Tyler School's glass program gets $1 million donation

Students in the Tyler School of Art's Glass Program work in the studio on the North Philadelphia campus.
Students in the Tyler School of Art's Glass Program work in the studio on the North Philadelphia campus.
Posted: October 26, 2012

Philadelphia philanthropists and art collectors Irvin J. Borowsky and Laurie Wagman have given more than $1 million to the Tyler School of Art's glass program, one of the largest gifts to a college glass program anywhere, Tyler officials said Wednesday.

The bulk of the funds will be used to increase the capacity of Tyler's glass facility, located at the school on the Temple University North Philadelphia campus, and to bolster and promote its programs.

The facility will be named the Irvin Borowsky Glass Studio, Temple officials said.

The Borowsky-Wagman donation will also support a visiting-artist program, the Laurie Wagman Fund in Glass Art.

Borowsky and Wagman, married since 1979, are also giving Tyler three works of glass art from their own collection.

Robert T. Stroker, dean of the Temple Center for the Arts and vice provost of the arts, called the gift "historic" for the university.

"Irv Borowsky and Laurie Wagman are visionaries," Stroker said in a statement. "They have found a way to make a profound difference in the world of glass art."

Associate professor Sharyn O'Mara, head of Tyler's glass program, said the visiting-artist program will allow the university to bring artists to Tyler from around the world "to share their experience and their work, and to inspire a new generation of glass artists."

Borowsky, 87, launched a weekly television magazine that became TV Guide and founded the North American Publishing Company, in Philadelphia.

He is known for his support of interfaith initiatives and for the founding of the National Liberty Museum, located on Chestnut Street in the historic district, in 2000.

Wagman, 80, founded American Theater Arts for Youth in 1970 to offer professional theater to school students nationwide as an extension of the classroom curriculum.

Borowsky and Wagman are well known for their collecting and for their support for glass as a medium. Earlier this year, they bestowed $500,000 on the University of the Arts to aid and expand its glass program.

Wagman said that she and Borowsky have focused so much attention on glass because of the "vitality" of the art form.

"There is an energy about glass that we admire," she said in a statement. "Temple has committed itself to an astounding facility for art. The Tyler School of Art is expansive; it's state-of-the-art. It says to Tyler's students, 'We respect the area where you work; we respect the artist.' "

Borowsky said that Temple's status as a public institution also provided impetus for the gift.

"We believe in opportunity," Borowsky said.

Tyler's glass studies program was established nearly 40 years ago as a major by Jon Clark, now an emeritus professor. The studios are located in a new, 10,000-square-foot facility that includes a hot shop for blowing and hot casting, a flame-working studio, a cold shop, a kiln room, a majors studio, a critique/installation room, and private graduate studios.

Borowsky emphasized that the Tyler gift should be seen in the context of the city's burgeoning cultural identity, a point echoed by Wagman.

"We're proud of the momentum of the Philadelphia arts scene - both the visual and the performing arts," she said. "If we're going to leave an imprint, this is the place."

Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594, ssalisbury@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @SPSalisbury.

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