awe of my rock star fiancé, whose two years of expert planning helped win the conference for the city and make it what it was. To say that the St. Louis 2006 GAS conference was a success would be to tread briskly on the shores of understatement. Jes isn’t one to blow her own horn, so I am going to.

Immanuel Kant believed that in exceptional art the physical, phenomenal realm is ruptured and the universal, divine, noumenal realm flows in across the bridge built by the artist. In a sense the entire conference was a collaborative work of art, built collectively by the fifteen hundred or so participants. The spirit of creativity and co-inspiration generated by the mass assembly was as palpable as the heat coming off of any one of the many furnaces, kilns, or torches that were simultaneously running in an eight ring circus of practical demonstrations.

Through the success of the conference Jes and her co-chairs have overcome currents of skepticism in the wider glass community, and even from the GAS board itself, putting St. Louis firmly on the international map as a dynamic center for world-class education and production in the glass arts. To paraphrase the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V, people who chose not to attend based on preconceptions about what St. Louis had to offer will regret that decision as stories begin to filter back (And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accursed they were not here).
I’m sure over the next few weeks I will begin to write down some of what I experienced. Right now the primary feeling is exhaustion. My only regret is not having a better sense of what the public could attend so that more of our wider circle of friends and family could have participated in the events. The nice thing is that the events continue. You can still go see Jes’ installation at the Regional Arts Commission or in a few months you can go see it in the Chicago gallery THAT BOUGHT IT!!!! There’s a lot more to that story, but I’ll leave it for Jes to tell. Suffice it to say that the conference both was and is leading to a great deal of professional and artistic success for Jes.

As an “outsider” to the glass world I have been dipping in and out of conference prep for a few weeks (months?) now as a sounding board for Jes and as a pinch hitter for the wider conference. She used me as her personal volunteer, keeping me out of the general pool, with a primary function of shuttling art and supplies from the Third Degree Glass Factory to the lecture and auction sites at The Millennium Hotel – or whatever spill over tasks I could do.

I had a few professional duties from my own working life to attend to over the weekend, meetings and such, but I kept returning to the conference to assist with whatever the crises of the moment might be. I should qualify “crises”, as by all accounts this was one of the most seamless and smoothly run conferences in GAS history. While credit for that should be spread around among many people (Doug, Tracy, Alison, Robin, Jims G & M), Jes’s hard work and long range planning were certainly key.

Obviously there are going to be curveballs, like the equipment vender in the technical display who didn’t pay for a booth with electricity and then tripped a breaker with a high powered kiln, killing the air conditioning for about two hours on one of the hottest days of the year. There are going to be things that you have to roll with and make the best of in any large event, but thankfully those act of God moments were few.

We ended our work last night at nine with a five car caravan filled with awkwardly large display pedestals that had to be out of the hotel ASAP. After they were safely stored back at the factory we went dancing and climbing at the closing ceremonies (party) held at The City Museum. The bartender told me we had more than a thousand people in attendance. It was a hard drinking crowd and by the two a.m. last call the revelers had run the bar out of several top shelf brands. I ended on Dewar’s as there was no more gin at the inn.

The primary sentiment in the room, as people began to consider how they were getting back to their hotels and lives outside of the conference bubble, was one of excitement, celebration, and I think a little awe. It was an inspiring whole that was much more than the sum of its parts. I am so proud of and happy for Jes for her part in all of this. We’re going on vacation soon. It will be good to get away for a while and to take stock of how we’ve been changed by the dynamism of the last few days. Ordinary life might take a little getting used to, especially for my rock star, as I think she is going to be a girl in demand.


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