VWU discontinues glassblowing course

Virginia Wesleyan University is proud of its label as a liberal arts school. It offers a variety of courses and immersive experiences for students to learn from, all of which serve to open students to new opportunities. VWU has a history of supporting the arts in all forms, and one of those is the glassblowing course at the Perry Glass Studio at the Chrysler Museum.

The studio was built ten years ago, at which time Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Tim O’Rourke worked with Dr. Philip Guilfoyle to create the course in the $8 million glassblowing facility.

Recently, the decision was made to no longer continue offering the course. Guilfoyle, who is a professor of arts and led the glassblowing course, cited budget concerns as a major reason why. The course has room for twelve students, and the spots are not always filled. “That hurts when you’re under a budget kind of watch.We have been since this pandemic,” Guilfoyle says.

According to Guilfoyle, after refunding room and board money to the students, the budget took a hit. “We operate on that budget,” Guilfoyle says. “It pays for everything that you students see.”

Guilfoyle discussed hopes that a benefactor could fund the program, but for now that is not a reality. Without a benefactor, and with students not showing enough interest in taking the course, it had to be cut from the list.

“You’re the people that need to be in it,” Guilfoyle says about his arts students, “and all the time to be engaging there and keeping our enrollments healthy.” But the challenges of being a small school prevail. Guilfoyle mentioned the difficulties may arise from not being able to fit the course into their schedule.

When asked about the course, President Miller also expressed concerns about the price. “The cost for that compared to the return has been rather expensive. And by return, I mean the number of students who are registered for it,” he said. “And rather than passing a cost on to the students, that was not generating a good return, we decided that we would use the out option on our agreement. We still have a wonderful relationship with the Chrysler Museum.”

Students who would like to learn the art of glassblowing can still take classes at the Perry Glass Studio or visit to look at the works on display with no charge for admission. Their educational mission is beneficial to students in the area with opportunities such as these.

According to Guilfoyle, the Chrysler Museum is also in the process of expanding their glass studio, which could lend itself to a new partnership. “That’s my dream,” Guilfoyle said. “That we can continue the partnership after maybe a short break.”

Until then, another option for students who want to learn glassblowing is to register through Old Dominion University if their classes have space.

The reaction from students over cancelling the course has been overall negative. Alison Coutu, a student who has taken the glassblowing course, is disappointed. “Everyone deserves to experience the magic that is working with glassblowing,” Coutu said. “I’m so sad that people won’t be able to experience it.” Coutu would like to be a glass artist, so the opportunity was integral for her.

Guilfoyle agreed. “People are drawn to that facility like a magnet,” he said. “We don’t have that here on our campus.”

By Rhian Tramontana